COVID-19 Tenant Defense

Haga clic aquí para una versión de esta página de recursos en español.

 

On September 1st, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 3088 into law, which prevents some evictions for inability to pay rent in full. On September 2nd, the California Judicial Council restarted eviction proceedings in court.

We know these protections are not enough. Please sign our petition to demand Governor Newsom enact a REAL moratorium on evictions for the remainder 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.

We are also seeing 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 and are providing training resources you can find below.

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

What are my protections at the state level? Assembly Bill 3088, effective September 1, 2020, states that:

  • Tenants cannot be evicted for ANY rent they were unable to pay starting in March 1st and through August 31st, 2020. However, landlords can take you to small claims court for the owed rent during said time frame begining March 1st 2021.
  • If tenants are currently unable to pay full rent from September 1st through January 31, 2021, your landlord still may not evict you so long as tenants complete the following:
    • Tenant must provide landlord with a declaration of impacts COVID-19 has had to their household, within 15 days of receiving a nonpayment of rent eviction notice from their landlord.  For proof of documentation tenants are recommended to send by certified mail. 
    • Tenants must pay a minimum of 25% of rent for the months of September 1st through January 31, 2021 no later than January 31st, 2021. The 25% payment can be made as installments or in one lump sum so long as your 25% payment is made by January 31st, 2021.
  • On February 1, 2021, tenants are expected to pay their rent in full to avoid eviction.
  • Starting March 1, 2021, landlords can take tenants to small claims court for unpaid COVID-19 rent debt accurred March 1st, 2020 to January 31st, 2021.  
  • Until February 1st, 2021, landlords must give a just cause reason to evict a tenant in California per the protections outlined in AB 1482.  
  • Other types of evictions will proceed, including no-fault and Ellis Act evictions starting September 2nd, 2020. 

Learn more about AB 3088 at this website we prepared with our partners in the Housing Now! coalition.

 

What are my federal protections? What does the CDC order do? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) order was issued on September 4, 2020 and expires on January 1, 2021. The CDC order covers renters who expect to make less than $99,000 in income in 2020, received a stimulus check, or is "likely to become homeless or live in close quarters" if they are evicted. This covers evictions for inability to pay rent in full and other types (like no-fault evictions) as well. The CDC order asks that you make "timely partial payments as close to the full rent" as you can.

Learn more about the CDC moratorium here at the National Low Income Housing Coalition's website.

 

I CAN pay 25% or more of my rent. What should I do to protect myself from eviction? If you receive a written eviction notice citing your inability to pay rent as the reason, submit this declaration of hardship to your landlord as soon as possible. If you receive a verbal notice, you should send an illegal notice response. 

 

I CAN'T pay 25% of my rent owed. How do I tell my landlord? If you meet the requirements listed above under "What does the CDC order do?", you may be protected under the CDC order, which functions as a "floor" for protections. If you are not adequately covered by AB 3088 or local protections, consult the CDC order.

 

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 immediately! It is illegal for the landlord to physically remove you from your home, unless you have received an order to leave from a court AFTER an eviction case has taken place in that court. Receiving an eviction notice does NOT mean you have to move out. Contact a tenant or legal aid organization immediately if your landlord is harassing you, or 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.

 

My landlord has filed an eviction that isn't related to me not paying my rent in full, but I am at risk if I leave. You may be protected by the CDC order until January 1, 2021. If you are NOT being evicted for any of these 5 reasons: (1) violating a lease agreement (other than nonpayment of rent), (2) criminal activity, (3) threatening health and safety of other tenants, (4) damaging property, (5) violating health & safety code, the CDC order protects you from eviction. We believe the CDC order should prevent "no-fault" evictions.

 

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. 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 block, 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 counseling resources explaining the different eviction protections and orders? Our bilingual presentation is here, which provides several tenant counseling scenarios and explains in depth the various protections at the local, state, and federal levels, including AB 3088 and the CDC order. This is a more technically advanced presentation, but feel free to share with anyone in your community who finds it useful.

 

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 tenants' 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? The state legislature is currently not in session, but we will update this page in the future as we work on new demands for January 2021.

 

How can I join the campaign to #CancelRent and #CancelMortgages? 75% of Californians who believe our state needs to #CancelRent and #CancelMortgages. First step: sign our petition to Governor Newsom! Every other Tuesday from 5:30-7:30PST, Tenants Together hosts #CancelRent organizing calls in English and Spanish with tenants and organizers across the state. We focus on collective organizing support and tenant clinics / counseling support. 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 by emailing info@tenantstogether.org.

 

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 sign up for the workshops here.

 

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!

Help build power for renters' rights: