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Repercussions of Eviction Moratorium on Residential and Commercial Leases in San Diego

On March 27, 2020, Governor Newsome signed Executive Order N-37-20[1], which provided a moratorium on evictions until May 31, 2020.  But what does that mean? The order provides two protections: (1) it conditionally extends the time to respond to an existing eviction petition[2] for 60 days; and (2) immediately halts any enforcement (i.e., kick out orders) of evictions on the same conditions. Those conditions are (a) tenant has previously paid rent in the previous month before Order was signed; (b) the tenant notifies the landlord in writing before the rent is due or up to 7 days after the rent was due, of the inability to pay due to COVID-19 related reasons; and (c) the tenant retains documentation to prove it all.

                So, now that you have done all of that, now what will happen? How does this affect San Diego leases? First, you are not going to pay rent, which will put you in default of your lease or rental agreement. The Order does not interfere with the terms of the contract[3], only with the ability to get a court order to restore possession of the property. You will need to find a way to repay that if you wish to stay in the property after May 31, 2020. The key to this is good communication. The Order requires it (reasonable notice to landlord), and the relationship you maintain with your landlord will be key to ensuring continuity in your home or commercial space, and your rental record.

                Communicate with your landlord regularly, and at least monthly. Let them know what you know about changes in your income. How long do you think you will need? What is your employer saying? What other things are you doing to provide income? After all, we all must eat.

                Then work on a plan for repayment of the rent ahead of time. Make sure you get the agreement in writing. Most leases and rental agreements have provisions in them that say the contract can only be modified by a writing signed by both parties. Potentially, having the missed rent added to future rent payments in small amounts so you can come back to fully paid status in a manageable way. For example, if you do not pay rent the next few months, any rents you are behind will be paid over a one-year period.

                Remember, landlords can still give eviction notices. However, they cannot enforce them until May 31, 2020. So, if you get an eviction notice, do not panic. If you do receive an eviction notice, or are having problems negotiating with your landlord, make sure to get legal advice right away.

                Fortunately, many landlords are negotiating right now as they too want to ensure they get paid down the road. Right now, is a good time to begin negotiating in order to secure your stay at your residential or commercial space once all this settles down.

By Andrew R. Stilwell, Esq., Attorney at Contreras Law Firm

[1] Exec. Order N-37-20, March 27, 2020 (Newsome)

[2] Code of Civ. Proc. § 1167

[3] U.S. Const., Art. 1, § 10, Cl. 1.; Cal. Const., Art. 1, § 9; Board of Administration v. Wilson (1997) 52 Cal.App.4th 1109.

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