Coronavirus - Housing

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Housing

*This page was updated on September 2, 2020

COVID - 19: California Tenant Protections

You might be protected from eviction for not paying rent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most other types of evictions are allowed to start beginning September 1, 2020.   

Evictions for Reasons Other than Not Paying Rent

The Judicial Council’s Emergency Rule 1, which temporarily froze most evictions in the state, expired as of September 1, 2020. This means that as of September 2, 2020, Courts will start moving forward with many more evictions, especially those that are b­­­ased on reasons other than nonpayment of rent.

But a new law called the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020 (Tenant Act) says that courts cannot issue a summons on an eviction complaint that is based on nonpayment of rent or other charges, or enter a default or default judgment on these types of cases, before October 5, 2020. ­

The Tenant Act also expands the protections of AB 1482, a law that, as of 2020, requires a landlord to have a reason for evicting tenants who meet certain criteria. Under the Tenant Act, until January 31, 2021 – a landlord has to have a “just cause” for evicting any tenant. That just cause can be because the tenant is “at fault” or, in certain cases where the tenant has “no fault.” You can find a list of these protections if you click on this link. The Tenant Act also says that substantial rehabilitation of a building is not a just cause, through January 31, 2021. 

But many tenants may still be protected by statewide, local, and disability-related laws during COVID-19. These protections are discussed below.  

Know Your Legal Rights

State Protections

On August 31, 2020, state legislators passed the Tenant Relief Act of 2020 (Tenant Act), which provides protections to tenants who are facing eviction due to nonpayment of rent related to COVID-19.

Most of the time, before a landlord can file for eviction against a tenant for nonpayment of rent, the landlord must first give the tenant a Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. The tenant then has three days, excluding weekends and court holidays, to respond to the notice. But the Tenant Act changes this rule and says that landlords must comply with additional requirements regarding three-day notices for unpaid rent. Similarly, tenants must also comply with certain requirements to be eligible for the protections of the Tenant Act. The requirements change depending on when a tenant’s rent became due.

For Rent Due From March 1, 2020-August 31, 2020:

  1. If a landlord serves a tenant with a Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit for any rent due from 3/1/2020-8/31/2020, the notice:
    1. Has to include an unsigned copy of a declaration of COVID-19-related financial distress; and
    2. Has to let the tenant know that they will not be evicted if they fail to comply with the Three-Day Notice if the tenant gives the landlord a signed declaration of COVID-19-related financial distress.
  2. COVID-19-related Financial Distress, includes:
    1. Loss of income caused by the COVID-19 pandemic
    2. Increased expenses directly related to the health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic
    3. Increased costs for childcare or attending to an elderly, disabled, or sick family member directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic
    4. Childcare responsibilities or responsibilities to care for an elderly, disabled, or sick family member directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic that limit a tenant’s ability to earn income.
    5. Increased out-of-pocket expenses directly related to performing essential work during the COVID-19 pandemic
    6. Any other COVID-19 related loss of income or increase in expenses. 
  3. The landlord must give the tenant 15 days, excluding weekends and court holidays, to pay the rent due or to leave the property. But if a tenant gives the landlord the signed declaration within 15 days instead, the landlord cannot evict the tenant for nonpayment of rent related to COVID-19 at all. (Note: Tenants will still be responsible for any unpaid rent and can be sued for the money by their landlord in small claims court). 
  4. If the Three-Day Notice does not comply with the additional requirements of the Tenant Act, then the landlord cannot rely on that notice to start an eviction.

For Rent Due From September 1, 2020- January 31, 2021:

  1. If a landlord serves a tenant with a Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit for any rent due from 9/1/2020-1/31/2021, the notice:
    1. Has to give the tenant 15 days, excluding weekends and court holidays, to pay the rent due or vacate the property; and
    2. Has to include an unsigned copy of a declaration of COVID-19-related financial distress; and
    3. Has to inform the tenant that they will not be evicted if they fail to comply with the Three-Day Notice if the tenant gives the landlord a signed declaration of COVID-19-related financial distress AND the tenant pays the landlord an amount equal to 25% of the rental payment due from September through January. The tenant can pay the 25% at any point before January 31, 2021. (Note: Tenants will still be responsible for any other unpaid rent and can be sued for the money by their landlord in small claims court). 
  2. Tenants have to give their landlord a declaration of financial distress each month from September through January to be eligible for these protections.
  3. If a tenant does not pay 25% of all rental payments but gives the landlord a signed declaration of COVID-19-related financial distress within 15 business days of receiving the notice, then the tenant cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent until February 1, 2021.

For more information and a video presentation on these protections, please visit the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Z6RTm9kcC8  

Disability-related Protections

Tenants with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations when such accommodations may be necessary to afford them with an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. Reasonable accommodations are changes in rules, policies, or practices.

Below are two samples that may be helpful in requesting reasonable accommodations during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example:

If a landlord has issued a tenant with a Three-Day Notice to Cure or Quit for violations or breach of the rental agreement, the tenant may use a reasonable accommodation request to ask for more time to comply with the notice.

2020.09.01 RA Template for More Time To Comply with Notice.pdf

If a landlord has issued a tenant any other notice to vacate, and there are no laws the tenant can use to defeat an eviction case, the tenant may use the following template to request that they be allowed to remain in the unit as a reasonable accommodation for their disabilities:

2020.09.01 Template RA to rescind notice of term.pdf

If a tenant requires an emotional support animal, the tenant may request that the landlord allow the tenant’s emotional support animal to live in the unit as an accommodation for his/her/their disabilities:

2020.09.01 Template RA for ESA.pdf

Local Protections

This is important: There is no blanket moratorium on evictions. Many evictions are still happening. If you have an eviction case right now, you need to call the courts immediately to find out what to do to protect yourself.

Although there are state protections for tenants related to evictions, many cities and counties have their own orders telling residents how evictions work right now. You should check your city or county’s order to find out more.

Every city is different. Some do not have an order of their own. Some city orders provide less protection than the state orders, and some provide more.

It is important to review any local order that may be in place for your city or county. Here are questions to consider when looking at a local order:

  1. Does the order protect renters from evictions?
  2. Are there other protections like a rent increase cap or ban on utility shut offs?
  3. Do you have to meet conditions for that protection? For example, are protections limited to circumstances:
    1. Where household income substantially decreased because you were laid off as a result of COVID-19, or
    2. Where you have substantial out-of-pocket medical expenses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, or
    3. Where you have extraordinary childcare needs due to the pandemic?
  4. Do you need evidence to qualify for the protections? This may include pay stubs, letters from an employer, or records of medical expenses.
  5. How long do the protections last? Do they end as soon as the Stay At Home Order is lifted? Do they last for a period after that?
  6. Do the orders give tenants a set amount of time to pay back rent? If they do, you should check with a local tenants’ organization, legal aid, or local government agency to see if the state Tenant Act changes that amount of time. 
  7. Do they protect tenants from “no fault” evictions?

New orders come out every day. Check with your city or county for the most up to date information.

For more information, please visit the following links:

Sheriff Lockouts

If you already have a judgment against you, you may still be locked out of your house if the local sheriff is continuing to enforce evictions. Check with your local sheriff’s office to see if they are still enforcing evictions.