Saturday, September 12, 2020

Tenant Relief Act of 2020 - Forms

The Tenant Relief Act of 2020 has passed into law, and its full text is available here. It is rather a lengthy document, because it amends and adds quite a few statutes. A myriad of articles is written on this new law, and I am only adding mine to cover two practical areas of the subject: the forms and the quirky part in the due-date language, regarding the landlord's obligation to give notice.

 Where to get the forms?

Plenty of organizations offer their forms, inviting you to subscribe or purchase them through the membership. But you don't need a member-only proprietary form in this instance, because the state publishes them for free, and provides them in several languages, here and here (you need both links). But don't just download them once for any regular use; instead, download a new form each time you are ready to send it, because the forms might be updated since the last time.

Also, if it comes to an eviction notice (15-day in length, plus weekends and holidays), the form notice from this website may, for several municipalities or counties, be only a part of the required documents to be served. For example, in San Francisco, there is an additional form (Form 1010) to be included. You can download it here, current version is dated September 3, and expected to receive updates. (As of September 29, the form was ruled out as no longer required by the Mayor's office of Housing and Community Development (link)).

When to give notice under CCP § 1179.04?

Out of the entire new code, I personally think that section 1179.04 is the most dangerously ambiguous one. First, it imposes a duty on a landlord to give notice by September 30, 2020, or waive her rights to demand previously unpaid rent. Second, it starts as clearly applying to those who did not pay rent in the past, but then blurs those lines and starts referring to the times after September 1.

The statute says: «notice to tenants who, as of September 1, 2020, have not paid one or more rental payments that came due during the protected time period.»  The "protected time period" is "between March 1, 2020, and August 31, 2020." (CCP § 1179.02 subd. (f)). So, from this perspective, it clearly applies only the tenants who did not pay rent before.

So, if the tenant did not pay as of August 31, 2020, it is a non-brainer, serve the notice.

But here comes the second problem--since we don't know the future--what if a tenant becomes delinquent on October 1st, or any subsequent time within the next defined time length the "transition time period," (CCP § 1179.02 subd. (i)), defined as "between September 1, 2020, and January 31, 2021"?  The statute created to deal with this problem is section 1179.03, subd. (c). There, it also has its own disclosure to include, a bit different in text than the one under 1179.04, subd. (a).

Section 1179.04 may confuse things for those subsequent delinquencies. This is because its subsection (c)(1) refers and includes notices under 1179.03, subd. (c) (the notices given for the rent late in transition period).

And the language in the 1179.04 notice itself covers "failing to make rental payments due between March 1, 2020, and January 31, 2021," including both the "protected" and "transition" periods. While the notice itself for the transition period has its own disclosure (CCP § 1179.03 subd. (c)(4)), it is a shorter version, and it already implies some fault (e.g. it says "you will still owe the full amount of rent to the landlord"). Conversely, the notice under section 1179.04 is entirely informational.

Since this is a newly baked statute straight out of legislature's oven, there is no guidance to it yet, and we are still in September, so nobody has got an interpretation from the court yet. My personal suggestion (and only a suggestion this is, more like a feeling) is this: in some circumstances, it might be prudent to serve the notice under 1179.04 prior to September 30, 2020, to the tenants either paying or not paying, as a prophylactic measure in ensuring that you don't waive a right to collect rent. When/If time comes later and a tenant failed to pay rent during the "transition period," then the notice under 1179.03(c), with its own disclosure form, will be served.

The circumstances could be the history of the past performance and the expectations of the future performance on the payments of rent, if there are any to factor-in. Also note that the statute covers separately the "high-income tenant[s]" (defined under 1179.02.05 subd. (a)(1)(A)). Just in case you were not already confused enough.

And don't forget that a blank form of the declaration is to be served with each of the these notices. The text of the declaration is stated in CCP § 1179.02 subd. (d), and it is also available as a free form from the website, here.

More real property posts

If you are concerned about your rights and obligations in a landlord-tenant relationship, make your first step toward taking control over the circumstances, and call my office at (415) 987-7000. I will be glad to assist in guiding you through the jungle. The only thing you can't afford is to stay put and uninformed. My office provides a confidential assessment of your particular scenario, free of charge, and I will share with you the results of the analysis along with my thoughts on available solutions.

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