California lawmakers introduced 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 eviction protections are set to expire. The proposals also come as California experiences a surge in coronavirus cases and stay-at-home orders. The proposals will likely include more details 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.

Assemlyman David Chiu

One proposal, Assembly Bill 15 by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, would extend the eviction protections under AB 3088 until the end of next year.

The other proposal, Senate Bill 3, comes from Sens. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, and Steven Bradford, D-Gardena. This legislation would extend AB 3088 through March 2021.

Debra Carlton, CAA’s executive vice president of state public affairs, said a short-term extension seems more appropriate, especially with a vaccine on the horizon.

“Extending the current sunset date by 60 to 90 days would also give us more time to work out more details for legislation,” Carlton said.

She added that any extension must come with funding to help tenants pay their back rent and to assist landlords struggling with delayed or reduced rental income.

These goals aren’t lost on the authors of SB 3.

Sen. Anna Caballero

Besides protecting tenants, Caballero said, the Legislature must protect small rental property owners at risk of foreclosure.

“Everyone suffers — landlords and tenants — if this occurs,” the senator said in this news release.  

Added Bradford: “The pandemic continues to threaten the wellbeing of many small landlords, tenants, and homeowners in California. AB 3088 sought to stop the bleeding and bring relief to the most vulnerable through early 2021. The lack of action by the federal government clearly justifies an extension of that relief in some form.”

Sen. Steven Bradford

Unlike SB 3, which extends AB 3088 briefly, Chiu’s bill has a longer timetable and eliminates AB 3088’s pre-emption of locally imposed eviction protections. AB 15 would allow local governments to impose additional eviction rules on top of state law, which would cause a hodgepodge of eviction rules across California.

AB 3088’s pre-emption ensures a level of consistency and clarity across the state. Without it, the courts will have to interpret hundreds of local rules, a process likely to prolong cases.  

AB 3088 took effect in August, when a bipartisan, super majority of the state Legislature approved the bill, allowing it to take effect upon receiving the governor’s signature.

Debra Carlton

Under AB 3088, tenants who declare 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.

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

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.

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