Tenant Protection Information

Tenants in California have certain protections from eviction under state law, as well as under local laws in some cities and counties. This page describes protections under California’s COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act and the COVID-19 Rental Housing Recovery Act. Until September 30, 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 of financial distress. Beginning October 1, 2021, the law requires any landlord wanting to evict a tenant for failing to pay rent to first apply for rental assistance before proceeding with an eviction lawsuit. 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. Rental assistance is available 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.

For more than a year, the Governor and Legislature have worked together to pass multiple laws 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, laws which extend and expand critical protections and also establish a statewide rental assistance program.

Here is what you need to know:

Apply for rental assistance through the CA COVID-19 Rent Relief Program!

  • The Rent Relief Program pays eligible tenants and landlords 100% of a tenant’s past-due rent and utilities going as far back as April 1, 2020.
  • Having your overdue rent paid by the Rent Relief Program can protect you from eviction and debt collection lawsuits.
  • The program is free and does not currently have a deadline, but because funding may be limited, renters are encouraged to apply as soon as possible if they know they may struggle to cover past or prospective rent and utilities.

Beginning October 1, 2021, your landlord must apply for rental assistance before they can try to evict you through the courts for failing to pay your rent.

  • Although your landlord may give you a notice to “pay or quit” (which 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) at any time, they will not be able to legally evict you without first applying to the CA COVID-19 Rent Relief program.
  • If you receive a notice to “pay or quit,” it is strongly recommended that you immediately get legal assistance to determine and protect your rights. If your notice to “pay or quit” includes a “Declaration of COVID-19 related financial distress”—and you have been financially impacted by the pandemic—you should sign and return the declaration to your landlord within 15 business days to bolster your protections.

    It is very important that you apply for rental assistance within 15 business days of receiving a “pay or quit” notice, or within 15 business days of receiving a notice from the CA COVID-19 Rent Relief program that your landlord has started an application on your behalf.

    It is also recommended that you notify your landlord once you have applied for rental assistance, as this step can help you in both eviction and rental debt collection lawsuits.

Other Things You Need to Know

  • Beginning November 1, 2021, your landlord may sue you for any unpaid rent you owe.
  • Until October 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 May 31, 2023.
  • Landlords who do such things as lock tenants out, remove personal property or shut off utility services to evict a tenant—rather than going through the required court process—can face fines of between $1,000 and $2,500. These penalties are in effect until October 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.