During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, California had some of the most protective laws in the country when it came to tenants and the nonpayment of rent. An eviction moratorium stayed in place in our state far longer than the federal ban on evictions lasted. However, on April 1, 2022, the eviction moratorium finally and fully ended in California.
What does this mean for how you proceed when a tenant doesn’t pay rent?
We’re getting a lot of questions about that. It’s hard to know what the “normal” eviction process will look like now that the moratorium has been lifted and there’s no longer access to COVID-19 rent relief for tenants who may have struggled without paychecks during the pandemic.
The pandemic protections have waned, but you have to remember that The Tenant Protection Act of 2019 is still in place. There are limits to how and when you can evict, and you’ll have to prove just cause before you move a tenant out.
As professional property managers, we’ve been following this very closely. We’ve put together a brief look at what you need to know right now.
If you need to remove a tenant from your property, it’s always advisable to speak with an eviction attorney or a local property manager. Evictions are more complex than ever, and trying to do it on your own can result in potentially expensive mistakes.
What to Do When Tenants Pay Late
The eviction moratorium has officially been lifted in California, but rushing to the courthouse is not necessarily going to be your first step when a tenant falls behind. Just because you can evict doesn’t always mean you should.
When you’re working with a good tenant who has a legitimate reason for falling behind and you don’t fear that it will become a long-term problem, it’s still going to be worth your time and effort to work with them. Put your usual processes into place; collect as much as you can right now and put a payment plan together to get them caught up as quickly as possible.
Communication is essential when it comes to collecting rent and avoiding eviction. Working with tenants to bring the rent up to date can help you avoid a long and unpleasant court process. Eviction timelines are a bit different than they were before the pandemic and the moratorium. You might find yourself waiting a little longer to get your eviction hearing now that the courts have opened up.
The potential backlog is another excellent reason to work on bringing your Modesto tenants into compliance if you can.
How to Handle Evictions Outside of the Moratorium
If you are going to evict, make sure you know how to do so within the framework of the new laws.
All evictions in Modesto must be based on “just cause,” which means owners will need to demonstrate a just cause for the eviction. There are two categories that apply to just cause evictions:
- At-fault evictions, which would include eviction for nonpayment of rent.
- No-fault evictions, which means the eviction is not based on the actions of the renter.
The Tenant Protection Act requires that landlords provide a reason for the eviction in the Notice to Quit. It’s no longer as easy as serving a 30 or 60-day Notice of Termination of Tenancy. These eviction laws apply to residents who have rented your property for 12 months or more.
If you are evicting because rent has not been paid, you need to provide your tenant with a 3-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. If the property is not vacated by the non paying tenant within those three days, you may go to court and file for an Unlawful Detainer.
Evictions Must Meet Just Cause Criteria
You need a legal reason to evict a tenant from your Modesto rental property. Here are some of the reasons you can conduct a just cause eviction:
- Nonpayment of rent. Serve a standard notice to pay or quit. Make sure your lease agreement reflects the necessary disclosures that are now required by law. If you’re not already working with a property manager, have an attorney review your notice before you serve it.
- Clear lease violations. When a resident violates your lease agreement and you can prove it, you’ll need to give them the opportunity to cure the problem within a specified period of time. If the problem is not rectified, you have a just cause for eviction.
- Illegal or criminal activity. Prepare to be able to prove this is happening at your property. You’ll need a lot of documentation to effectively evict for criminal activity.
In any of these cases, if you have a problematic tenant and you feel you have to prove just cause, documentation is going to be essential. For nonpayment of rent, you’ll need to demonstrate that your lease includes a rent collection policy and that it has been violated.
Prepare to show that rent has not been paid. The court may need to see your rent roll, accounting statements, and copies of all correspondence you have sent the tenant, including the 3 Day Notice to Pay or Quit.
Eviction Resources and Support in California
If you’re working with tenants who have applied or accepted government support, you must continue to accept those payments. Stay in compliance with any paperwork, documentation, and information that you’re required to provide. While no new assistance is currently available, you don’t want to try evicting a tenant who is protected by an existing eviction program that they entered into during the moratorium.
Always work with an attorney or a property manager. There are easy mistakes that you may not know you’re in danger of making. For example, if you try to sue your tenants for late fees in addition to the rent that is owed, you’ll find your eviction thrown out, and you’ll be back to the beginning of the process. You cannot include late fees in the amount that’s owed.
Need help navigating this new normal? Please contact us at New Bridge Management. We provide leasing and management services in Modesto, Turlock, Merced, Stockton, and the surrounding Stanislaus, Merced, and San Joaquin counties.