COVID-19 Tenant Defense

Right now, Governor Newsom's COVID-19 moratorium on evictions in California is in place until September 30, 2020. The California Judicial Council will not be processing eviction cases in court until 90 days after the end of the state of emergency. We are monitoring citywide and countywide protections passed at the local level, you can find a full list here and see if your town, city or county has additional protections against evictions.

However, it is still possible in some cases for landlords to file evictions preemptively. We are also seeing illegal lockouts, attempts by landlords to evict tenants by locking them out, throwing out their belongings, or attempting to call police or sheriffs to enforce evictions. This is why we are fighting for additional protections at the municipal and state levels. (To learn more about our campaign to #CancelRent and #CancelMortgages, click here.)

Below is a complete set of resources for anyone who is suffering from financial hardship, unable to pay rent, facing eviction, or looking to organize in their building or community. If you have difficulty finding a local tenant organization or do not qualify for legal aid, you can always call the Tenants Together hotline at (888) 495-8020. Our volunteer counselors are experiencing a backlog but will order cases by level of urgency. We serve all tenants regardless of income or immigration status.

For additional resources related to unemployment filings, Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants (DRAI) program, mental health helplines, and other resources not directly related to your tenancy, read our full COVID-19 guide here.

 

                             

 

Know your rights

I can't pay my rent. How do I tell my landlord? What documentation should I save? If you can get in touch with your employer or former employer, have them sign this form and submit it to your landlord. Make sure you keep a hard copy for yourself. If you cannot obtain documentation from an employer about a loss of income, keep any records of a job loss, unemployment applications, or any other paperwork that you can keep on hand. You can also use the form at NoRent.org, compiled by tenant organizers across the country, to have a letter pre-filled out for you.

 

My landlord is asking me to move out. What do I do? Do NOT move out! It is illegal for the landlord to physically remove you from your home as long as the state of emergency is in place. Contact a tenant or legal aid organization immediately if your landlord is pressuring you to move.

 

My landlord wants to increase my rent by more than 10%. This is illegal during the state of emergency for new and existing tenancies under California Penal Code Section 396. This includes both the COVID-19 state of emergency but also any county-level states of emergency related to wildfires in California. If your landlord puts forward an agreement with a rent increase, do not sign anything. Use this sample letter to notify your landlord and keep a copy. Lastly, the cost of hotel rooms is covered under the state of emergency provision as well. You can learn more about your price-gouging protections at the state Attorney General website.

 

I have notified my landlord that they cannot increase my rent above 10%, but they are trying to do so anyway. Contact a local legal aid hotline, the Tenants Together hotline, or a local tenant organization if your landlord pushes back. Keep all documentation of communication between you and your landlord handy. Use this link to file a consumer complaint immediately with the state Attorney General.

 

My landlord is asking me to sign a rental agreement to readjust my rent. Do not sign any new agreements with provisions that you find questionable, without consulting a local organization first. If your landlord is asking for a repayment agreement related to a COVID-19 stimulus check, do not sign. You are under no obligation to turn over any stimulus or unemployment money from the government to your landlord in a written agreement.

We now have a text helpline for shared resources for renters facing economic hardship and other COVID-related issues. Text HELPLINE to (650) 600-7821 for a list of basic resources, but please contact our normal hotline via phone if you are facing an issue that requires tenant counseling on your rights.

       

 

Organize your block

My landlord is threatening to lock me or a member of my community out of my/their apartments. This is illegal! It is known as a "self-help" eviction because the landlord is not using the court process as they are required to by law. Courts in California are currently not processing eviction cases until 90 days after the end of the state of emergency.

If this is happening to you, contact a tenant or legal aid organization right away. If you want to learn how to organize your building, your neighbors and your community against illegal lockout evictions, Tenants Together is hosting lockout organizing trainings. A copy of the slideshow materials from those trainings can be found here. Feel free to share it with your neighbors, too!

 

I would like to form a tenant association or tenant union in my building, block or community. How can I do this while remaining socially distanced? A helpful first step is to print out flyers in your building or blocck, collect phone numbers or emails, and conduct socially distanced tenant meetings, including via phone or computer if you and your neighbors have access. Our guide to running a socially distanced tenant meeting is here.

 

Where can I find a list of local protections that may apply to my area? Use our COVID-19 local protections tracker here. Tenants Together staff and organizers update this tracker regularly as new protections are passed or old emergency protections expire.

 

Where can I find a tenant or legal aid organization near me? Use our directory of local organizations. Joining a local tenant union is the best way to protect yourself and your neighbors from eviction before one happens.

 

Join the movement

Is there statewide legislation I can support? Our member organizations have voted to endorse AB 1436, which will stop evictions related to COVID-19 hardship and provide a one-year grace period to allow tenants to negotiate agreements with their landlords. Use our simple tool to email your legislator to support AB 1436. It only takes a minute!

This is just a first step in a larger campaign. Our goal is the same as the 75% of Californians who believe our state needs to #CancelRent and #CancelMortgages.

 

How can I join the campaign to #CancelRent and #CancelMortgages? First step: sign our petition to Governor Newsom! Every Tuesday from 5:30-7:30PST, Tenants Together hosts #CancelRent organizing calls in English and Spanish with tenants and organizers across the state. Click here to register and join! If you're a member of an existing tenant formation and you'd like to become a member of Tenants Together, let us know.

 

I'm not in California but I want to participate in the national movement to #CancelRent and #CancelMortgages. We are a member of the national Right to the City Alliance, whose Homes for All campaign is leading the fight on a national level. Homes For All hosts #BeyondRecovery organizing and advocacy trainings related to the COVID-19 pandemic weekly. You can learn more about these workshops, and how to sign up, on their Twitter page.

 

How do I spread the word about tenants' rights during COVID-19 and the #CancelRent campaign? Follow Tenants Together on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and click here to access shareable social media graphics from our public Google Drive that you can use from your personal accounts. Make sure to tag @TenantsTogether when you share!

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