State COVID-19 Eviction Protections

Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 91, an extension to Assembly Bill 3088, which prevents some evictions for inability to pay rent in full, temporarily extends some just-cause protections to all tenants, and establishes a state-directed rent relief program set to begin March 15, 2021. Click here to learn about the rent relief program and how you can apply.
 
On this page you can learn:
  1. What types of evictions are still legal?
  2. Am I covered by SB 91?
  3. What protections does SB 91 provide?
  4. What is my landlord allowed and not allowed to do?
  5. State of California resources on SB 91 protections

 

What types of evictions are still legal? 

Through June 30, 2021, all California tenants in all unit types have been extended just-cause eviction protections. This means your landlord MUST cite an allowable reason on their written notice of eviction to a tenant. If your landlord is attempting to evict you without a court order, DO NOT LEAVE. All evictions must proceed through the courts!
 
A tenant may be evicted under just-cause protections if they:
  • Violate the lease 
  • Commit a nuisance 
  • Commit waste (damage to the property) 
  • Refuse to sign a lease extension or renewal 
  • Engage in criminal activity on the residence or criminal activity/threat directed at the landlord 
  • Sublet against lease restrictions  
  • Refuse to let landlord enter the unit to make repairs, in case of emergency, after the tenant abandons the property, or under court order 
  • Use the property for unlawful purposes 
  • Fail to vacate after the tenant is terminated as an employee/licensee of the landlord  
  • Fail to vacate after providing written notice of their intent to vacate the property 
The landlord can evict a tenant if they: 
  • Intend to move themselves or their family into the unit  
  • Withdraw the unit off the rental market (under the Ellis Act) 
  • Intend to demolish or substantially remodel the unit (not minor repairs) 
IMPORTANT: You should speak to your local tenants rights or legal aid organization right away if you have received an eviction notice to make sure you know your rights! To find legal help in your area, check our local resource directory or go to www.lawhelpca.org.
 

Am I covered by SB 91? 

A “covered person” is any tenant, lessee, or resident of a residential property who cannot pay rent due to at least ONE of the following circumstances:  
  • Loss of income caused by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Increased out-of-pocket expenses related to working during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Increased medical expenses directly related to health impacts from COVID-19
  • Loss of income as a result of providing care to a child, elderly, disabled, or sick family member which is directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, or increased costs related to providing family care during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Other circumstances related to the COVID pandemic that have reduced your income or increased your expenses.    

 

What protections does SB 91 provide? 

The law states that tenants cannot be evicted for failure to pay rent, if your failure to pay was because of COVID-19 related financial distress. If you are unable to pay your rent, the landlord must serve you a 15-day written eviction notice to pay or quit. This gives you, the tenant, 15 days to pay the rent OR, if you can't pay, submit a declaration of COVID-19 related impact to the landlord. You can find Tenants Together's sample declaration here. Keep a copy for your records.
 
Tenants in California cannot be evicted for ANY rent they were unable to pay from March 1, 2020 through August 31, 2020, as so long as you provide your landlord with a declaration of COVID-19 related impact. However, landlords can take a tenant to small claims court for the rent owed from March-August 2020 beginning August 1, 2021. 
 
Tenants who are unable to pay full rent from September 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021, can NOT be evicted so long as the tenant takes the following steps:
 
1. Submit a declaration of COVID-19 distress 
  • Your landlord is required to provide a “Declaration of COVID-19 Financial Distress” form for you to fill out with any written “15-day Notice to Pay or Quit” notice of non-payment of rent. 
  • Tenant must return the “Declaration of COVID-19 Financial Distress” form within 15 business days of receiving the notice to pay rent or quit. This is the critical step for tenants to be protected from eviction for non-payment.
  • Households that make less than $100,000/year do NOT need to provide any evidence or documentation to show financial hardship.  
  • The tenant should keep a copy of the signed declaration of COVID-19 impact and send it by certified mail to confirm delivery. 
 
2. Pay a minimum of 25% of your rent for the months of September 2020 through June 2021, no later than June 30, 2021. You can pay the 25% payment in installments or in one lump sum, so long as 25% of the rent is paid by June 30, 2021. You do not need to be paying 25% every single month!
  • Tenants paying a portion of their rent from September 2020 – June 2021 should document their payments by keeping or taking pictures of receipts, canceled checks, or copies of letters that show which months you are paying for.
  • You should also keep any evidence of landlord intimidation, discrimination or harassment if it is happening!
  • If you do not have the 25%, remember that you can get that amount covered by applying to the state rent relief program. Learn more about how you can get rent relief here.
 

What is my landlord allowed and NOT allowed to do?

Your landlord CANNOT:

  • Use your security deposit towards unpaid rent.
  • Use COVID-19 related debt as a negative factor for refusing to rent to an otherwise qualified tenant.
  • Impose a late payment fee on you for COVID-19 related unpaid rent debt.
  • Sell your accrued COVID19-related rental debt to a collection agency any time before June 30, 2021. For tenants who meet the eligibility requirements of the State of California Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), this prohibition is permanent. Learn more about ERAP here.
  • Evict you outside of the court process, even if they call the police. This is an illegal lockout.
  • Evict you without citing one of the just-cause reasons stated above.
  • Serve you a 15-Day Pay or Quit Notice without also giving you an impact declaration form to fill out and 15 business days to respond.
 
Starting August 1, 2021, your landlord CAN take you to small claims court for unpaid COVID-19 rent debt accrued between March 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021. As long as you turned in a declaration of COVID-19 impact and paid 25% of the rent between September 2020 and June 2021, the remaining rent debt will become consumer debt and can never be used as a reason for eviction.
 
Again, remember that state rent relief funds are available to help you pay that 25% minimum or even more. If your landlord receives funds as part of the state’s rental assistance program, which requires them to waive 80% of your rent debt, the landlord can never recover the remaining COVID-19 rent debt. 
 
SB 91 allows other types of evictions to move forward, including no-fault and Ellis Act evictions. Check your local laws to see if you have access to stronger protections at the local level.  
 
 

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