By Kathy Chouteau
On Tuesday, March 23, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors extended eviction protections for commercial tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Later that day, the City of Richmond’s City Council reinstated residential eviction protections that expand beyond existing ones enacted by the County.
In a unanimous vote at its board meeting Tuesday, the County Board of Supervisors passed Urgency Ordinance No. 2021-11, which continues the temporary prohibition on evictions of certain small-business commercial tenants financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, per a County statement. The protections for commercial tenants now extend through June 30, 2021, while protections for residential tenants are unchanged by the urgency ordinance and continue through June 30, 2021. The County states that Ordinance No. 2021-11 supersedes Ordinance No. 2021-04.
Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-03-21 March 4, 2021, which extends local jurisdictions’ authority to suspend the evictions of commercial tenants for the non-payment of rent through June 30, 2021, contingent upon the non-payment being related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of Ordinance No. 2021-11, landlords are also prohibited from charging late fees to small business and nonprofit organization tenants, with the grace period to pay back rent extended to Aug. 31, 2021.
“As we make progress together toward ending the COVID-19 pandemic, many small businesses in our community are still struggling and need help,” said Supervisor and Board Chair Diane Burgis, noting that the board’s action “will extend that helping hand for small businesses even as we continue to help eligible renters and landlords during this time.”
“Let’s continue to work together to find resources and ways to move forward,” Burgis added.
For the City of Richmond’s part, it adopted an urgency Rent Moratorium Ordinance at the City Council’s Tuesday night meeting that’s effective immediately and adds protections during the City’s local emergency plus 60 days after it ends.
Key provisions of the Ordinance include that, during the local emergency and for 60 days afterward, landlords are prohibited from evicting a tenant or requiring a tenant to vacate a residential unit, including via an eviction, by causing or permitting a writ of possession to be executed, or by representing to a tenant that they are required by law to move out.
The aforementioned prohibitions don’t apply if the sole grounds for eviction stated in the termination notice are: That a nuisance poses an imminent health or safety threat; the tenant has failed to pay rent that came due between March 1, 2020 and June, 30, 2021 pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure Section 1161(2); and/or the termination is to remove the residential property from the rental market—but only when authorized by Government Code section 7060 et seq. and performed consistent with Richmond Rent Board Regulation Chapter 5, according to City Council documents.
Richmond City Council documents also outlined that a nuisance creating an imminent health and safety threat cannot be the Tenant’s COVID-19-related illness or exposure to COVID-19, whether actual or suspected. Also, any notice statements required by the Ordinance must be written in all languages that the landlord and/or the landlord’s agents normally use for verbal communications with the tenant, as well as the language in which the lease or agreement was originally negotiated.
Finally, Richmond Ordinance documents stated that with any action brought to recover possession of a residential unit where the notice of termination was served during the local emergency or 60 days after, a landlord must allege and prove strict compliance with the Ordinance. Not doing so will result in the landlord having failed to establish its prima facie case.
Check out the Richmond City Council’s March 23 agenda and supporting documents regarding the Rent Moratorium Ordinance here.