Getting Evicted in California During the Coronavirus Crisis? Here are Your Rights.

Stephanie Cortes
Over seventeen million people rent apartments or other housing units in California.
On June 30, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom extended an Executive order that allows counties and cities to issue moratoriums on eviction proceedings preventing families and individuals from losing their homes until at least September 30, 2020. 

Cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego have adopted temprorary ban on evictions related to COVID-19 in response to the order issued by Governor Newsom.

The Employment Development Department reported that California’s unemployment improved from 16.4% in May to 14.9% in June.

According to Eviction Lab, “Without further supportive measures to address rental debt, California could see a surge of evictions immediately following the pandemic.” 

Unfortunately, according to Princeton University’s Eviction Lab and Columbia Law School Professor Emily Benfer, California ranks low among states trying to help renters who are on the verge of eviction. 
If you are a tenant in California concerned about being able to pay rent now or in the future, know that you are not alone.
Here are some California-specific answers to the most frequently asked questions we from Court Buddy receive from tenants concerned about paying rent during COVID-19.

Can my landlord evict me if I don’t pay my rent if I’ve lost my job because of COVID-19? 

It depends. 
Fortunately, California Governor has extended an Executive order permitting counties and cities to issue moratoriums that may halt evictions until September 30, 2020.

According to Eviction Lab, “landlords in California can still file to evict tenants for nonpayment of rent in cases where the tenant does not provide documents showing he or she can’t pay rent due to COVID-19.” 

Evictions will depend on your local county or city’s ordinances, such as the following: 
  • On March 25, 2020, San Diego City Council issued a temporary ban on evictions that does not allow landlords to evict a tenant for not paying rent due to the impact of COVID-19 until September 30, 2020.
  • On July 27, 2020, the Mayor of San Francisco issued an order providing protections to tenants such as a ban on evictions until October 31, 2020 unless it is due to threats of violence or health and safety issues.
  • On March 4, 2020, LA County adopted a “tenant bill of rights” that provides financial relief for rent payments if impacted untill September 30, 2020.
If you have not paid past due rent, your landlord may serve you with a  ‘three-day notice to pay rent or quit’. If you receive this eviction notice, seek legal assistance to avoid being locked out.

Can I pay partial rent?

Yes, however, you may still need to pay the full amount of rent indicated on the lease and possibly risk eviction when local moratoriums are lifted. 

If financially impacted by COVID-19, San Francisco is allowing tenants to pay missed rent due until February 28, 2021 for rental payments between March 13 and August 31.

If you are concerned with not being able to pay your upcoming rent, you may try communicating your financial concerns with your landlord to come up with a payment plan, utilizing your security deposit, or possibly reduce your rent. 

It is suggested to have any agreements with your landlord or property manager made in writing. 

What happens if I was already being evicted, or my landlord is threatening to evict me for reasons unrelated to my unpaid charges?

In response to the economic hardship, the federal CARES Act was issued to prevent landlords from filing eviction notices for failure to pay rent until July 25th for some protected properties.  However, the order has now been expired. 

If you were already being evicted in California, hearings may have been rescheduled

On August 13, 2020, California Judicial leaders voted to permit state courts to resume eviction hearings on September 2 for nonpayment.

According to the Eviction Lab, “Law enforcement in California cannot enforce an order to remove a tenant who has experienced financial hardship due to the pandemic.”

If you are concerned about being evicted, communicate with your landlord.

For additional resources, including rent relief sample letters to provide to your landlord, visit Court Buddy’s Landlord-Tenant resources page. 

Can my landlord charge me late fees?


 Landlords in California have not been prohibited from charginng tenants late fees.

Can my landlord lock me out?

Your landlord can't just lock you out randomly. But a landlord can have you removed if they've gone through the legal process. 

Eviction Lab states, "Law enforcement in California can still remove tenants from homes to enforce non-emergency eviction orders, except for tenants who have experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19.”

I rent a low-income housing unit in California. Are there any additional protections or relief programs available to me?

It is suggested by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that “voucher and public housing participants who lost their job or had a significant loss of income request an ‘interim reexamination’ with the housing authority as soon as possible.”

The HUD states that rent can be adjusted to reflect the change of income or you may qualify for a financial hardship exemption. Housing authorities may also share additional local resources.  

This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.

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