Tenant Protection Guidelines
Tenants in California have protections from eviction under state and federal law, as well as under local laws in some cities and counties. This page describes protections under the following two new state laws: the Tenant, Homeowner, and Small Landlord Relief and Stabilization Act of 2020 (AB 3088), which took effect on August 31, 2020; and the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act (SB 91), which took effect on February 1, 2021. These laws protect tenants with a COVID-19-related financial impact from eviction for nonpayment of rent if the tenant provides the landlord with a signed declaration for financial distress. They also protect tenants from "no cause" evictions, meaning an eviction where the landlord does not state a reason. However, depending on your specific circumstances and where you live, you may have other protections from eviction that apply to you. If you receive an eviction notice from your landlord, you should speak with a lawyer as quickly as possible to find out what rules apply to your specific situation. SB 91 also provides financial assistance to qualifying tenants who are financially distressed and unable to pay some or all of their rent.
We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it hard for many renters to pay their rent because they have lost their jobs, had their work hours reduced, or have had to stay home to care for family members.
Last year, the Governor and Legislature worked together to pass AB 3088 which provides relief through January 31, 2021, for tenants experiencing COVID-19-related financial distress. Due to the ongoing pandemic and the substantial effect it continues to have on the economy, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed SB 91 which extends and expands the protections created by AB 3088. SB 91 extends the moratorium against evictions to June 30, 2021, extends the protections of “no cause” evictions, and makes financial assistance available to financially distressed qualifying landlords and tenants.
Like its predecessor bill AB 3088, SB 91 contains many protections. Despite these protections, neither AB 3088 nor SB 91 eliminate the tenant’s obligation to pay their unpaid rent. As such, the tenant will still owe back rent to their landlord. These bills only prevent the landlord from evicting a tenant who is unable to pay rent due to COVID-19 financial distress. Beginning July 1, 2021, landlords can take tenants to small claims court to recover unpaid rent debt regardless of how much the tenant owes.
Also please understand that, no matter what, beginning July 1, 2021, you will have to pay the full amount of your rent to be protected from eviction.
Here is what you need to know:
If you were unable to pay all or some of your rent between March 1, 2020 and August 31, 2020
- If your landlord gives you a notice to "pay or quit," they must provide a notification which explains your rights and obligations. (A notice to "pay or quit" is a notice from your landlord that gives you a certain amount of time to pay the outstanding rent you owe or vacate your home.)
- You cannot be evicted IF you return a declaration of COVID-19 related financial distress, signed under penalty of perjury, and returned within 15 business days of receiving a notice to "pay or quit."
Your landlord must provide this to you to complete and sign, and it must be in the language of your rental agreement if you entered into your rental agreement on or after September 1, 2020.
It is very important that you provide the signed declaration within 15 business days or an eviction proceeding may be filed against you.
- If your household income is more than 130% of the median household income in your county and more than $100,000, your landlord may demand proof of your COVID-19 related hardship be provided to support your declaration. There are several things you can use to satisfy this requirement, such as a tax return, pay stubs, and a statement from your employer, among other things.
- If you are unable to provide the declaration to your landlord within 15 business days, you may still submit the declaration to the court for similar protections if you have a "good reason" for not providing it.
"Good reasons" include mistakes, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect as interpreted in the California Code of Civil Procedure.
If you were unable to pay all or some of your rent between September 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021
- All of the same rights and obligations above apply.
- In addition, by June 30, 2021, you must pay at least 25% of the rent due during the period of September 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.
You may do this by paying at least 25% each month, or by paying a lump sum equaling 25% of your rent during the time period, or by some other means.
The key thing to remember is that - by June 30, 2021 - you must pay 25% of the rent due between September 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.
Other Things You Need to Know
- Until July 1, 2021, a landlord can only evict a tenant if they provide a legally valid reason.
- It is illegal for a landlord to give a tenant a 30 or 60 day eviction notice without a stated reason. This is commonly known as a "no-cause" eviction.
- The stated reason must match one of the valid reasons allowed by the law, a "just cause" eviction.
- Existing local government eviction ordinances may remain in place until they expire, but they may not defer rent obligations beyond March 1, 2021.
- Landlords who do such things as lock tenants out, remove personal property or shut of utility services to evict a tenant, rather than going through the required court process, could faces fines of between $1,000 and $2,500. These penalties are in effect until July 1, 2021.
- If you believe you have been unlawfully evicted or if you need legal advice, you should consult with an attorney. If you need low- or no-cost legal help, visit www.lawhelpca.org and/or Tenant Resources for additional resources.
Frequently Asked Questions – COVID=19 Tenant Relief Act