Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB3088 on 8/31/20, setting forth guidelines for California residential landlords in order to preserve the right to later claim unpaid rent and/or evict tenants for unpaid rent, while protecting tenants demonstrating COVID-19 related financial hardship. The new law requires landlords who intend to seek damages from residential tenants who have missed rent between March 1, 2020 and August 31, 2020 to send the “covered period” notice on or before September 30, 2020, or the right to evict or seek unpaid rent at a later time may be waived. [See the notice form provided by the State of California here.]

To be able to later seek damages for unpaid rent under AB3088, residential landlords must provide several documents to tenants who have not timely paid rent:

  • A 15-day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit (as opposed to the usual 3-Day Notice);
  • The applicable “Notices from the State of California” about the tenant’s’ rights under AB3088;
  • A declaration form for a tenant to sign, under penalty of perjury, explaining that they have a COVID-19 related hardship, such as the loss of a job, a need to provide childcare to school-aged children whose schools remain closed, or higher medical bills.

The exact language that landlords must provide to tenants in the “Notices from the State of California” is set forth in AB3088.  The notice language varies based upon the time period in which the tenant missed rent:

  • The “Covered Period:” March 1, 2020 – January 31, 2021 (all tenants who have missed rent from March 1, 2020 to August 31, 2020 MUST be provided this notice by September 30, 2020 to preserve the landlord’s right to collect payment)
  • “The Protected Period:” March 1, 2020 – August 31, 2020; (in addition to the “Covered Period” notice above)
  • “The Transitional Period:” September 1, 2020 – January 31, 2021;
  • If the landlord already has information on file proving that a tenant’s income is over 130% of the median income for the tenant’s county (as published Department of Housing and Community), a separate notice must accompany the notices above.

Provided that they follow AB3088’s notice requirements, residential landlords may then seek rental debt accrued during the “covered period” in small claims court on or after February 1, 2021. Tenants who fail to pay at least 25% of the rent due between September 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021 on or before January 31, 20201 may also be subject to eviction – unless that landlord’s county or municipality has an ordinance in place that expands AB3088’s tenant eviction protections.

The State of California has made notices available for residential landlords’ use at the California Department of Real Estate Website in several different languages that can be viewed here. Local real estate groups also have forms available. Please take caution to send tenants all notices applicable; often, tenants may be entitled to more than one of the above notices based on when the tenant has missed rent. Some legislative advocates are recommending that the landlord send the applicable notice and declaration form each time a tenant misses a rental period to preserve the landlord’s rights