These questions have been sent in by our members, and the answers provided by our Corporate Counsel Bruce Stanton. This is a work in progress – we will add more questions and answers as we learn more. If you have a question that is not answered here, please go to our Contact page and submit an email.
There are 2 Orders that are relevant here which will be referred to.
- I. The Governor’s Executive Order of March 27, 2020 banning enforcement of eviction orders for renters.
- II. The Judicial Council of California’s April 6, 2020 Order enacting Emergency Rules of Court.
1. Are late rent payments going to be deferred, and how is it to be paid back?
The answer to the first part of the question appears to be “Yes”; i.e. none of the COVID-19 Orders that I have seen speak to a “forgiveness” of rent. Rather, rent is being deferred to a future date if the resident is unable to pay due to COVID-19. This is because the tenant is typically still getting the benefit of occupancy during the pandemic. If someone were to allege that they were prevented from occupying their home during the pandemic, then perhaps they would have legal cause to request a waiver or forgiveness of the rent during that period. Otherwise, the obligation to pay rent remains, but collection of the deferred amount will be deferred to a future date.
As to how or when the deferred rent is to be repaid, that is an “open question” at this point. Neither the Governor’s Order, or the Judicial Council Emergency Rules of Court speak to the issue of repayment.
2. Can there be a reduction in rent due to the loss of amenities which have been closed, such as the clubhouse?
No Order that I have seen speaks to this issue. My best answer at this point would be: “Yes”, there is a possibility that a rent reduction due to the closure of park amenities could be argued or warranted. But I think that depends in large part upon how long the shelter-in-place emergency lasts. If clubhouses and facilities open within 60 days, then the closure would be more temporary and less likely to warrant compensation. But a much longer closure could be better grounds for a rent reduction. Of course park owners will argue that this is an emergency situation and they had no choice but to close the facilities; no one would debate this is not their fault. But it is also true that residents have suffered a “service reduction”. Some local Rent Stabilization Ordinances might offer a procedure for claiming such a “service reduction”. Otherwise if that is not available, no resident should withhold rent amounts on this basis, as you could be risking eviction once the eviction ban described below is lifted. Residents should make request in writing to their park owner for a reduction and see how the park responds. But it is a dangerous game to unilaterally withhold some arbitrary amount of rent based upon this theory. It might be left to the courts or local rent boards to decide all of this once the emergency orders are lifted and facilities can be re-opened.
3. Will there be a freeze on rent increases during COVID-19?
At this point the answer is “No”. No Order that I have seen provides that rent is “frozen” or that rent increases cannot occur. It is the payment of rent that is the subject of the emergency Orders, rather than the obligation itself or the amount. However a park owner who tries to increase rents at this time will have no immediate remedy in the courts if the rent is not paid.
4. Who is covered by the eviction ban issued by the Governor?
The Governor’s March 27th Order banned the enforcement of evictions for all renters affected by COVID-19. It seems that mobilehome residents, as “renters”, are included in this protection. However the problem with the Order is that it was limited to the “enforcement” of evictions, but did not prohibit evictions from being noticed or prosecuted up to the point of “enforcement” by the sheriff. The Judicial Council Emergency Rules go one step further and prohibit the filing of any Summons or Complaint by a court for any kind of unlawful detainer, commercial or residential until 90 days after the Emergency Order is lifted. This effectively prohibits evictions from being filed or prosecuted, and is not limited to renters “affected by COVID-19”.
5. Will there be rebates over loss of amenities?
This is yet to be determined. But as of yet no Orders or legislation that I have seen address this topic. The concept of a “rebate” would have to either be voluntary by the park owner, or required by some sort of law or Order, and I’m not certain that government has that type of power or any interest in going into that area. To be determined.