In the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, city and county governments throughout the State of California passed laws to stay eviction proceedings against tenants, including commercial tenants. Additionally, the Judicial Council of California also took action to protect tenants. On August 13, 2020, however, the Judicial Council of California voted to end the emergency rules affecting evictions and foreclosures (Rules 1 and 2, respectively) effective September 1, 2020.

The Judicial Council had originally approved the temporary emergency rules staying eviction and foreclosure proceedings on April 6, 2020. The Judicial Council effected this stay by prohibiting any California court from issuing a summons—i.e., a document necessary to commence legal action—in connection any eviction or foreclosure proceeding, unless the court found “that the action [was] necessary to protect public health and safety.”

At the recent Judicial Council meeting, however, the Judicial Council determined that the stay was no longer appropriate. As stated by Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil Sakauye:

The judicial branch cannot usurp the responsibility of the other two branches on a long-term basis to deal with the myriad impacts of the pandemic … The duty of the judicial branch is to resolve disputes under the law and not to legislate.

I urge our sister branches to act expeditiously to resolve this looming crisis. They have had since March 2020 to explore remedies that will provide fairness to all parties while recognizing the limitations the pandemic has placed on our residents and our institutions. Practical, fair solutions may involve special treatment for COVID-related housing issues that would require parties to mediate their issues before coming to a court system dealing COVID related backlogs.

While there is pending legislation to provide further protections for residential tenants (see e.g., Calif. SB-1410), notably, there is not any such pending legislation to protect commercial tenants.

Nonetheless, despite the sunset of Rules 1 and 2, it is important to keep in mind that a patchwork of varying local legislation is still in place across California, which may still limit a landlord’s ability to evict non-paying tenants. Thus, it is still important for both landlords and tenants alike to fully understand the particular eviction rules and ordinances that are still applicable to them.