SB 91

  • California Senate Bill
  • 2021-2022 Regular Session
  • Introduced in Senate Dec 16, 2020
  • Passed Senate Jan 21, 2021
  • Passed Assembly Jan 28, 2021
  • Signed by Governor Jan 29, 2021

COVID-19 relief: tenancy: federal rental assistance.

Abstract

(1) Existing law prohibits a landlord from interrupting or terminating utility service furnished to a tenant with the intent to terminate the occupancy of the tenant, and imposes specified penalties on a landlord who violates that prohibition. Existing law, until February 1, 2021, imposes additional damages in an amount of at least $1,000, but not more than $2,500, on a landlord that violates that prohibition, if the tenant has provided a declaration of COVID-19 financial distress, as specified. This bill would extend the imposition of those additional damages from February 1, 2021, to July 1, 2021. (2) Existing law, the Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act, provides for the regulation of consumer credit reporting agencies that collect credit-related information on consumers and report this information to subscribers and of persons who furnish that information to consumer credit reporting agencies, as provided. This bill would prohibit a housing provider, tenant screening company, or other entity that evaluates tenants on behalf of a housing provider from using an alleged COVID-19 rental debt, as defined, as a negative factor for the purpose of evaluating a prospective housing application or as the basis for refusing to rent a dwelling unit to an otherwise qualified prospective tenant. (3) Existing law regulates the activities of a person or entity that has bought charged-off consumer debt, as defined, for collection purposes and the circumstances pursuant to which the person may bring suit. This bill, until July 1, 2021, would prohibit a person from selling or assigning unpaid COVID-19 rental debt, as defined, for the time period between March 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021. The bill would also prohibit a person from selling or assigning unpaid COVID-19 rental debt, as defined, for that same time period of any person who would have qualified for rental assistance funding, provided pursuant to specified federal law, where the person's household income is at or below 80% of the area median income for the 2020 calendar year. (4) Existing law, until February 1, 2021, prohibits a landlord from bringing an action for unlawful detainer based on a cause of action other than nonpayment of COVID-19 rental debt, as defined, for the purpose of retaliating against the lessee because the lessee has COVID-19 rental debt. This bill would extend this prohibition from February 1, 2021, to July 1, 2021. This bill would also prohibit a landlord, with respect to a tenant who has COVID-19 rental debt, as defined, and has submitted a specified declaration, from (A) charging or attempting to collect fees assessed for the late payment of COVID-19 rental debt or (B) increasing fees charged to a tenant or charging the tenant fees for services previously provided by the landlord without charge. The bill would also provide that a landlord who temporarily reduces or makes unavailable a service or amenity as the result of compliance with federal, state, or local public health orders or guidelines would not be deemed to have violated the rental or lease agreement, or to have provided different terms or conditions of tenancy or reduced services, as provided. (5) Existing law, the COVID-19 Small Landlord and Homeowner Relief Act of 2020, among other things, requires that a mortgage servicer, as defined, that denies a forbearance request during the effective time period provide specified written notice to the borrower, as defined, that sets forth the specific reason or reasons that forbearance was not provided if certain conditions are met. Existing law defines the "effective time period" for these purposes as the period between the operational date of that act and April 1, 2021. This bill would, instead, define "effective time period" for these purposes as the period between the operational date of the COVID-19 Small Landlord and Homeowner Relief Act of 2020 and September 1, 2021, thereby extending the duty of a mortgage servicer to provide written notice if the mortgage servicer denies a forbearance request. (6) Existing law, until February 1, 2025, provides that a small claims court has jurisdiction in any action for recovery of COVID-19 rental debt, as defined, regardless of the amount demanded. Existing law prohibits the commencement of an action to recover COVID-19 rental debt brought under these provisions before March 1, 2021. This bill would extend these provisions from February 1, 2025, to July 1, 2025. The bill would also extend the above-described prohibition on commencing an action in small claims court to recover COVID-19 rental debt to August 1, 2021. (7) Existing law provides for civil actions for the enforcement or protection of private rights or prevention of private wrongs. If in an unlawful detainer action the verdict of the jury or the findings of the court, as applicable, are in favor of the plaintiff, existing law requires that judgment be entered for possession of the premises, which is enforceable by a writ of possession of real property issued under specified law. Under existing law, the jury or the court, as applicable, may also award damages to the plaintiff in an unlawful detainer action, including damages for unpaid rent if the alleged unlawful detainer is based on the default in payment of rent. This bill, until July 1, 2027, and with specified exceptions, would require a plaintiff in an action seeking recovery of COVID-19 rental debt, as defined, to attach to the complaint documentation showing that the plaintiff has made a good faith effort to investigate whether governmental rental assistance is available to the tenant, seek governmental rental assistance for the tenant, or cooperate with the tenant's efforts to obtain rental assistance from any governmental entity or other third party, as provided. The bill would authorize the court to reduce the damages awarded for any amount of COVID-19 rental debt sought if the court determines that the landlord refused to obtain state rental assistance as provided by this bill, as described below, where the tenant met the eligibility requirements and funding was available. The bill would prohibit commencement of an action to recover COVID-19 rental debt subject to these provisions until July 1, 2021, and require that the court stay proceedings in any such action pending as of the operative date of this bill until that date. The bill, until July 1, 2025, would prohibit a court from awarding attorneys' fees that exceed specified amounts, which vary based on whether the matter is contested or uncontested, in any action to recover COVID-19 rental debt, as defined, brought as a limited or unlimited civil case under normal circumstances, determined as provided. (8) Under existing law, in certain actions involving the possession of real property, including unlawful detainer actions, the clerk is authorized to allow access to limited civil case records only to certain persons. Under existing law, the clerk may allow access to these records to any person (A) by order of the court, if judgment is entered for the plaintiff after trial more than 60 days after filing the complaint, or (B) 60 days after the complaint has been filed, if the plaintiff prevails in the action within 60 days of filing the complaint. Until February 1, 2021, these provisions allowing access to court records to any person do not apply if the plaintiff filed the action between March 4, 2020, and January 31, 2021, and the action is based on the alleged default in the payment of rent. This bill would extend this limitation on the access to court records from February 1, 2021, to July 1, 2021. The bill would revise this limitation to, instead, include actions filed between March 4, 2020, and June 30, 2021, based on the alleged default in the payment of rent. Subject to the above-described provisions, until February 1, 2021, existing law authorizes the clerk to allow access to civil case records for actions seeking recovery of COVID-19 rental debt, as that term is defined, only to certain persons. This bill would extend this provision from February 1, 2021, to July 1, 2021. Existing constitutional provisions require that a statute that limits the right of access to the meetings of public bodies or the writings of public officials and agencies be adopted with findings demonstrating the interest protected by the limitation and the need for protecting that interest. This bill would make legislative findings to that effect. (9) Existing law, the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020, establishes certain procedural requirements and limitations on evictions for nonpayment of rent due to COVID-19 rental debt, as defined. Existing law, among other things, prohibits a tenant that delivers a declaration, under penalty of perjury, of COVID-19-related financial distress from being deemed in default with regard to the COVID-19 rental debt, as specified. Existing law defines COVID-19 rental debt as unpaid rent or any other unpaid financial obligation of a tenant that came due between March 1, 2020, and January 31, 2021. Existing law repeals those provisions on February 1, 2025. This bill would recast these provisions as the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act and extend the February 1, 2025, repeal date to July 1, 2025. The bill would instead define "COVID-19 rental debt" as unpaid rent or other unpaid financial obligation of a tenant that came due between March 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021. The bill would make various conforming changes to align with these extended dates. By extending operation of those provisions, the bill would expand the scope of the crime of perjury and thereby impose a state-mandated local program. This bill, for the duration of any tenancy that existed between March 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, would prohibit a landlord from applying a security deposit to satisfy COVID-19 rental debt, or applying a monthly rent payment to any COVID-19 rental debt other than the prospective month's rent, unless the tenant agrees in writing to allow the landlord to apply that security deposit or monthly rent payment in that manner. Existing law requires that a notice that demands payment of COVID-19 rental debt served pursuant to specified law be modified, as provided. Existing law requires that notices provided between September 1, 2020, and January 31, 2021, comply with certain requirements, including that the notice include specified text. Existing law requires the Department of Real Estate to make available an official translation of that text by no later than September 15, 2020. This bill would extend operation of these requirements from January 31, 2021, to June 30, 2021. The bill, for notices provided on or after February 1, 2021, would revise the content of the text required to be included in the notice. The bill would also extend the duty of the Department of Real Estate to make available an official translation of that text to February 15, 2021. Existing law, on or before September 30, 2020, requires a landlord to provide a specified notice to tenants who, as of September 1, 2020, have not paid one or more rental payments that came due between March 1, 2020, and January 31, 2021. This bill, on or before February 28, 2021, would require a landlord to provide an additional notice to tenants who, as of February 1, 2021, have not paid one or more rental payments that came due between March 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021. The bill would prohibit a landlord from serving specified notices demanding payment of rent until the landlord has provided this notice. (10) Existing law establishes the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) and requires it to administer various housing programs. Existing law provides for rental assistance under several of those programs, including, among others, the California Emergency Solutions and Housing Program, the Emergency Housing and Assistance Program, and the Housing for a Healthy California Program. Existing federal law appropriates $25,000,000,000 for fiscal year 2021–22, to be allocated by the Secretary of the Treasury to states, local governments, and certain Indian tribes and used to provide financial assistance and housing stability services to eligible households, as provided. Existing federal law requires that 90% of the funds received by a grantee under these provisions be used to provide financial assistance to eligible households, including the payment of rent, rental arrears, utilities and home energy costs and arrears, and other expenses related to housing incurred due, directly or indirectly, to the COVID-19 outbreak. This bill would establish a program for providing rental assistance, using funding made available pursuant to the above-described federal law, administered by HCD. In this regard, the bill would appropriate $1,500,000,000 from the federal Trust Fund to HCD for these purposes, permitting up to 10% of these funds to be used for administrative costs. The bill would specify eligible uses of funds allocated to grantees under these provisions, consistent with the above-described federal requirements. The bill would provide that assistance provided to an eligible household under these provisions would be deemed to be a "source of income" for purposes of the housing discrimination protections provided under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, but would otherwise not be deemed to be income for purposes of the Personal Income Tax Law or used to determine the eligibility of an eligible household, or member or an eligible household, for any state program or local program financed wholly or in part by state funds. The bill would authorize HCD to adopt, amend, and repeal rules, guidelines, or procedures to implement these provisions and exempt those rules, guidelines, and procedures from the rulemaking provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act. This bill would provide for the allocation of block grant funds to localities, as defined, that meet certain population requirements. The bill would require an eligible grantee under these provisions to request that allocation from HCD by February 12, 2021, and require HCD to complete the initial allocation of these funds no later than February 19, 2021. The bill would further require the grantee to contractually obligate 65% of those funds by June 1, 2021, and to expend the full amount of that allocation by August 1, 2021. If the grantee does not contractually obligate or expend the required amount of allocation by those dates, the bill would require the grantee to repay any unused amount of block grant funds and would require HCD to reallocate those funds, as provided. This bill would also provide for the allocation of funds to counties with a population less than or equal to 200,000 and to localities that were eligible for, but did not receive, a direct allocation of assistance under the above-described federal law, or that were eligible for, but did not receive, block grant funds from HCD under this bill's provisions. The bill would authorize a federally recognized tribe, as defined, that receives rental assistance funds under the above-described federal law to add that direct allocation to the funds administered by HCD, as provided. The bill would authorize HCD to contract with a vendor to serve as program implementer, in accordance with specified requirements, to manage and fund services and distribute emergency rental assistance resources, as provided. The bill would require an eligible grantee to contractually obligate those funds by July 31, 2021, and would, except with respect to any funds administered on behalf of a federally recognized tribe, authorize HCD to reallocate funds not contractually obligated by that date to other grantees that meet certain requirements. This bill, in any legal action to recover rent or other financial obligations under a lease that accrued between April 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, would require, before any entry of judgment in the plaintiff's favor, that the plaintiff verify certain information, under penalty of perjury, relating to state rental assistance. The bill, in any unlawful detainer action seeking possession of residential rental property based on nonpayment of rent or any other financial obligation under the lease, would similarly prohibit the court from entering judgment in favor of the landlord unless the landlord verifies certain information, under penalty of perjury, relating to state rental assistance. By expanding the scope of the crime of perjury, the bill would impose a state-local program. This bill would require each grantee to provide HCD information relating to all applicable performance metrics. The bill would provide that funds provided are subject to the same reporting and verification requirements specified in the above-described federal law and, in addition, require the grantee to provide any other information HCD deems necessary for these purposes. The bill would require that a grantee ensure, to the extent feasible, that any assistance provided to an eligible household is not duplicative of any other state-funded assistance provided to that eligible household. The bill would require HCD to submit a monthly report to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, containing specified information, for the duration of the rental assistance program. (11) Existing law, the Government Claims Act, generally requires the presentation of all claims for money or damages against local public entities. Existing law provides for the presentation of a claim for which appropriations have been made, or for which state funds are available, under that act to the Controller, in the form and manner prescribed by the general rules and regulations adopted by the Department of General Services. Existing law, with specified exceptions, prohibits the Controller from drawing a warrant for any claim until it has been audited in conformity with law and the general rules and regulations adopted by the Department of General Services governing the presentation and audit of claims. This bill, notwithstanding this limitation, would require the Controller to draw a warrant for any claim submitted by HCD to advance the payment of funds to a vendor selected to serve as program implementer for purposes of the above-described rental assistance program. The bill would require the vendor to serve as the fiscal agent on behalf of HCD and be responsible for maintaining all records of claims for audit purposes. The bill would specify that these provisions would remain operative so long as funds are made available pursuant to the above-described rental assistance program or as otherwise provided under federal law. (12) This bill would declare that its provisions are severable. (13) The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement. This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason. (14) This bill would declare that it is to take effect immediately as a bill providing for appropriations related to the Budget Bill.

Bill Sponsors (1)

Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review

     
Author

Votes


Actions


Jan 29, 2021

California State Legislature

Approved by the Governor.

California State Legislature

Chaptered by Secretary of State. Chapter 2, Statutes of 2021.

Jan 28, 2021

California State Legislature

Enrolled and presented to the Governor at 1:30 p.m.

Assembly

Read third time. Passed. (Ayes 72. Noes 1. Page 233.) Ordered to the Senate.

Senate

Assembly amendments concurred in. (Ayes 34. Noes 0. Page 120.) Ordered to engrossing and enrolling.

Senate

In Senate. Concurrence in Assembly amendments pending.

Jan 26, 2021

Assembly

Read second time. Ordered to third reading.

Jan 25, 2021

Assembly

Assembly Rule 96 suspended. (Ayes 50. Noes 14. Page 200.)

Assembly

From committee with author's amendments. Read second time and amended. Re-referred to Com. on BUDGET.

  • Amendment-Passage
  • Committee-Passage
  • Reading-1
  • Reading-2
  • Referral-Committee
Com. on BUDGET.

Assembly

Withdrawn from committee.

Assembly

Ordered to second reading.

Jan 22, 2021

Assembly

Referred to Com. on BUDGET.

  • Referral-Committee
Com. on BUDGET.

Jan 21, 2021

Assembly

In Assembly. Read first time. Held at Desk.

Senate

Read third time. Passed. (Ayes 22. Noes 2. Page 90.) Ordered to the Assembly.

Jan 15, 2021

Senate

Withdrawn from committee. (Ayes 22. Noes 8. Page 76.)

Senate

Read second time. Ordered to third reading.

Senate

Ordered to second reading.

Jan 11, 2021

Senate

Read first time.

Dec 17, 2020

Senate

From printer. May be acted upon on or after January 16.

Dec 16, 2020

Senate

Introduced. To Com. on RLS. for assignment. To print.

Bill Text

Bill Text Versions Format
SB91 HTML
12/16/20 - Introduced PDF
01/25/21 - Amended Assembly PDF
01/28/21 - Enrolled PDF
01/29/21 - Chaptered PDF

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