Tenant Law Group COVID-19 Resource Page
Helping California Renters Understand Their Rights During the Coronavirus Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the lives of people throughout the world. The novel coronavirus has spread rapidly, forcing us to change the way we live, work, and interact with each other.
San Francisco and the State of California were among the first to recognize and mitigate the threat to their people more than a year ago. Throughout this difficult time, lawmakers have sought to balance the need to protect residents from unnecessary exposure to the virus with economic realities common to landlords and tenants.
Tenant Law Group has prepared this COVID-19 Resource Page to keep California tenants apprised of their rights during the coronavirus pandemic. We will continue updating this page as new laws and regulations affecting renters become enacted.
The following legal protections have been enacted to protect renters in California who have been economically harmed by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Please consult the provided links to information provided by the government agencies themselves for the most up-to-date versions of these documents.
In the current environment, keeping a roof over your head is more important than ever. If your landlord is taking actions in violation of any laws or regulations enacted in response to COVID-19 that are causing or have already caused you to lose your rental unit, call us at (415) 915-7445 or complete this form for a free case evaluation. You can also schedule a telephone or video consultation with a tenant attorney who can answer any questions about your tenancy, advise you of your rights, and provide an action plan to protect your tenancy during the coronavirus pandemic. Tenant Law Group has reduced all attorney consultation fees by $50.00 through June 30, 2021.
On January 29, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a new bill into law that extended COVID-19 protections first introduced at the end of August 2020 and set up a rental assistance program to relieve the most rent-burdened members of the community.
California’s COVID-19 eviction protections fall into two categories: (1) prohibition of evictions based on failure to pay rent owed from March 1, 2020 to August 31, 2020, and (2) limitations on evictions based on failure to pay rent owed from September 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021. In both cases, the inability to pay must be due to “COVID-19-related financial distress.”
What You Owe and What Must Be Done
Rent Owed from March 1, 2020 to August 31, 2020
For rent owed between March 1, 2020 and August 31, 2020, a landlord may serve tenants with a fifteen-day notice to pay or quit for failure to pay rent. However, if the tenant provides a Declaration of COVID-19-related financial distress within fifteen days of receiving the notice, the landlord may not evict the tenant based on failure to pay this rent. The notice to pay or quit must provide information about the protections of the Act and a form declaration the tenant can fill out and return. Rent owed during this period will essentially become consumer debt that is still owed to the landlord but can never be the basis for eviction. This statement will be made under penalty of perjury but is all that must be provided to satisfy the requirements of the law so long as the landlord does not have evidence prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that the tenant earned more than $100,000.00 a year or 130% of the median income for the county.
Rent Owed from September 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021
The protections for tenants who cannot pay rent from September 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021 due to COVID-19 work similarly to rent due from March 1, 2020 to August 31, 2020 except that to prevent the landlord from being evicting a tenant for failure to pay rent on or after July 1, 2021, the tenant must pay twenty-five percent of the rent owed by June 30, 2021. For example, if the tenant were unable to pay rent in February, March, April, and May of 2021, but did pay rent on June 1, the tenant would need to pay the landlord one entire month’s rent to continue receiving eviction protections under the law. As with rent owed in the summer of 2020, the outstanding rent would remain a debt that could be pursued by the landlord.
Expiration of Law
The law protects tenants from eviction for inability to pay rent owed through June 30, 2021. All tenants will be expected to pay rent in full on July 1, 2021 and have no COVID-19-related protections beyond that point.
New Restrictions for Landlords
Small Claims Court and COVID-19 Rent
The state legislature has specifically designated the small claims division of the superior court in each county as the proper venue for any case in which a landlord seeks to recover COVID-19 rent. Landlords may begin filing these cases on August 1, 2021. If your landlord tries to force you to pay more than you are able or threatens you with eviction, legal action, or any other consequences for failing to pay rent, consult an attorney immediately.
The legislature has amended the Civil Code to define landlord retaliation as including any attempts to evict or dispossess tenants, deprive them of housing services and utilities, or increase charges or charge late fees based on an inability to pay rent due to COVID-19-related financial distress. If you believe your landlord has mistreated you because of your inability to pay rent, consult an attorney immediately.
Federal Order Halting Evictions
On March 28, 2021, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended an order originally issued on September 4, 2020 prohibiting those with a possessory interest from evicting any covered person from any residential property within a state or territory of the United States with the exception of American Samoa through June 30, 2021 if the covered person has made all efforts to seek rental assistance, has suffered a loss of income due to COVID-19, is doing his or her best efforts to make partial payments, and would otherwise become homeless or would need to move into a shared living situation if evicted. Covered persons are those making less than $99,000.00 in 2019 or $198,000.00 if filing jointly, those who were not obligated to report income to the IRS in 2019, or anyone who otherwise qualified to receive a stimulus payment under the CARES Act. This prohibition is notable because it disallows evictions for any reason other than the breach of a contractual term not involving payment of rent or fees, criminal activity, violation of health or safety codes, or destruction of property. Those seeking the protection of this moratorium should provide their landlord with a filled out copy of this declaration.
City & County of San Francisco
Evictions for any reason other than non-payment of rent as allowed by SB-91, the Ellis Act, or reasons of public health or safety are prohibited in San Francisco through June of 2021. The Ordinance is available here.
City of Oakland
Acting on the authority created by a proclamation of local emergency issued by the City Administrator on March 9, 2020 and ratified by the Oakland City Council on March 12, the Council passed its own eviction moratorium. It was extended on July 21 through the length of the local emergency. It limits rent increases to 2.7%, prohibits evictions not essential to remove an imminent threat to the health or safety of other occupants, or to remove a unit from the rental market, and prohibits charging late fees for rent unpaid due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A landlord may not evict a tenant for failure to pay rent if that inability was due to a loss of work or hours due to COVID-19, the need to care for a household member or child staying with the tenant, actually contracting COVID-19, or unanticipated expenses or cost related to COVID-19.
City of Berkeley
During the emergency, all evictions are prohibited except for those required to protect public health or safety, Ellis Act evictions, or those allowed by the Tenant Relief Act of 2020 due to nonpayment of rent. Importantly, the landlord’s fifteen-day notice to pay or quit in Berkeley must satisfy five requirements, state a good cause for eviction; allege compliance with the Berkeley rent control ordinance; allege compliance with the warranty of habitability, including a declaration of COVID-19-related financial distress that the tenant may sign and return; and provide a copy within ten days of serving the notice to the tenant. Landlords in Berkeley may only sue to recover debt after the repayment period, which would be one year after the end of the local emergency or March 31, 2022 if the emergency is extended beyond March 31, 2021.
City of Los Angeles
The city of Los Angeles prohibits all small business and residential evictions due to non-payment of rent based on COVID-19, no-fault evictions including Ellis Act evictions, and evictions due to nuisance, or family members and pets moved into a unit due to COVID-19. Landlords may not charge rent fees, interest, or increase for the duration of the emergency.
County of Los Angeles
Los Angeles County’s eviction moratorium (which applies to residents of unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County), effective through June 30, 2021, prohibits commercial and residential evictions for no fault just cause such as substantial remodeling or demolition, as well as denying landlords entry, COVID-19-related violation of restrictions as to occupation by additional family members or pets, or nuisance. Los Angeles County also prohibits rent increases or passthroughs.
City of San José
After the passage of AB3088, San José has allowed its eviction moratorium to expire. The San José eviction moratorium had required those who were unable to pay rent to pay half the amount owed by February 28, and the whole by August 31, 2021. Thus, the state’s Tenant Relief Act provides greater protection.