Alameda County Landlords, Be Prepared for May 2023

Unlawful Detainers & Evictions by Ashlee D. Gonzales, Esq.

After almost three years since the moratorium went into effect, the Alameda County Eviction Moratorium (Ordinance No. O-2020-41) is set to expire on April 29, 2023. Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, the County passed temporary eviction bans, prohibiting landlords from forcing renters to leave their homes, with some limited exceptions.

Then, in August 2020, Ordinance No. O-2020-41 was adopted by the County’s Board of Supervisors, tying the expiration of the eviction moratorium in the County to the local state of emergency declarations. Per the ordinance, the moratorium would be lifted 60 days after the local health emergency is lifted. From then on, nearly all evictions have been banned in the County with few narrow exceptions. This includes evictions for nonpayment of rent, breaches of the lease, illegal activity, owner move-in, etc. The three narrow exceptions include the following causes: 1) the Landlord is taking property off rental market (Ellis Act); 2) property ordered to be vacated by government or court order; and 3) continued occupancy poses imminent threat to tenant’s health or safety (not including COVID-19). Rarely are landlords able to utilize one of the three exceptions provided, which has resulted in landlords being prevented from enforcing the terms of their lease for nearly three years.

Considering this, some landlords in Alameda County have been barred from removing tenants even if they haven’t paid rent since early 2020. As you can imagine, this has resulted in major financial hardship for property owners.  It is estimated that in Alameda County alone, an estimated 32,900 households owe a combined $125 million in unpaid rent, according to researchers with the National Equity Atlas. Thankfully, there is some relief in sight. Finally, on February 28, 2023, Governor Newsom ended the local health emergency and landlords will be able to pursue evictions in the County as of May 2023.

The moratorium has not persisted without challenge. Back in mid-2022, the California Apartment Association (“CAA”) and several local landlords filed suit against Alameda County, seeking relief from the then 2-year-old moratorium. Given it was unclear when the local health emergency would be lifted, if at all, this was one of the few options available for owners. In that suit, CAA and the landlords alleged that the moratorium infringed on their constitutional rights and violated state law, citing not only hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid rent being owed, but lasting harm to property owners. While the County received significant financial assistance from the state to pay landlords for COVID-related unpaid rent, the assistance only covered approximately one year’s worth of rent. This left many owners with a substantial gap in any rent received, either from tenants or the state, as well as the inability to seek relief from the Court by way of removal of the nonpaying tenants.   Unfortunately, this suit has not gained much traction and the moratorium will likely expire before any relief is obtained through the Court.  

Given we are about a month away from owners being able to move forward with evictions in Alameda County, it is important as owners/property managers that you prepare. While we anticipate a backlog of filings in the County due to the 3-year ban, it is incredibly helpful to begin compiling and preparing your paperwork now. We recommend updating your accounting on rent paid/unpaid, working with an attorney to review the lease and prepare necessary notice paperwork, discuss any hurdles to eviction once the moratorium expires, strategy, etc. Preparing now can streamline the process when owners are finally permitted to proceed in the Court.

As discussed in other articles on our site, the drafting and service of a 3-Day Notice is one of the first and most important steps to removing a tenant for nonpayment of rent. We can assist from the drafting of those notices all the way through to coordinating a sheriff lockout at the property post-judgment. Our firm handles landlord-tenant disputes and residential evictions daily and is equipped to assist with your preparation and pursuit of an eviction in Alameda County when the opportunity presents itself. Please do not hesitate to contact us now to begin the process of preparing to pursue such an action and help expedite the process. We look forward to working with you.

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