In March 2020, California Governor Newsom signed legislation for AB 3088, or the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act (CTRA), putting a freeze on tenant evictions if they could prove a financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was a landmark piece of legislation that has helped plenty of tenants remain in their homes during this unprecedented crisis, however, many landlords have also suffered, as they are unable to meet their own financial obligations.
The CTRA does include some protections for landlords, but that doesn’t mean it protects or mitigates them from all financial impacts. What can landlords do, then, under this law to help protect their investment?
Contact Your Lender
Some landlords may have cash in reserve to help them weather the storm. However, if you rely heavily on monthly rents to pay your mortgage, contact your lender to see what types of protections may be in place.
Make sure to ask if your loan is backed federally. If it is, you may request forbearance in accordance with the CARES act to help you from becoming delinquent. If not, there may still be forbearance options and other state and federally funded programs or property tax breaks available.
Seek Agreements from Tenants
No one wants to cause undue burden on their tenants. Make good-faith efforts to help them as much as possible. For instance, if your current financials allow, waive rent for a month or two, postpone rent payments or create a payment plan that will help them get back on their feet.
If you are struggling, ask the tenant if they can pay a small portion, or help them seek financial assistance from the government. Refer to the disaster loan assistance web page for guidance.
Make sure to document these efforts.
Although the CTRA Act places a moratorium on evictions due to COVID-19 financial hardships, a landlord may still evict a tenant for a variety of other reasons, including pet violations or nuisance claims. However, make sure to follow the steps mandated by law and seek the guidance of an qualified attorney before moving forward.
For example, Landlords must provide their tenant with a Decleration of COVID-19-realted financial distress along with any eviction notice. The tenant is required to sign and return this declaration within 15 days. This is just one of many requirements landlords must meet in order to evict a tenant while the CTRA is in effect.
State Rental Assistance Program
If a landlord chooses to file for the State Rental Assistance Program, they may be reimbursed for any unpaid rents up to 80 percent if the landlord agrees to waive the other 20 percent.
Remember, the CTRA is a moratorium on evictions, not rent. Upon the termination of the CTRA, landlords may file a suit in small claims court (beginning August 2021) for all unpaid rents. You must prove that you have made all good-faith efforts in helping the tenant with this burden.