November 2021 Newsletter

CA-COVID Rent Relief Program, Versión en Español, Partner Spotlight & New Team Members


Earlier this week, the New York Times published an article entitled “With Cases Piling Up, an Eviction Crisis Unfolds Step by Step.” Although the article does not discuss evictions in California specifically, the themes are applicable here as well. The author writes:

And most tenants are forced to leave their rental units not because of formal eviction proceedings, but because they’ve been illegally locked out or their utilities have been shut off, or because they want to avoid an eviction being added to their record by leaving on their own.

This excerpt touches on one of the biggest challenges tenant rights advocates face: educating renters on their rights and remedies. In California, landlords who illegally lock out tenants are liable for actual damages, a $100.00 penalty per day as long as the lockout continues, and attorney’s fees if the tenant prevails. See Cal. Civil Code § 789.3(b)(1), (c)(1)–2. In certain cities, such as San Francisco and Oakland, the landlord may also be liable for a tripling of all damages. Our firm often represents tenants who have been the victims of illegal lockouts.

For the past couple of months, we have shared information about the California COVID-19 Rent Relief Program. This is a fantastic, well-funded program that benefits both tenants and landlords. Nonetheless, information is still not reaching the people who need it the most. Here are some high-level details about the Program:

  • Free financial assistance is available to landlords and renters who need help with unpaid or future rent or utilities.
  • Landlords and renters are both encouraged to apply.
  • Income-eligible applicants may qualify regardless of immigration status and will not be required to show proof of citizenship.
  • Assistance from the CA COVID-19 Rent Relief program does NOT count as earned income (for renters) and will NOT affect eligibility for any other state benefit assistance programs, such as CalFresh or CalWORKS.
  • All applicant information is kept private and will not be shared.
  • Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis. Priority assistance will be given to income eligible households most at-risk of eviction.
  • Once an application has been successfully processed, both the landlord and renter will be notified of next steps.

If someone you know is behind on rent because of the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, please share this information with them so that they can apply for rental assistance immediately.

We have a few other exciting announcements this month.

First, starting this month, Tenant Law Group will include a Spanish translation of this newsletter for the benefit of our Spanish-speaking readers.

Second, also starting this month, we will include a “Partner Spotlight,” in which we will be featuring a trusted partner. This month, Tenant Law Group’s Partner Spotlight is on Dia Systems, a business owned and operated by Tenant Law Group’s Chief Technology Officer Tessie E. Rodgers. Tessie founded Dia Systems in 2003 and transitioned to managed services in 2014. Dia Systems provides businesses with remote and onsite Managed IT Services such as Helpdesk Services, Remote Monitoring and Management of systems, Managed Antivirus and Security, Managed Data Backup, Cloud Desktops, cloud sharing/syncing, Office 365, Google apps, SharePoint, server support, firewall setup/support, Asset Management, Patch Management, Preventive Maintenance, Third Party Vendor Management, Email Security, Security Awareness Training, phone/chat/onsite/remote support, and detailed reports. Tenant Law Group has partnered with Dia Systems since 2018 and highly recommends them for any business in need of Managed IT Services and Cybersecurity Services. Contact Dia Systems at 877-501-9077 or for a free cybersecurity assessment.

Third, we are thrilled to welcome three new team members this month: Managing Attorney Vikranth (Vik) A. Sunderraj, Attorney Harita Nandivada, and Client Intake Coordinator Andrea Lavin.

As Managing Attorney, Vik oversees the provision of all legal services at Tenant Law Group. He has been licensed to practice law in California since 2003 and has spent his entire legal career in civil litigation. He graduated cum laude from UCLA, where he earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in Business Economics and Political Science with a minor in Accounting. He earned a Juris Doctor from UCLA School of Law. Prior to joining Tenant Law Group, Vik operated the Law Offices of Vikranth A. Sunderraj. His firm offered legal services in various practice areas including civil litigation, family law, corporate and partnership law, wills and trusts, and contracts. He maintained his practice for over ten years, gaining extensive experience with law and motion, discovery, and legal research and writing, as well as trial experience.

Harita helps tenants recover money damages following egregious landlord behavior, and negotiating settlements or taking matters to arbitration, mediation, and trial if needed. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Gender Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, where she made the Dean’s List ampla cum laude. She participated in the University’s Mock Trial Team all four years as both a member and, later, as captain. She earned her Juris Doctor from the University of California, Davis School of Law (King Hall). While at King Hall, Harita was Captain and Training Chair of the UC Davis School of Law Trial Practice Honors Board and a member of the UC Davis School of Law Moot Court Honors Board. She earned numerous accolades relating to negotiations and oral advocacy, including being named champion of the UC Davis School of Law Cota Trial Competition. Prior to joining Tenant Law Group, Harita clerked at the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office and the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office. She also practiced at a private firm in Roseville, California. She has participated in (and prevailed at) two Domestic Violence Restraining Order trials.

Andrea is the first point of contact at the firm for prospective new clients, greeting them, explaining to them the firm’s intake process, and coordinating an intake—the first step in the process of legal representation. She received a bachelor’s degree in Modern Languages and Interculturality from La Salle University in Oaxaca, Mexico, graduating with high honors. She has spent most of her professional career working with languages. Before joining Tenant Law Group, Andrea worked as a language teacher, administrative assistant, and translator. Andrea speaks native Spanish, fluent English, French, and Italian.

Fourth, Tenant Law Group is hiring! If you or someone you know is looking to join one of the fastest growing law firms in the United States, visit this link for a list of lawyer and non-lawyer positions for which we are interviewing. In addition to being certified as a Great Place to Work, Tenant Law Group offers job perks that include 100% remote work (i.e., no commute); monthly reimbursement for use of a home office; full health, dental, and vision benefits after ninety days of fulltime employment; paid vacations, holidays, and sick leave in accordance with state law; and a retirement plan with a mandatory employer contribution after the first calendar year of employment.

Thank you for your continued support of Tenant Law Group. If you or someone you know has been illegally displaced from a rent-controlled apartment; suffered discrimination or harassment in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability, genetic information, medical condition, citizenship, primary language, and/or immigration status; or otherwise been harmed by a landlord’s unlawful actions, please call (415) 915-7445 or follow this link to get started.

Warmest Wishes,

Eric L. Toscano
Founder & CEO


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