California lawmakers are introducing a pair of bills that would keep COVID-19 eviction protections in place well into 2021 and perhaps longer.

News of the bills came Monday, Dec. 7, the first day of the new legislative session and less than two months before current eviction protections are set to expire. The proposals also come as California experiences a new surge in coronavirus cases and stay-at-home orders. The proposals will initially lack much detail but can be fleshed out before lawmakers reconvene hearings early next year. 

Legislators are seeking a replacement for the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020, which passed as AB 3088 this summer and is scheduled to expire Jan. 31, 2021.

One of the proposals, from Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, would extend the eviction protections under AB 3088 until the end of next year. Unlike AB 3088, however, Chiu’s legislation would allow local governments to impose additional eviction rules.

Another proposal is expected from Sens. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, and Steven Bradford, D-Gardena. This legislation is expected to extend the provisions of AB 3088 for a brief period with opportunities to renew at certain intervals.

“A more gradual extension — perhaps quarter by quarter — would be more appropriate, given the fact that a vaccine is on the way,” said Debra Carlton, CAA’s executive vice president of state public affairs. “Extending the current sunset date by 60 to 90 days is a better approach and will also give us more time to work out more details for legislation.”

Any kind of extension also must be accompanied by financial support for small owners, Carlton added.

CAA also objects to local governments making their own eviction rules on top of state law. AB 3088 pre-empts cities and counties from doing so, ensuring a level of consistency and clarity across the state. Without this pre-emption, the courts will be left to interpret hundreds of local rules, a process likely to delay the resolution of cases.  

A super majority of the state Legislature passed AB 3088 in late August, allowing the legislation to take effect immediately upon receiving the governor’s signature.

Under AB 3088, tenants who provide a declaration of COVID-related hardships have until Jan. 31, 2021, to pay at least 25% of any back rent that accrued between Sept. 1, 2020, and Jan. 31, 2021. At present, tenants who fail to pay that amount by Jan. 31 can be subject to eviction beginning Feb. 1, the day after AB 3088 expires. Chiu’s legislation would strike the Jan. 31 deadline and give COVID-affected tenants an additional 11 months to pay 25% of rent owed since September 2020. Likewise, his legislation would ban evictions for nonpayment of rent attributable to the pandemic until early 2022.

Carlton said Chiu’s prolonged timetable for nonpayment could devastate small-scale landlords already struggling to hang on. California’s unpaid rent tally is nearing $1.7 billion.

“I just don’t think some of these mom-and-pops are going to make it another year without rent,” she said, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle.