The national eviction moratorium is set to expire on June 30, 2021. Over 7 million people are still behind on their rent. Tenants across the country are trying to get assistance from their state governments and their city and county governments. There are a variety of emergency rental assistance programs open and available but many are mired in bureaucracy. Hopefully renters are able to pay their back rent very soon but if not then they need to know their options.
A California landlord can send out a notice to quit or pay rent. Those notices can be 3-day, 30-day or 60-day notices depending on the situation. If the rent is not timely paid, the landlord can file an eviction action. The local court issues a summons which is then personally served on the tenant. An answer must be filed within 5 days. If an answer is filed, the court will set the matter for hearing on an expedited basis within about 20 days. If an answer is not filed, the court will rule in favor of the landlord by default. An eviction can occur after judgment and after a file is opened at the local sheriff’s office.
Evictions have two components: a request for possession and a request for an award of damages. If a tenant voluntarily moves out, the landlord’s eviction action just becomes a damage claim. The landlord will seek an award of past due rent plus incidental damages and costs. A judgment is issued for the back rent and the landlord can collect on it just like any other judgment creditor.
Bankruptcy can help in two ways. First, if a tenant still has possession of the premises there are specific procedures that must occur once the bankruptcy is filed. No eviction action can be commenced or continued if a bankruptcy is filed. Second, even if a tenant has left the premises, a bankruptcy can help by discharging the back rent. If the landlord got a pre-petition judgment, the tenant could still obtain a stay for 30 days by depositing one month’s rent with the bankruptcy court clerk and could possibly obtain more time.
David A. Arietta, Esq. is a certified specialist in bankruptcy law. Call him at (925) 472-8000 to review your options. Bankruptcy and landlord/tenant law is complex and you need a certified specialist to help you navigate through it to properly protect your rights.