Amended in Assembly May 12, 2016

Amended in Assembly May 9, 2016

Amended in Assembly May 2, 2016

Amended in Assembly April 18, 2016

California Legislature—2015–16 Regular Session

Assembly BillNo. 2819


Introduced by Assembly Member Chiu

February 19, 2016


An act to amend Section 1161.2 of, and to add Section 1167.1 to, the Code of Civil Procedure, relating to unlawful detainer proceedings.

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

AB 2819, as amended, Chiu. Unlawful detainer proceedings.

Under existing law, a tenant of real property, for a term less than life, or the executor or administrator or his or her estate, is guilty of unlawful detainer when he or she continues in possession, in person or by subtenant, of the property or any part of the property, after the expiration of the term for which it is let to him or her, except as specified. Under existing law, access to limited civil case records filed in an unlawful detainer action is restricted to (1) parties to the action, (2) certain people who provide the court clerk with specified information about the parties to the action, (3) any person by order of the court on a showing of good cause, and (4) any other person 60 days after the complaint has been filed, unless the defendant prevails in the action within 60 days after the filing of the complaint, in which case access is limited to the other parties allowed access, as described above.

This bill would instead provide that access to limited civil case records filed in an unlawful detainer action is restricted, for purposes of (4), as described above, (1) to any person by order of the court if judgment is entered for the plaintiff after trial more than 60 days since the filing of the complaint, and (2) to any other person 60 days after the complaint has been filed if the plaintiff prevails in the action within 60 days of the filing of the complaint. The bill would provide that if a default or default judgment is set aside more than 60 days after the complaint was filed, the court file access restrictions, as described above, shall apply as if the complaint had been filed on the date the default or the default judgment is set aside. The bill would authorize the court to bar access to court records in the action if the parties so stipulate.

Existing law requires a complaint filed in an unlawful detainer proceeding to include certain information and requires a defendant to answer the complaint, as specified, within 5 days of being served with a summons and the complaint, unless the court orders otherwise for good cause shown. Existing law also requires proof of service of a summons to be filed in a civil action, including in an unlawful detainer proceeding.

This bill would permit a court to dismiss an unlawful detainer proceeding without prejudice if proof of service of the summons has not been filed within 60 days of the complaint’s filing.

Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: no. State-mandated local program: no.

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

P2    1

SECTION 1.  

The Legislature finds and declares all of the
2following:

3(a) It is the policy of the state to promote open access to public
4records. It is in the interest of the public to ensure, to the greatest
5extent possible, that there is open public access to court records,
6including civil case records.

7(b) It is the policy of the state that access to public records be
8limited or restricted only under compelling circumstances.

9(c) With the enactment of Chapter 1007 of the Statutes of 1991,
10the Legislature began restricting public access to civil case records
11in unlawful detainer proceedings. Under current law, with limited
12exceptions, civil case records in unlawful detainer proceedings are
13unavailable to the public for a period of 60 days after filing. Civil
P3    1case records in unlawful detainer proceedings in which the
2defendant prevails within 60 days of filing are permanently
3unavailable to the public.

4(d) The state has a housing crisis that requires revising the
5current restrictions on public access to civil case records in
6unlawful detainer proceedings. More than four decades have passed
7since the California Supreme Court first observed, in Green v.
8Superior Court (1974) 10 Cal.3d 616, 625, “a scarcity of adequate
9low cost housing in virtually every urban setting [in California].”
10Yet the shortage of affordable housing for low-income tenants has
11only grown. Median monthly rents in the state are now
12approximately 50 percent higher than the national average, but
13high prices have failed to spur sufficient housing construction to
14meet demand. As a result, households in the state in the bottom
15quarter of the income distribution spend an average of 67 percent
16of their income on housing. The recent economic and foreclosure
17crises have only exacerbated the challenges that low-income
18households face in securing affordable housing.

19(e) The difficulty of securing affordable housing in competitive
20rental markets is also worsened by the existing law governing
21access to civil case records in unlawful detainer proceedings.
22Specifically, once unlawful detainer civil case records become
23public, tenant screening companies and credit reporting agencies
24capture and publish personal identifying information regarding
25tenants named as defendants in those records. This information
26appears in published lists, known as unlawful detainer registries,
27and on tenants’ credit reports. So long as it is accurate, the fact
28that a tenant was once sued for unlawful detainer is publicly
29available for up to seven years and cannot be challenged under
30federal or state laws governing consumer credit reporting.

31(f) The names of thousands of innocent tenants whose cases are
32resolved only after the 60-day deadline appear on unlawful detainer
33registries. Many of these tenants successfully settle, secure a
34dismissal, or win at trial, and would have escaped negative credit
35reporting if only they had prevailed before the deadline. In other
36instances, unlawful detainer complaints are filed against tenants
37but never served. Because these complaints are never dismissed,
38the tenant’s name is publicly released after 60 days and negative
39credit reporting ensues. Because landlords, who are attempting to
40decide between numerous applicants for scarce rental housing,
P4    1rely on unlawful detainer registries and on credit reports, landlords
2often choose not to rent to tenants who appear on these registries,
3even if the tenants were eventually found innocent of unlawful
4detainer. As a result, given the statewide housing shortage, these
5tenants may be shut out of rental markets for up to seven years
6through no fault of their own.

7(g) This act strikes a just balance between ensuring open access
8to public records and protecting the credit and reputation of
9innocent tenants. This act also ensures that landlords will have
10access to timely and more accurate information regarding
11prospective tenants. This act is a response to the state’s ongoing
12affordable housing crisis and is necessary to prevent tenants from
13being inadvertently denied an opportunity to secure housing simply
14as a result of being named in an unlawful detainer lawsuit.

15

SEC. 2.  

It is the intent of the Legislature to amend existing
16statutes regarding open access to public records by making
17permanently unavailable to the public civil case records in unlawful
18detainer proceedings in which the plaintiff does not prevail within
1960 days of filing instead of unlawful detainer proceedings in which
20the defendant prevails within 60 days of filing.

21

SEC. 3.  

Section 1161.2 of the Code of Civil Procedure is
22amended to read:

23

1161.2.  

(a) (1) The clerk shall allow access to limited civil
24case records filed under this chapter, including the court file, index,
25and register of actions, only as follows:

26(A) To a party to the action, including a party’s attorney.

27(B) To a person who provides the clerk with the names of at
28least one plaintiff and one defendant and the address of the
29premises, including the apartment or unit number, if any.

30(C) To a resident of the premises who provides the clerk with
31the name of one of the parties or the case number and shows proof
32of residency.

33(D) To a person by order of the court, which may be granted ex
34parte, on a showing of good cause.

35(E) Tobegin delete aend deletebegin insert anyend insert person by order of the court if judgment is entered
36for the plaintiff after trial more than 60 days since the filing of the
37complaint.begin insert The court shall issue the order upon issuing judgment
38for the plaintiff.end insert

39(F) Except as provided in subparagraph (G), to any other person
4060 days after the complaint has been filed if the plaintiff prevails
P5    1in the action within 60 days of the filing of the complaint, in which
2case the clerk shall allow access to any court records in the action.
3If a default or default judgment is set aside more than 60 days after
4the complaint has been filed, this section shall apply as if the
5complaint had been filed on the date the default or default judgment
6is set aside.

7(G) In the case of a complaint involving residential property
8based on Section 1161a as indicated in the caption of the complaint,
9as required in subdivision (c) of Section 1166, to any other person,
10if 60 days have elapsed since the complaint was filed with the
11court, and, as of that date, judgment against all defendants has
12been entered for the plaintiff, after a trial.

13(2) This section shall not be construed to prohibit the court from
14issuing an order that bars access to the court record in an action
15filed under this chapter if the parties to the action so stipulate.

16(b) (1) For purposes of this section, “good cause” includes, but
17is not limited to, both of the following:

18(A) The gathering of newsworthy facts by a person described
19in Section 1070 of the Evidence Code.

20(B) The gathering of evidence by a party to an unlawful detainer
21action solely for the purpose of making a request for judicial notice
22pursuant to subdivision (d) of Section 452 of the Evidence Code.

23(2) It is the intent of the Legislature that a simple procedure be
24established to request the ex parte order described in subparagraph
25(D) of paragraph (1) of subdivision (a).

26(c) Upon the filing of a case so restricted, the court clerk shall
27mail notice to each defendant named in the action. The notice shall
28be mailed to the address provided in the complaint. The notice
29shall contain a statement that an unlawful detainer complaint
30(eviction action) has been filed naming that party as a defendant,
31and that access to the court file will be delayed for 60 days except
32to a party, an attorney for one of the parties, or any other person
33who (1) provides to the clerk the names of at least one plaintiff
34and one defendant in the action and provides to the clerk the
35address, including any applicable apartment, unit, or space number,
36of the subject premises, or (2) provides to the clerk the name of
37one of the parties in the action or the case number and can establish
38through proper identification that he or she lives at the subject
39premises. The notice shall also contain a statement that access to
40the court index, register of actions, or other records is not permitted
P6    1until 60 days after the complaint is filed, except pursuant to an
2order upon a showing of good cause for access. The notice shall
3contain on its face the following information:

4(1) The name and telephone number of the county bar
5association.

6(2) The name and telephone number of any entity that requests
7inclusion on the notice and demonstrates to the satisfaction of the
8court that it has been certified by the State Bar of California as a
9lawyer referral service and maintains a panel of attorneys qualified
10in the practice of landlord-tenant law pursuant to the minimum
11standards for a lawyer referral service established by the State Bar
12of California and Section 6155 of the Business and Professions
13Code.

14(3) The following statement:


16“The State Bar of California certifies lawyer referral services in
17California and publishes a list of certified lawyer referral services
18organized by county. To locate a lawyer referral service in your
19county, go to the State Bar’s Internet Web site at
20www.calbar.ca.gov or call 1-866-442-2529.”


22(4) The name and telephone number of an office or offices
23funded by the federal Legal Services Corporation or qualified legal
24services projects that receive funds distributed pursuant to Section
256216 of the Business and Professions Code that provide legal
26services to low-income persons in the county in which the action
27is filed. The notice shall state that these telephone numbers may
28be called for legal advice regarding the case. The notice shall be
29issued between 24 and 48 hours of the filing of the complaint,
30excluding weekends and holidays. One copy of the notice shall be
31addressed to “all occupants” and mailed separately to the subject
32premises. The notice shall not constitute service of the summons
33and complaint.

34(d) Notwithstanding any other law, the court shall charge an
35additional fee of fifteen dollars ($15) for filing a first appearance
36by the plaintiff. This fee shall be added to the uniform filing fee
37for actions filed under this chapter.

38(e) This section does not apply to a case that seeks to terminate
39a mobilehome park tenancy if the statement of the character of the
P7    1proceeding in the caption of the complaint clearly indicates that
2the complaint seeks termination of a mobilehome park tenancy.

3(f) This section does not alter any provision of the Evidence
4Code.

5

SEC. 4.  

Section 1167.1 is added to the Code of Civil Procedure,
6to read:

7

1167.1.  

If proof of service of the summons has not been filed
8within 60 days of the complaint’s filing, the court may dismiss the
9action without prejudice.



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