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COVID-19 - Eviction Moratorium

Introduction 

Santa Monica’s emergency eviction moratorium applies to eligible residential and commercial tenants. The moratorium went into effect on March 14, 2020 and lasts through June 30, 2020, unless further extended.  

If you are an eligible renter, please note: 

  1. The rent due is not waived, just deferred.  
  2. You must pay your rent within twelve (12) months after the end of the moratorium or face eviction.  
  3. Landlords cannot charge interest on unpaid rent.  
  4. You need to notify your landlord of your inability to pay rent due to COVID-19 as soon as possible, preferably before rent is due but no later than 30 days after rent is due. Below are documentation requirements

For Tenants  

Eligibility Requirements 

The following types of renters are potentially eligible for rent relief 

  • Residential Tenants 
  • Commercial Tenants  
  • Non-Retail Commercial Tenants 

The moratorium does not apply to preexisting back rent the tenant may have owed prior to the moratorium. If the tenants already owed back rent, they may still be evicted for failure to pay that rent. 

Notification Process 

You may notify your landlord that you need extra time to pay rent by text, email, or using this City form (recommended). Simultaneously, you will also need to provide your landlord with documentation (proof) of your reduced income due to COVID-19. 

Click below for a form (Ingles y Español) that can be used to provide the required notice and documentation:  

Tenant Notice to Landlord Form

Tenant Notice to Landlord Form/Notificación de Protección Bajo La Moratoria de Desalojos (Ingles/Espanol)

Notificación de Protección Bajo La Moratoria de Desalojos/Tenant Notice to Landlord Form (Espanol/Ingles)

The types of documentation listed on the form are examples; not every tenant will be able to provide every type of documentation.  

Instructional Videos 

Eviction Protections for Residential Tenants during the Safer at Home Order 

While the emergency order is in effect, residential tenants are protected from the following kinds of evictions: 

  • No-fault Eviction  
  • Refusing entry into a unit, with limited exceptions  
  • Having unauthorized occupants or their pets 
  •  “Nuisances” (certain behaviors or conditions that would normally be grounds for eviction) 
  •  A so-called “Ellis” eviction (taking the unit off the market) 

Exceptions 

Some commercial tenants are also protected for up to twelve-months for nonpayment due to the pandemic.  


For Landlords 

Upon Receiving Notice 

  • If the tenant presents the notice and documentation to the landlord before the rent is due, the landlord should not serve a Notice to Pay Rent or Quit.  
  • If the landlord has already served a tenant with a notice, and the tenant then present the COVID-19 impact information, the landlord should not take any further steps toward eviction.  

Enforcement 

In the rare case of a landlord who will not cooperate with the moratorium and proceeds with Notices to Pay Rent or Quit, terminations, and eviction attempts, they could be fined for such attempts.  

Also, the tenant may use the moratorium protection as a defense in any unlawful detainer.   

Resources for Landlords 

There are a number of programs in place to help protect property owners during this time when many tenants are not able to pay rent.  

 


The following is a list of Frequently Asked Questions to better inform the community about the City’s moratorium on terminations of tenancy and evictions:

General Information

How are the courts handling eviction cases?

On April 6, 2020, the Judicial Council of California adopted emergency court rules that effectively delay all evictions, other than those necessary to protect public health and safety, for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.

The rule applies to all courts and to all eviction cases, whether they are based on a tenant’s missed rent payment or another reason. The rule temporarily prohibits a court from issuing a summons after a landlord files an eviction case, unless necessary to protect public health and safety. As a result, even if a landlord files an eviction case, they will not have a summons to serve on the tenant until 90 days after the emergency passes. Without a summons, a landlord cannot start the case, and the requirement for a tenant to respond within a set time period is not triggered. Default judgments, whereby a landlord wins the eviction case because a tenant failed to respond in time, are also prohibited.

Also, under Santa Monica’s moratorium, if a landlord does file an eviction lawsuit, the landlord must serve a copy of the complaint on the tenant within three days, even though the court will not issue the summons to start the case. This ensures that tenants are given notice of the eviction lawsuits filed in court, some of which may have been filed in violation of the City’s Order.

How does the City’s eviction moratorium work?

The City’s moratorium prohibits a landlord from evicting or taking steps toward eviction of a tenant under certain circumstances, including:

  • nonpayment of rent due to financial impacts related to COVID-19
  • no-fault evictions (including restrictions related to Ellis Act withdrawals)
  • denial of entry by the landlord, with limited health and safety exceptions
  • presence of unauthorized occupants or their pets, or nuisance, with limited health and safety exceptions
  • if the landlord failed to give notice required under the moratorium

If a tenant is protected under the moratorium, a landlord may not take any action to evict a tenant, including but not limited to, issuing an eviction notice, filing an unlawful detainer, or seeking to terminate a tenancy or evict a tenant through other means.  In addition, if a tenant is protected under the moratorium, then the tenant has an affirmative defense to an unlawful detainer action taken in violation of the moratorium

When did the moratorium go into and how long is the moratorium effect? 

The moratorium went into effect on March 14, 2020 and has been revised since that date. The moratorium is in effect through June 30, 2020, unless extended by the City.  The City may extend this date as appropriate to address the local emergency. 

Do landlords have to give tenants notice of the moratorium?

Yes, if they have not already, landlords must provide tenants notice of the moratorium in the following ways:

First, a landlord must provide the tenant with a notice that states:  

You might be protected from eviction under certain circumstances, including nonpayment of rent due to financial impacts related to COVID-19. If you are unable to pay rent due to financial impacts related to COVID-19, you must provide notice and documentation to your landlord within 30 days after rent is due. If you are a residential tenant, you may be protected for certain other reasons. For additional information, contact the City of Santa Monica’s Coronavirus Hotline at (310) 458-8400 or visit santamonica.gov/coronavirus.

The notice must be either sent to the tenant by mail or email, or posted in a conspicuous place at the building. It must be written in the language that the landlord normally uses for verbal communications with the tenant.  

Second, the notice must be included with any Notice to Pay Rent or Quit, and any other notice given as part of an eviction process. 

In addition, if a landlord does file an eviction lawsuit, the landlord must also serve a copy of the complaint to the tenant within three days.

How does the eviction moratorium protect the rights and interests of landlords?

Landlords may continue to collect rent from tenants who experienced no adverse financial effects related to COVID-19.  Landlords may also pursue rent through the eviction process twelve months after the moratorium ends. Landlords may pursue rents at any time from larger commercial tenants, which are not covered by the moratorium.

 What resources are available for landlords?

There are a number of programs in place to help protect property owners during this time when many tenants are not able to pay rent.

Residential Tenants 

How am I protected if I can’t pay my rent because of the pandemic and the public health rules?

The following chart summarizes protections if you cannot pay the rent.

Covered Months

March (due on or after March 14) April, May, and June, unless extended

Reason for nonpayment

Nonpayment caused by the pandemic or its effects, such as the stay at home orders

Time to pay

The due date for deferred rent is June 30, 2021, unless extended.  

Protection

The due date for covered rent is extended. A tenant cannot be evicted for nonpayment before the extended due date.

Documentation

A tenant must provide notice and documentation of inability to pay. Notice and documentation must be provided within 30 days after rent is due.

Interest and fees

If the rent is paid by the extended due date (currently June 30, 2021) a landlord may not charge late fees, penalties, or interest. 


Can a landlord evict a tenant for non-payment of rent related to COVID-19?

The moratorium restricts eviction for nonpayment of rent that became due while the moratorium is in effect, where nonpayment was due to financial impacts of COVID-19.  

A landlord may not evict a residential tenant for non-payment of covered rent while the moratorium is in effect and for twelve months thereafter.  This applies to rent that was due between March 14, 2020 and June 30, 2020, unless extended by the City. 

After the twelve-month deferral period is over, may a landlord pursue back rent through an eviction process even though the landlord has also obtained relief or compensation from another source?

No. The Order prohibits a landlord from using the eviction process to recover delayed rent if the landlord has already been compensated for the unpaid rent through federal or state government relief funds or other programs that provide such compensation. 

Can a landlord charge late fees, penalties, or interest for rent delayed under the Order?

Residential tenants have until twelve months after the end of the moratorium to pay rent they could not pay due to effects of COVID-19. In other words, the due date for covered rent is extended. If a residential tenant pays within the twelve-month period, they cannot be charged late fees, penalties, or interest. 

What must a tenant do to inform their landlord that they cannot pay for a reason related to COVID-19?

First, tenants should check to see if the moratorium covers the relevant time period.  The moratorium only applies to rent that was due between March 14, 2020 and June 30, 2020. Next, tenants must contact their landlords within 30 days after rent is due to inform the landlords that they cannot pay rent because of financial impacts related to COVID-19.  Also, within 30 days after rent is due, tenants must provide their landlords with documentation to support this claim.  We encourage tenants to contact their landlords immediately and to provide documentation as soon as possible. 

The tenant’s documentation is presumed to demonstrate an inability to pay rent due to COVID-19 if the documentation shows any loss of income or increase in expenses, along with a written statement from the tenant that the loss of income or increase in expenses is due to financial impacts related to COVID-19. Once a landlord knows that the tenant was unable to pay due to COVID-19, the landlord should not take any further steps toward termination or eviction. 

What type of documentation can a tenant use to show that the tenant cannot pay rent because of financial impacts related to COVID-19?

There are many ways that a tenant might be financially impacted by COVID-19.  These include but are not limited to job loss; a reduction of work hours; and the need to miss work to care for a child or someone sick with COVID-19.

There are also many ways that a tenant can provide supporting documentation. Examples of documentation include, but are not limited to: a letter from an employer citing COVID-19 as a reason for reduced work hours or termination; paycheck stubs from before and after the COVID-19 outbreak; bank statements showing the tenant’s financial situation before and after the COVID-19 outbreak; or a detailed text message explaining that the tenant’s industry is shut down and it is not possible to work.

Can a tenant self-certify inability to pay due to financial impacts related to COVID-19?

Yes. The notice and documentation requirement can be satisfied by a single written communication by the tenant explaining how financial impacts related to COVID-19 have affected their ability to pay rent. This means that a tenant could satisfy the requirement with a single letter, email, or text message. Some tenants were paid in cash and may not have financial records or contact information for former employers. Elderly and disabled tenants may have difficulty accessing records if they do have them. Self-certification allows these and all other tenants to be protected by the moratorium without excessively difficult verification requirements, at a time when access to records may be limited.

EXAMPLE: Gerry is a house cleaner. His rent is due on May 15. On May 15, he texts his landlord, explaining that he is unable to work because all of his clients have cancelled and his work is not permitted under the safer at home orders. His landlord may not serve a three-day notice to pay or quit or take any step to evict him for non-payment of rent. He does not have to provide any additional documentation.

EXAMPLE: Fabiola is a line cook at a restaurant that has closed. His rent is due on May 15. She does not speak English well, so her son helps her write a letter explaining that her mother cannot work and can’t pay the rent, because the restaurant is closed because of the pandemic. Her son sends a legible picture of the letter in a text message to the property manager on May 15. Fabiola’s property manager responds saying he does not believe that Fabiola cannot pay. He knows that people can get unemployment insurance that pays more than their work used to pay. Fabiola’s son does not respond and does not share the message with his mother. 

Fabiola’s landlord may not serve a pay or quit notice or take any step to evict him for nonpayment. The letter sent to the property manager is enough to satisfy the notice and documentation requirements. Her manager’s opinion about a possible government benefit does not change the protections of the moratorium.

Are tenants excused from ever paying rent that was due during the moratorium?

No.  The moratorium gives tenants additional time to pay rent, but it does not waive the tenant’s obligation to pay the rent at the end of the deferral period.  The deferral period during which tenants may not be evicted for nonpayment is twelve months following the expiration of the moratorium. The moratorium expires June 30, 2020, unless extended by the City.

On March 27, 2020, the Governor of California issued Order N-37-20 to provide eviction protections. What protections does the Governor’s Order (Executive Order N-37-20) provide?

The Governor’s Order (Executive Order N-37-20) applies in Santa Monica. It gives a tenant additional time to respond after a landlord files an eviction lawsuit in court. In order to get 60 days instead of five days to respond to an eviction court action, the tenant must notify the landlord within seven days after rent is due.  Under the City’s moratorium, a tenant must provide the landlord with written notice and documentation, within 30 days from the date the rent is due.

We encourage tenants to notify and provide supporting documentation to the landlord as soon as possible.  Although it is not required, we especially encourage tenants to notify and provide supporting documentation to the landlord before rent is due.  The sooner the tenant provides that documentation, the soon he or she can head off the next step toward termination or eviction.

May a landlord attempt to evict a tenant who denies entry to the landlord?

Generally, no. During the moratorium, a landlord may not evict a tenant for refusing entry to the landlord. COVID-19 is highly contagious, and the virus may linger on surfaces. Landlords should not enter homes, especially the homes of those with COVID-19 risk factors, unless it is for a critical repair or emergency involving a condition that makes the apartment uninhabitable. (Even before the emergency, California Civil Code section 1954 put strict limits on how and when a landlord can enter a tenant’s home.)

Therefore, the only exception to the eviction ban in this situation is if the tenant unreasonably denies entry when the landlord wants to repair a condition that substantially endangers the health or safety of a tenant or other persons in the vicinity of the premises, or a condition that is causing or threatening to cause substantial damage to the premises. A burst water pipe that is causing water damage to the unit below would be an example of such a condition.

What safety measures should a landlord take if an entry to a tenant’s unit is required?

If a landlord seeks to repair a condition that qualifies as an emergency, the landlord must not allow entry by any person who is or is believed to be a carrier of the novel coronavirus.  Once entry takes place the landlord must ensure that appropriate social distancing, cleaning, and sanitation measures are taken to protect from risk of transmitting the virus during the entry. 

 Additionally, landlords and their agents conducting an emergency entry must follow the safety precautions advised by the Centers for Disease Control and industry guidance, including: 1) maintain social distancing of at least six feet from all occupants; 2) wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, mask, and safety glasses; 3) wash hands for 20 seconds before entering the unit; 4) not enter the unit if he has COVID-19 symptoms recognized by the CDC; 5) not touch his face; 6) sanitize the gloves and any equipment being brought into the unit; and, 7) before leaving, wash or sanitize any surfaces touched during the entry.

Tenants should do the following: 1) maintain social distancing; 2) wash hands for 20 seconds before and after the entry; 3) contain any pets or service animals from the work area during the repair; and, 4) make sure that either the tenant or the repair person has cleaned or disinfected the area in which work was done.

May a landlord attempt to terminate the tenancy or evict a tenant who has an unauthorized occupant?

No. The moratorium prohibits a landlord from trying to evict a tenant for unauthorized occupants or their pets during this time when all individuals are required to stay at home or a place of residence.  Therefore, this moratorium protects tenants who have brought in relatives or others so that they may stay at a place of residence. 

May a landlord attempt to terminate the tenancy or evict a tenant for nuisance?

In general, a landlord may not endeavor to evict a tenant for a nuisance claim while the moratorium is in effect.  For example, if tenants are making more sustained noise than usual because everyone in the household is home and it is bothering the teleworkers next door, an eviction is not allowed. Tenants and landlords are encouraged to communicate and try to work out such disputes.

The exception to this rule is that a landlord may evict a tenant for nuisance if it poses a substantial danger to the safety of people or to the premises.

Does the moratorium provide tenants with any affirmative defenses in case a landlord files an eviction lawsuit against the tenant, in violation of the moratorium?

Yes.  The moratorium grants an affirmative defense that may be raised at any time in an eviction lawsuit (also known as an unlawful detainer action) if a landlord files the lawsuit in violation of the moratorium.

The moratorium says that “a landlord may not deceive a tenant in connection with . . . this Order.” What does that mean?

A landlord cannot intentionally or carelessly provide false information about the protections provided by the moratorium, or what the moratorium requires landlords or tenants to do. Providing incomplete information could also be a violation.

EXAMPLE: Nazanin lost her acting job because of the COVID-19 stay-at-home order and provided notice and documentation to her landlord of her lost income. After receiving the notice and documentation, her landlord sends her a text message stating, “you haven’t paid your rent this month. If you don’t pay, I’m going to have to give you an eviction notice.” The moratorium does not allow Nazanin’s landlord to give Nazanin an eviction notice because she has provided her landlord with notice and documentation of her inability to pay her rent due to the impacts related to COVID-19. And, Nazanin’s landlord lied to Nazanin about her rights under the moratorium.

What should a tenant do if a landlord serves an eviction notice, files an eviction lawsuit against the tenant, or provides false or misleading information, in violation of the moratorium?

In cases where the tenant in unable to pay, tenants should do all they can to inform the landlord of the tenant’s inability to pay, provide the landlord with supporting documentation, and ask in writing that the landlord rescind any notice or withdraw any lawsuit. Even with the eviction protections, tenants are encouraged to pay what they can and work out a realistic payment plan.

The City Attorney’s Office will also take complaints in the case of a landlord refusing to comply with the moratorium. If informal efforts to get the landlord to rescind notices fail, the City may issue a fine of $1,000 or file a lawsuit under the Order. If the landlord‘s eviction case goes forward, the tenant has an affirmative defense under the moratorium.

Please note: The City Attorney’s Office cannot represent tenants in eviction lawsuits (unlawful detainer actions) or other legal proceedings, and any enforcement action the City Attorney’s Office takes against the landlord will not automatically stop the eviction action or other legal proceedings.  Therefore, if the landlord files an unlawful detainer action, the tenant should immediately seek his or her own legal counsel (such as Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles -Santa Monica Office) to represent the tenant in the unlawful detainer lawsuit. 

What are the penalties for a landlord who does not comply with the moratorium?

The City may fine the landlord $1,000 for each violation of the moratorium. Also, the tenant or the City can sue the landlord for violations the Tenant Harassment Ordinance. The maximum civil penalty for a violation of the Tenant Harassment Ordinance has been increased from $10,000 to $15,000 during the emergency. Examples of violations of the Tenant Harassment Ordinance include: 1) a landlord continuing with eviction notices or lawsuits against tenants, even though the landlord knows the tenant has a defense under the moratorium; and 2) a landlord forcing his or her way into a tenant’s home without consent, even though there is no critical need for the entry.

Commercial Tenants

What businesses are covered by the eviction moratorium?

The moratorium covers nonprofits and smaller businesses. It does not cover multi-national companies, publicly traded companies, or any company that, with its affiliates, employs more than 500 employees. None of the protections discussed below apply to businesses not covered by the moratorium.

Do commercial landlords have to provide notice of the moratorium to commercial tenants?

Yes, the requirement to provide the specific notice to all tenants, as laid out in the “Residential Tenants” section above, applies equally to commercial tenants.

Are protections the same for all businesses? How do I know what level of protection a business gets?

The level of protection depends on the kind of business. There are two categories:

  1. Commercial tenants
  2. Non-retail commercial tenants

Non-retail commercial tenants are commercial tenants that meet all of the following conditions:

  1. For-profit
  2. In an office building
  3. Do not collect sales tax on revenue or collect sales tax on less than half of revenue
  4. Do not provide medical, dental, veterinary, fitness, educational, or child, marriage, family, mental health, or substance abuse counseling services.

All other tenants that are covered by the moratorium are “commercial tenants.”

How does the moratorium protect businesses in each category?

A. Commercial Tenants

For nonpayment, protections are very similar to those for residential tenants. Commercial tenants must provide notice and documentation and cannot be evicted for nonpayment due to COVID-19 until June 30, 2021, unless extended.

If rent is paid before the extended due date, a landlord may not charge late fees or penalties. Landlords may charge or collect interest that would have accrued beginning 90 days after the expiration of the eviction moratorium Order but may not charge or collect interest that would have accrued before that time.   

B. Non-Retail Commercial Tenants

Non-retail commercial tenants are protected from eviction for nonpayment for 30 days. They must satisfy all of the requirements for commercial tenants, but are protected from eviction until July 30, 2020, unless extended.  

If rent is paid by July 30, 2020, or any extended date, a landlord may not charge or collect a late fee or penalty. A landlord may charge or collect interest that would have accrued after the expiration of the moratorium Order but may not charge or collect interest that would have accrued during the effective dates of the moratorium Order.  

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More Information:

Emergency Order on Eviction Moratorium

Press Release on Revised Order

For additional questions, email consumer.mailbox@smgov.net or call 310-458-8336.


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