Are you a landlord and wondering what your rights are during COVID? Are you wondering how the passage of AB 3088 affects you? You’re not alone. Many landlords are wondering the same thing. So we sat down with Linda Dunn Esq. of Weston Law Group to answer some frequently asked questions.
If you don’t have time to watch the entire interview, we’ve also provided a summary below.
How has COVID changed landlord and tenant rights? And what is the impact of AB 3088?
Previously, regulations varied from city to city. However, with the passing of AB 3088, the state of California is stepping in to make rules more uniform. AB 3088 address tenants not paying their rent, and divides 2020 rent into two sections. Non-payment is now being looked at from March to August, and then separately from September to January 2021.
Does AB 3088 supersede county and city laws?
For the most part, it does supersede other laws, because it is generally more restrictive than city and county laws. The exception is if a property is in a rent-controlled area.
What if a landlord can’t pay their mortgage because their tenants aren’t rent?
If tenants couldn’t pay between March and August, the landlord needs to give them notice of non-payment before September 30th and tell them how much rent they owe. The tenant then has 15 days to say their non-payment is because of COVID. They will also need to sign a declaration to this effect. If they do that, then the money owed becomes consumer debt and the landlord can never evict them over that unpaid rent.
Any money owed from March to August can only be gone after in small claims court – even if the tenant owes more than $10,000 – and claims can’t be filed until March 2021. This is the biggest impact of AB 3088. Because of this, the landlord needs to deal with mortgage non-payment with their lender. The landlord needs to provide the bank with the tenant’s non-payment because of COVID declaration to prove why they can’t pay their mortgage.
What documentation does the tenant need to provide to show why they’re not paying rent?
AB 3088 said the tenant doesn’t actually have to provide any proof. They simply have to sign the declaration mentioned earlier. However, this declaration is signed under penalty of perjury. So if a landlord goes to small claims court after March 2021 and the tenant was lying on the form, they’ve perjured themselves.
High-income tenants (defined as someone making 130% of the median income for the area) are the exception.
What if a landlord doesn’t know how much money a tenant makes?
The landlord has the right to ask for documentation to show how much money a tenant makes. However, the tenant doesn’t have to tell the landlord and the landlord can’t go after the tenant for that information.
What if a tenant is paying rent and isn’t affected by COVID, however, the landlord’s circumstances have changed and they want to sell the building. Can they give notice?
The landlord can give notice, but only if the lease is month to month. If the landlord and tenant signed a lease, the landlord is still locked into that lease. Nothing has changed about that rule. The tenant will still need to be given 60 days’ notice.
If a tenant isn’t paying rent, the notice needs to be given in good faith. The landlord needs to actually be selling the property or moving in. It can’t be an excuse to make a tenant move out because they aren’t paying rent.
If a property owner puts a tenant-occupied property on the market, does the tenant have the right to not let people in their home?
It’s possible for a landlord to sell a property and not give a tenant notice. Sometimes properties switch ownership, but the tenant remains in place. The laws surrounding this remain the same as they were pre-COVID. The landlord has to give the tenant notice that someone wants to see the property. But the tenant has the right to deny that access. However, pre-COVID, the landlord had the right to evict the tenant after the denial was given. But now the landlord can’t evict based on that.
Right now it’s better for landlords to sell to an investor if they have a tenant that won’t give access. The landlord can also work with the tenant if they are feeling uncomfortable due to the pandemic, and not just simply denying access. The landlord can pay for the tenants to stay at a hotel for a weekend, or promise to sanitize their unit, etc. Right now, it’s important for landlords to get creative with tenant concerns.
How is rent from September 2020 to January 2021 affected?
If a tenant pays 25% of rent owed from September 2020 through January 2021, then the 75% that is unpaid becomes consumer debt (that gets filed for in small claims court). The tenant has until January 2021 to pay that money. If they pay 25% of their rent from September 2020 to January 2021, then the remaining 75% can only be filed for in small claims court as well.
What happens after January 2021?
If a tenant doesn’t pay 25% of their rent from September 2020 to January 2021, then the landlord can proceed with an eviction lawsuit in February 2021. But if the tenant has paid 25%, then the landlord will have to take the tenant to small claims court in March 2021 for the remaining 75% of the rent.
What if a landlord doesn’t follow AB 3088?
Under AB 3088, the tenant has the right to sue their landlord if they don’t follow the laws. Then the tenant is entitled to money. So it’s important for landlords not to get too aggressive, or, if they want to get aggressive, to seek legal advice first. Tenants can be entitled to $1,000-$2,500 for every time a landlord violates a rule in AB 3088.
COVID has affected every part of our lives and landlord/tenant relations are no different. If you still have questions and would like to seek legal advice, please reach out to Linda Dunn, Esq. at Weston Law Group, PC. Linda and the firm’s contact information can be found HERE. If you have an investment property and you are interested in selling at this time, please fill out the contact form below. The Shannon Jones Team can help you safely sell your home during COVID and help guide you through the process of dealing with tenants.
We understand that this is a difficult time for many people. With a team of trusted advisors by your side, you can rest assured that you are getting the best advice possible.