published on June 2, 2020 - 2:11 PM
Written by Gordon Webster, Jr.

Senate Bill 939, a particularly onerous bill that threatens the entire commercial real estate industry, continues to chug its way through Sacramento.

SB 939 would prevent commercial landlords from serving eviction notices to “eligible COVID-19 impacted” tenants until 90 days after the state’s emergency order is lifted. SB 939 also removes as grounds for eviction a situation where a tenant doesn’t pay rent for 12 months after the end of the state of emergency.

It also gives these tenants the ability to seek lease modifications. If an agreement isn’t reached, the tenant could terminate the lease without liability.

Groups such as the International Council of Shopping Centers, the California Business Roundtable and the California Chamber of Commerce oppose the bill for obvious reasons. It completely upends the compact that landlords and tenants maintain in order to make our retail system function. What’s the point of a lease if it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on?

Let’s be real. Landlords have every incentive to keep tenants in their leases, whether that means deferring or even forgiving rent for a period of time. Nobody is clamoring to sign a commercial lease in the moment. But it isn’t worth upending constitutional protections (federal and state) relating to contracts to protect tenants from government-mandated emergency orders.

Contact your elected official in California and tell them SB 939 is the wrong path.


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