Many landlords are asking “What is Just Cause for an Eviction in California 2021?”.
With so many moratorium extensions landlords need to know what the current law is regarding “Just Cause”.
One of its main sections explains Just Cause Evictions.
What is Just Cause for an Eviction in California in 2021?
The California government website “Housing Is Key” summarizes it this way:
- Currently, until October 1, 2021, a landlord must provide a “legally valid reason” to evict a tenant;
- Giving a 30-day or 60-day eviction notice without a stated reason is illegal; and
- The stated reason must include one of the valid reasons provided under the law.
What Does “Just Cause” Mean?
Simply put, the Just Cause Eviction law means that tenants can’t be unfairly evicted (Civil Code 1946.2).
What is an “Unfair Eviction”?
It means that every eviction notice must state a legal reason.
Stating the specific reason for the eviction in the notice allows the tenant to challenge the reason. Before this law, landlords could serve an eviction notice on a tenant with no reason stated.
Now tenants can claim the reason is false or illegal to defend against the eviction. A landlord does not have the right to evict an innocent tenant just because he or she wants to.
What Types of Acts by a Tenant Allow Evictions?
Tenants must pay the rent on time. Check out our prior post about the eviction process titled: “How to Evict a Problem Tenant in California”.
Other bad acts by the tenant allowing for eviction include being a nuisance, commission of a crime on the premises, and actions posing a danger to the health or safety of other tenants or neighbors.
Local Laws May Provide Greater Protections Than State Law
The California Tenant Protection Act of 2019 does not replace local Just Cause eviction laws that provide tenants greater protection.
What the Law Doesn’t Do
The law does not apply to these situations:
- First-year of tenancy or new tenants added on the lease requiring a minimum of one year for everyone living there; or
- The original tenant lived there for at least two years before new tenants added;
- Illegal (unlawful) occupancy includes an unapproved tenant or subtenant or an Airbnb type living situation;
- Newly built properties (within the last 15 years since occupancy permit issued);
- Duplexes (built within the last 15 years since occupancy permit issued);
- Government-sponsored housing (until such restrictions expire);
- Rooms rented in the landlord’s home;
- Dormitory facilities like for schools, religious, or health care facilities;
- Commercial (business) tenants;
- Hotels & motels during first 30 days of occupancy until the first year of occupancy;
- Condos and single homes owned by someone other than a corporation, LLC, or REIT with an exemption specifically worded in the lease (or written notice between January 1, 2020, and July 1, 2020);
- Rentals under local Just Clause laws (or ordinances) enacted before September 1, 2019; and
- Rentals under local Just Clause laws (or ordinances) enacted after September 1, 2019, may give more protective eviction restrictions (than the state law) or provide higher relocation payments, or additional tenant protections. Such local laws if “consistent” with this state law and declares as “more protective” makes the state law with “fewer protections” unenforceable.
Definition of Just Cause for an Eviction in California 2021
Likewise, the law does not stop “For Cause” (Just Cause) evictions which accuse the tenant of wrongful behavior including:
- Not paying rent;
- Breaching important lease agreement provisions;
- Creating a nuisance;
- Serious property damage;
- Criminal activities including threats of violence to the landlord;
- Refusing to sign a lease extension with similar terms as the original;
- Illegally subletting or assigning rights to others;
- Preventing the landlord from legally entering for repairs or showing the property;
- A terminated resident manager refusing to leave;
- Using the property for illegal purposes; and
- Failure to move after giving the landlord notice of intent to move.
Thus, these 11 reasons give landlords “Just Cause” to evict the tenant.
For more information about the California Eviction Moratorium laws read our post: “California Eviction Moratorium Law”.
If you want to learn more about the California Rent Control Laws read our post titled, “California Rent Control Laws”.
San Diego Added More Protections for Tenants in July 2021
San Diego County
On May 4, 2021, the San Diego County’s Board of Supervisors enacted a new ordinance that provides more eviction limits than the state law.
Read our prior post titled: “San Diego County Passed New COVID-19 Eviction Limits and Rent Controls 2021”. It explained the proposed county ordinance before adoption.
The new law limits evictions only to tenants for nonpayment of rents, or who become an imminent safety or health threat to others.
In addition, it prevents landlords from evicting tenants if the landlord plans to move in or rehab the property.
However, rents are not forgiven. Yet, it limited rent increases until July 1, 2021. Thus, San Diego County landlords can increase rents no more than the Consumer Price Index (CPI) which measures inflation.
The new ordinance took effect on June 3, 2021.
The ordinance remains in effect until 60 days after Governor Newsom ends all COVID-19 emergency orders. Currently, this means the 60 days began on June 15 until August 14, 2021.
Federal Lawsuit Against San Diego County
As a result, the Southern California Rental Housing Association (SCRHA) filed a lawsuit against San Diego County in federal court. They specifically challenged the county’s limits on a landlord’s ability to evict or terminate the tenancy with a 60-day notice.
As of today, no date set for a hearing.
SCRHA Explains the County Ordinance regarding Just Cause
“Just Cause” in San Diego County requires a “safety or imminent health threat” by the tenant. This means a hazard to the safety or health of other occupants or tenants in the same property.
Exception: The imminent safety or health threat can’t include the tenant’s actual or suspected COVID-19 exposure or illness.
In other words, a dangerous tenant capable of or threatening to cause harm or injury to others.
If no Just Cause exists, landlords cannot terminate residential tenancies. Therefore, if the tenant is not an “imminent threat”, a landlord can’t:
- Serve the tenant with a notice terminating tenancy;
- File an unlawful detainer lawsuit, ejectment action, or other ways to gain possession of the residential unit;
- Evict, or require a tenant to vacate a residence including enforcing eviction judgments entered before the date of the ordinance, or seeking a writ of possession;
- Inducing a tenant to vacate based on an expired notice of termination of tenancy or served during the Local Emergency or within 60 days after is invalid to enforce an unlawful detainer action; or
- Representing that a tenant must move out of the unit by law.
In addition, all notices must state in 12-point bold font:
“The Emergency Eviction Moratorium is currently in effect. Other than for failure to pay rent or an imminent health or safety threat, evictions are restricted during the Local Emergency declared by the County of San Diego]. Tenants who are being evicted for failure to pay rent may have additional protections under California law. You may contact Legal Aid Society of San Diego (1-877-534-2524) or the Legal Referral and Information Service of the San Diego County Bar Association at 619-231-8585 or 800-464-1529. For additional information and referrals or visit https://www.lassd.org .”
San Diego County Residential Rent Payments
The new county ordinance specifically states that “Just cause does not include a Tenant’s failure to pay any increase in rent from the effective date of this Ordinance until July 1, 2021.”
This means after July 1st, landlords must follow the state law regarding rent increases.
The Legal Aid Society of San Diego published a guide to the county’s ordinance: Main points include:
- Some nonpayment of rents evictions can occur but may be subject to state laws;
- The county eviction ban doesn’t protect tenants who fail to pay rent from March 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021. Yet, they are still governed by state laws; and
- In addition, the eviction ban protects tenants from not paying rent evictions if the rent was due from July 1, 2021, until 60 days after the emergency ends which is around August 14, 2021.
Caveat: Governor Newsom can extend the current moratorium.
City of San Diego
According to the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC), the City of San Diego has a temporary ban on evictions which took place on July 1, 2021.
The San Diego City eviction ban remains in effect until 60 days after the City declares the COVID-19 State of Emergency ends.
Updates are available regarding the City’s temporary eviction ban on the SDHC website Here.
Likewise, the City of San Diego website provides updated information about coronavirus and residential eviction moratoriums Here.
Governor Newsom Signs New Eviction Moratorium Extension
The California Apartments Association (CAA) issued a notice stating that AB 832 requires landlords to give their tenants an informational notice. It must go to all tenants as of July 1, 2021, having one or more outstanding rent payments due on or after March 1, 2020. Tenants must receive this notice by July 31, 2021.
What is Just Cause for an Eviction in California 2021 – Conclusion
So, what is “Just Cause” for eviction in California in 2021? Let’s sum up the answer:
- “Just Cause” eviction means that tenants can’t be unfairly evicted;
- “Unfair Eviction” means every eviction notice must state a legal reason;
- “Legally Valid Reason” required by landlords in tenants’ notices; and
- “Legal reasons” include failing to pay rent and committing bad acts like crimes, nuisance, and posing a danger to the health or safety of other tenants or neighbors.
San Diego County limits evictions to tenants who don’t pay rent, or who become an imminent safety or health threat to others. Also, it prevents landlords from evicting tenants if the landlord plans to move in or rehab the property.
The City of San Diego has an eviction ban until 60 days after the City declares the COVID-19 State of Emergency ends.
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Steven Rich, MBA – Guest Blogger
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