A Guide to Bay Area Eviction Moratoriums During the Coronavirus Crisis

Several San Francisco city supervisors proposed a package of measures Tuesday, including banning evictions during the current public health crisis and creating an emergency fund for small businesses hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Updated 6:20 p.m. Friday, March 27

Tenants who’ve been laid off, furloughed, or seen their hours slashed due to the coronavirus pandemic were told they'd get some relief under a statewide moratorium on eviction enforcement announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday. Newsom's move came after advocacy organizations and some state lawmakers made repeated calls to the governor to provide protection to renters while residents are being told to shelter in place.

Newsom's moratorium, which goes into effect immediately, ostensibly bans the enforcement of eviction orders through May 31 and prohibits landlords from evicting tenants if they’re unable to pay rent because they’ve contracted COVID-19, are caring for someone who has, have lost wages due to the statewide shelter-in-place order or have had to miss work to care for a child who is no longer in school or daycare.

Tenants rights groups and some lawmakers, however, were quick to sharply criticize Newsom's moratorium, calling it misleading. They said although it’s being billed as a moratorium on evictions, the order only delays a tenant's legal window for responding to an eviction filing in court, and that it doesn’t stop new evictions from being filed. Evictions unrelated to COVID-19, such as owner-move-in under the Ellis Act or for any breach of the lease unrelated to rent payments, would still be allowed.

Newsom’s order won’t preempt any measures from cities or counties that offer more protection than the statewide order.

Here are some answers to common questions about renters and tenants protections in the Bay Area:

What do the eviction moratoriums do?

A number of cities and counties across the Bay Area, as well as states nationwide, have passed their own restrictions on evictions. Some go further than others in terms of tenant protections.

In San Francisco, landlords are barred from removing tenants who can’t make rent this month because of reduced income or job loss due to COVID-19. Some examples of that are layoffs due to the shelter-in-place order or from being quarantined, sick or having to pay for medical expenses. The city's eviction moratorium is in place for 30 days, and renters have an additional month to pay back rent or apply for an extension. Mayor London Breed also has the authority to extend the order, if necessary.

In Santa Clara, a temporary moratorium covers residential and small business tenants within the county limits. The order, which was approved on Tuesday, lasts until May 31 and gives tenants an additional 120 days to pay back rent, if they have lost income related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Oakland City Council is holding a special meeting Friday to consider a proposed emergency ordinance that would ban evictions against tenants for any reason, also known as just-cause evictions, until May 31. An exception is if a tenant poses an imminent threat to the health or safety of others on the property. In addition, the proposed moratorium would ban rent increases, late payment fees and evictions for residential and commercial tenants due to coronavirus-related job loss or income reduction.

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Evictions already filed in San Francisco and Alameda counties will also be on hold, for now. Both counties' superior courts and sheriff's offices say ongoing evictions won’t be enforced during the shelter-in-place order.

Because local governments have the authority to introduce their own moratorium on evictions, the rules vary depending on where you live. Please visit the website for the city or county that you live in for more information.

Do I have to pay rent on April 1?

Yes, rent is still due, if you can afford to pay it. City and county officials are urging those who are still healthy and employed to continue their monthly rent payments.

Temporary eviction bans do not mean rent payments have been waived, and once the public health crisis is over, renters will be expected to pay back rent.

If you cannot make rent on April 1 due to coronavirus-related circumstances, like a reduction in hours or loss of employment, you must declare in writing the reason you cannot pay – and provide documentation – no more than seven days after rent is due.

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How do I prove I lost income during COVID-19?

Both the new statewide eviction enforcement moratorium and most of the local moratoriums passed in the Bay Area only apply to tenants who have been financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, which means it’s up to the renter to demonstrate proof of lost income. That could be a recent pay stub that shows a loss of hours. It could also be a letter or a text from your employer, showing the business has closed or an application for unemployment.

Gig workers could show a loss in Lyft rides or Postmates deliveries. With many districts closing schools, according to some of the ordinances, tenants could prove their inability to pay rent because they had to stay home from work to care for their children or increased expenses for child care.

Again, tenants need to submit documentation within one week of informing their landlord they won’t be making April rent.

What do I do if I receive an eviction notice during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Tenants who need help with fighting an eviction should immediately contact a local legal aid office. In addition to the statewide eviction enforcement moratorium, most of the local COVID-19 tenant protections vary in strength and depend on where you live. For example, the California moratorium as well as moratoriums in Santa Clara County and San Francisco only protect tenants facing nonpayment and no-fault evictions because of the coronavirus crisis. Landlords can still file an eviction against you, also known as an unlawful detainer, for other reasons like causing a nuisance or damaging property, or if it’s a matter involving violence.

If you do receive an eviction of any kind, tenant advocacy agencies say they are still open and operating in the Bay Area, although most have transitioned their clinics to remote work. They can still be reached by email, phone or on social media.

What tenant resources are there, and where can I go to get help with an eviction?

San Francisco:

  • Eviction Defense Collaborative, (415) 947-0797
  • Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, (415) 703-8644
  • San Francisco Tenants Union, (415) 282-6622
  • Chinatown Community Development Center, (415) 984-2728

Alameda County:

  • East Bay Community Law Center: (510) 548-4040, ext. 629
  • Eviction Defense Center: (510) 452 4541
  • Centro Legal de la Raza: (510) 437-1554
  • Bay Area Legal Aid: (888) 382-3405

Santa Clara:

  • Law Foundation of Silicon Valley (408) 280-2424
  • Sacred Heart Community Services, (408) 278-2166

San Mateo:

  • Legal Aid of San Mateo, (650) 558-0915

For more tenant assistance, the statewide advocacy nonprofit Tenants Together has a list of other available resources.

KQED staff writer Erin Baldassari contributed to this story. This story has been updated.