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Patchwork of tenant protections intact for now

John Orona
Staff Writer

A ruling by the Judicial Council of California on whether residents will once again be subject to evictions and foreclosures was postponed Wednesday.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdown, uncertainty about what will happen to businesses and residents dealing with a steep recession has been constant.

After issuing an executive order in March allowing local jurisdiction to suspend eviction and foreclosure enforcement, Gov. Gavin Newsom followed up with a statewide order banning eviction enforcement temporarily.

In April, the judicial council adopted 11 emergency rules further protecting tenants in the most comprehensive and consistent regulations to date. The emergency rules disallow courts from issuing eviction summons or judicial foreclosure actions unless a judge finds it is necessary to protect public health and safety, whether the eviction is related to COVID-19 or not.

The emergency rules are in effect until 90 days after the California state-of-emergency order is lifted, but the vote postponed Wednesday would have ended the protections earlier, on Aug. 3.

“After discussions with the governor, legislative leaders, and judicial council members — as well as hearing from residents with many different viewpoints — I have suspended for the time being the vote on the emergency rules dealing with evictions and judicial foreclosures,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in a press release. “I believe the executive and legislative branches will need more time to sort through various policy proposals.”


The rationale for the council’s suspension of eviction and judicial foreclosure actions was based on the court’s ability to handle the cases. The originally planned vote to once again enforce those actions was based on statewide reopening efforts that are allowing more court systems to function and process actions. Efforts for rent and foreclosure relief in the Legislature were also a factor, though Assembly Bill 898 mentioned in the council’s agenda was referred back to committee on May 18.

No subsequent vote on the rule amendments has been scheduled.

With the postponement, the emergency rules remain the broadest protections for residents, but they can change at any time, which would leave only Newsom’s order giving local jurisdictions power to suspend enforcement until July 28.

Nevada County, Grass Valley and Nevada City each have their own ordinances suspending residential and commercial evictions, which all affirm the requirement to repay rent due. The Grass Valley and Nevada County ordinances do not specify a repayment time, while Nevada City’s provides 90 days for repayment.

According to a study released this week by housing researchers at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs, failure to enact eviction and foreclosure protections will lead to a “devastating and prolonged crisis” when emergency rules expire and a wave of eviction filings are expected.

The report also warned for protections to be effective, they must be accessible to renters who need them most.

“Without a massive increase in access to both information and legal services, most tenants will face eviction within weeks because they are unable to file a legally sufficient response to the unlawful detainer complaint within five business days and have a default judgment entered against them not long thereafter,” the report states. “There is no evidence that state or local leaders have begun to plan for what now appears to be an inevitable intensification of what was already a humanitarian crisis.”

Update 6/12: This article was updated to correct the repayment timeline in Grass Valley’s ordinance.


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Coronavirus Guidance for Businesses/Employers

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To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.

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