Tenant Law Group COVID-19 Resource Page
Helping California Renters Understand Their Rights During the Coronavirus Pandemic
In a matter of weeks, 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 was among the first cities in the United States to enact measures to combat the spread of COVID-19. These early measures, which have to date successfully slowed the spread of the deadly disease in the City and County of San Francisco, included a temporary moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent, the closure of all nonessential businesses, and an order to shelter at home. In addition to measures taken at the local level, governments at the state and federal levels have also taken emergency actions affecting the rights of California 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.
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 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. Through May 31, 2020, use the coupon code TLGMAY2020 to receive a 25% discount off all tenant attorney consultations.
Summary: On April 6, 2020, the Judicial Council (the rulemaking body for California state courts) approved eleven temporary emergency rules, one of which effectively stops evictions until this summer.
How long will the order be in effect? Until ninety days after the Governor declares that the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic is lifted, or until amended or repealed by the Judicial Council.
What are the details? As it relates to evictions, the Emergency Order:
- Prohibits a court from issuing a summons in an unlawful detainer (eviction) case unless the court finds the case necessary to protect public health and safety. In other words, even if a landlord files an eviction case, the tenant will not be required to respond to a new eviction case until the rule is lifted.
- Prohibits a court from entering an automatic default judgment against a tenant who failed to file a response unless the court finds that (1) the eviction lawsuit is necessary to protect public health and safety; and (2) the landlord has not appeared in the action within the time provided by law due to Governor Newsom’s Executive Order regarding evictions during the COVID-19 emergency.
- In eviction cases where the tenant has responded or appeared, prohibits a court from setting the case for trial earlier than sixty days after a trial is requested, unless necessary to protect public health and safety.
- Requires any eviction trial scheduled as of April 6, 2020 to be continued at least sixty days from the initial date of trial.
March 31, 2020: City & County of San Francisco Department of Public Health Updated Shelter in Place Order
Summary: On March 16, 2020, the City and County of San Francisco Department of Public Health first issued a Shelter in Place order, which has since been superseded by subsequent orders. Under the latest Order, gatherings of individuals with anyone outside of their household remain prohibited, with limited exceptions for essential activities or essential travel, or to perform work for essential businesses and government agencies.
This Order makes five principal sets of changes over earlier orders. (1) When people leave their residence, they must strictly comply with designated Social Distancing Requirements when interacting with anyone outside their household. (2) Outdoor recreation activities are further limited, and additional recreation facilities must be closed. People cannot participate in outdoor activities that involve shared equipment, such as frisbee, soccer, or basketball, with any person outside of their own household or living unit, and areas with shared equipment and facilities like playgrounds, picnic areas, dog parks, golf courses, tennis courts, and pools must close. (3) What businesses constitute Essential Businesses is further clarified and limited. (4) The Order urges government agencies and other service providers to take steps to protect the homeless population. (5) Finally, the Order provides that only certain limited types of construction are permitted to continue.
How long is the order in effect? This stay at home order was originally in effect until April 7, 2020 but was extended through May 3, 2020.
What is an essential function? Police stations, fire stations, hospitals/medical offices, jails, courts, garbage/sanitation, transportation (including Muni), utilities, public works construction, gas stations, pharmacies, food, hardware stores, banks, certain community benefit organizations, media services, laundromats, and veterinary hospitals.
Why is this important? Due to the quick spread of the coronavirus, staying at home can significantly reduce the rate of spread of the virus.
Is it mandatory? Yes! Although the intent is not to punish anyone for violating the order, it is very important that we reduce the spread of the virus by staying at home. If there is no urgent need to perform an essential function or visit friends or family members, it is urged that you stay at home.
Where can I get more information? Visit https://sf.gov/topics/coronavirus-covid-19 for general information; follow this link for FAQs on San Francisco’s March 31, 2020 Shelter in Place Order; and follow this link for the full March 31, 2020 Shelter in Place Order.
March 27, 2020: Governor Newsom’s Executive Order Empowering Judicial Council to Enact Measures to Address Shelter-in-Place Orders
Summary: Governor Newsom’s executive order was established to enhance the authority of the judicial council to issue any emergency orders in response to COVID-19.This executive order removes any restrictions on the ability of the judicial council to issue orders. The purpose of this order is to ensure that the judicial council can make any rules concerning civil or criminal practice deemed necessary in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. This allows for more leniency in having a party appear at a deposition by telephone and allowing electronic service of documents.
To learn more about Governor Newsom’s executive order, please visit the governor’s website.
Summary: In response to limitations on California residents’ ability to work, Governor Newsom issued an executive order halting eviction in the State of California. The deadline to respond to a summons for an eviction, typically five days, shall be extended for a period of 60 days for any tenant served with a complaint for an eviction.
The following requirements must be met:
- Prior to March 27, 2020, the tenant paid rent due to the landlord;
- The tenant notifies the landlord in writing before rent is due or within seven days of rent being due, that the tenant needs to delay payment of rent due to reasons relating to COVID-19, including but not limited to:
- Tenant being unable to work because the tenant was sick with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 or needed to care for a family member who was sick with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19;
- The tenant was laid off, had their working hours reduced, or had their income reduced resulting from COVID-19;
- The tenant had to miss work to care for a child whose school was closed as a result of COVID-19.
- The tenant must have verifiable documentation (termination notice, pay stubs, medical bills, or other documentation) asserting that they are unable to pay rent.
As long as the requirements are met, a writ to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent will not be enforced. A tenant who is able to pay all or some of their rent, should continue doing so. The tenant may be obligated to repay the unpaid portion of rent and could still face an eviction after the moratorium is lifted.
How long are these protections in effect? The protections listed above are in effect through May 31, 2020.
Summary: On March 27, 2020 President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) into law. The new law provides assistance to many people affected by COVID 19.
Federal funding shall be provided for workers who are impacted by COVID-19. If not eligible for state unemployment benefits, the federal government will provide the same amount of benefits provided by states until Dec. 31, 2020. Additionally, employees can be eligible to receive an additional $600 per week for up to four months. If employees remain unemployed after their state benefits are exhausted, the federal government will provide funding for up to 13 weeks of unemployment benefits.
For Individuals with an adjusted annual gross income up to $75,000 (or $150,000 for joint filings), the CARES Act shall provide a recovery rebate of $1,200 ($2,400 for joint filings). Those individuals shall also receive an additional $500 for each child under the age of 17 (with some exceptions). These payments will be made to individuals as a refundable tax credit against 2020 income taxes. For every $1,000 of gross income above the $75,000 limit, the rebate will be reduced by $50. For example, for someone with a gross income of $76,000, they would be eligible to receive a $1,150 rebate.
The payment of these rebates will be based on the adjusted gross income reported on 2019 tax returns. If no tax return was filed for 2019, the individual’s 2018 tax return will be used.
The CARES Act restricts owners of covered properties from filing new eviction actions for non-payment of rent and other fees related to non-payment of rent. The federal eviction moratorium does not cover filings made before the moratorium took effect or filed after the moratorium is lifted. Additionally, the CARES Act does not cover non-covered tenancies or where the eviction is based on another reason besides nonpayment of rent.
What units are covered? Units that are in a covered housing program defined by the Violence Against Women Act, units participating in the rural housing voucher program under section 542 of the Housing Act of 1949, units having a federally backed mortgage loan, or units with a federally backed multifamily mortgage loan.
How long is the federal eviction moratorium in effect? The moratorium began on March 27, 2020 and lasts for 120 days.
The 2019 federal tax filing deadline has been extended to July 15, 2020. This extension is automatic, so taxpayers do not need to apply for an extension. The IRS expects to continue to process refunds as normal during this time. Many states have also extended the deadline for filing to July 15, 2020, including California.
All payments of principal and interest for certain federal student loans are suspended. For the purposes of credit reporting, the suspended payments are treated as if they were made during the suspended period.
Additionally, employers can provide a student loan repayment benefit to employees, tax free, for payments up to $5,250 annually. This section applies to any payments made by an employer between March 27, 2020 and Jan. 1, 2021.
Federally Backed Mortgages
Borrowers with federally backed family mortgages may submit a forbearance request if they are experiencing financial hardship related to the COVID-19 crisis. The mortgage lender must grant the request without any penalty to the borrower, without fees or interest, for up to 180 days. This 180-day period can be extended by another 180 days at the request of the borrower. Beginning March 18, 2020, foreclosure actions are prohibited for 60 days.
Forgivable Small Business Administration (SBA) Loan
The CARES act creates a new loan for small businesses, potentially forgivable for up to 100 percent of the principal amount borrowed. These loans are not tied directly to establishing losses suffered during the COVID-19 crisis. It is presumed that a borrower has had a negative impact from COVID-19. This program is available to many new businesses otherwise unable to be included in the SBA loan program and will provide better terms for borrowers. These loans will not require guarantees or collateral.
Eligibility: Businesses with less than 500 employees are eligible (with certain exceptions). Certain businesses with 500 employees or more are eligible if they have no more than 500 employees at each location.
Amount: The loans are capped at the lesser of $10 million and 2.5 times the average payroll costs in the one-year period before the loan.
Terms: A borrower may receive one loan for payroll, continuation of group health care benefits, interest on mortgage obligations, rent, utilities, and interest on other debts. The terms of any portion of the loan that is not forgiven will not exceed 10 years and at an interest rate of no more than 4 percent.
Healthcare providers will receive $100 billion in grants to help fight the COVID-19 crisis.
Where can I get more information? Follow this linkfor the full text of the bill.
Summary: In addition to other measures enacted in San Francisco, the latest order
clarifies the language of the temporary moratorium on evictions. The original
moratorium provided that evictions should be halted for non-payment of
rent for tenants directly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The latest
update clarifies that this applies to all residential properties, whether
they are covered by the Rent Ordinance or not.
Therefore, if a tenant has not timely paid rent that was due on or after March 13, 2020, the landlord may not seek an eviction if the tenant has provided notice within 30 days that the tenant is unable to pay due to financial impacts of COVID-19.
What is considered a “financial impact?” A financial impact means a loss of household income due to: business closures, loss of hours, layoffs, or extraordinary out-of-pocket expenses.
How do I notify my landlord? After notifying your landlord of a financial impact, you must provide the landlord with some documentation or other verifiable information that demonstrates your inability to pay rent. This documentation should be given to your landlord within one week after providing notice of your inability to pay rent due to COVID-19.
How long does this order last? Once you provide documentation, then you automatically shall receive an extra month to pay rent. After one month, if you still have not paid rent, the landlord can provide you with a notice of breach. At that point, they must engage in discussions with you to establish a payment plan.
Payment Plan: After the order expires, a tenant that provided notice of the inability to pay rent due to COVID-19 shall have up to six months to pay the rent owed before the landlord may seek an eviction. A landlord may extend the length of the payment plan. During the six-month payment plan period, a landlord may request documentation of a tenant’s ongoing financial hardship. But, failure to timely respond to a landlord’s request shall not invalidate the six-month payment plan.
Does this apply to all evictions? No. This order only applies to evictions related to non-payment of rent due to financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. The landlord may still seek an eviction for reasons other than non-payment of rent.
Does this apply to hotels? No. This order does not apply to rooms used for San Francisco’s COVID-19 response in a hotel or other transient use property.
Where can I get more information? Follow this link for the full order.
Summary: In order to preserve the public health, all residents within the state are directed to immediately obey the Department of Public Health directives. All residents in the State of California are ordered to stay at home or at their place of residence except as needed to continue operations of the federal critical infrastructure sectors. Additionally, healthcare delivery systems must prioritize services for those who are the sickest.
How long is the order in effect? The order is to go into effect immediately and will stay in effect until further notice.
What is an “Essential Critical Infrastructure Worker?” California has listed several categories of workers who are deemed essential: Healthcare/public health; emergency services; food and agriculture; energy; water and wastewater; transportation and logistics; communications and information technology; other community-based government operations; critical manufacturing; hazardous materials; financial services; chemical; and defense industrial base are all categories included in the list of “essential critical infrastructure workers.”
For an exhaustive list of the categories of workers deemed to be essential, please visit the state’s page regarding COVID-19.
Local Ordinances have been enacted to order residents to stay at home. These orders work in conjunction with the statewide orders. Local orders can be more restrictive than statewide orders.
Alameda County, Marin County, San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Contra Costa County, and the City of Berkeley joined together, along with San Francisco County, in issuing a legal order directing residents to stay at home beginning March 17, 2020. This order requires most people to stay at home unless they are engaged in “essential activities.”
How long is the order in effect? The order was extended on March 31, 2020 to last through May 3, 2020.
What is an essential activity? Police stations, fire stations, hospitals/medical offices, jails, courts, garbage/sanitation, transportation, utilities, public works construction, gas stations, pharmacies, food, hardware stores, banks, certain community benefit organizations, media services, laundromats, and veterinary hospitals.
Do I have to stay indoors at all times? No, residents are permitted to take walks and leave their homes to perform essential activities such as going to the grocery store or visiting a doctor. Residents are urged to practice social distancing.
For information specific to your county, click on one of the following options below: