In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Judicial Council of California on Monday placed on hold nearly all evictions in the state.

The council’s vote at an emergency meeting effectively suspended all unlawful detainer actions until 90 days after California’s COVID-19 state of emergency ends.

The vote goes much further than Gov. Gavin Newsom’s eviction moratorium, which he declared through an executive order last month. That order banned the eviction of renters unable to pay the rent because of financial hardships tied to COVID-19. A previous order issued by Newsom expanded the Judicial Council’s emergency authority, making Monday’s sweeping action possible.

Specifically, the rules approved by the council do the following:

  • Suspend the issuance of a summons in an unlawful detainer action, unless the court finds there is a health and safety reason. This means new unlawful detainer cases cannot be filed in most circumstances.
  • Prevent entry of default and/or default judgments in unlawful detainer cases, unless the court finds there is a health and safety reason and the defendant has not appeared.
  • Mandates that unlawful detainer trials be set no earlier than 60 days after a request for trial, again unless there is a health and safety reason. All trials on calendar as of April 1 will be continued at least 60 days.

The California Apartment Association contends the council’s move is unnecessary, overly broad, and will tie the hands of landlords who need to move forward with evictions for reasons that are legitimate but outside the council’s narrow definition of allowable evictions.

“CAA has urged landlords throughout California to exhibit patience and compassion when dealing with residents unable to pay the rent due to COVID-19 hardships,” said Tom Bannon, chief executive officer for CAA. “The Judicial Council’s vote Monday invites tenants who have the financial wherewithal to pay their rent to withhold it, leaving landlords struggling to cover their own bills and to keep employees on their payroll.”

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