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Stressed About Paying July Rent? Check Here First

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A row of houses in the Mission District of San Francisco on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. (Photo by Beth LaBerge/KQED) (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

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A previous version of this story was published on June 1.

As California begins the slow, and halted, process of reopening, cities and counties across the Bay Area are extending eviction moratoriums to protect renters who have been financially impacted by regional shelter-in-place orders.

Most of the protections have been in place since the coronavirus pandemic began, to ease the burden of owed rent for tenants, some who have had their hours cut or lost their jobs entirely.

Well over 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since COVID-19 prompted shelter-in-place orders in mid-March. That’s one in four American workers. A recent survey from the U.S. Census Bureau found more than half of California households have lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic. And nationally, more than a fifth of respondents said they had little to no confidence that they would be able to pay their rent or mortgage payments in June.

“It's going to be really difficult for a lot of folks to resume normal rent payments when some of the eviction moratoriums start to expire,” said Michael Trujillo, an attorney at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley.

For now, most Bay Area residents will be protected through July.

That's because the state Judicial Council’s order on April 6 to suspend eviction and foreclosure filings — a de facto moratorium — is still in effect across California.

Sasha Harnden, a policy advocate with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said, "The Judicial Council order is temporary procedural relief meant to prevent what would otherwise happen, which is driving thousands of people to the courthouses at a time when it's really not advisable. It does not provide substantive protections in terms of new defenses a tenant can raise to stay in their homes."

In non-pandemic times, if a landlord wanted to evict a tenant, they would file a three-day notice to pay the rent or be forced to vacate the premises. If the tenant doesn’t respond within the three days, the landlord would file an eviction lawsuit in court. The court would then send the tenant a notice to respond to the lawsuit within five days, or the judge automatically rules in favor of the landlord.

Under the Judicial Council’s order, the courts won’t send that five-day notice until the order is rescinded or expires. It’s currently set to expire 90 days after the governor lifts the state of emergency.

"That's where local protections may come in, depending on where you are," Harnden said.

Cities and counties around the Bay have passed local moratoria that add protections on top of what's provided by the Judicial Council's order.

In most cases, they provide additional protections for tenants by allowing tenants to use the local moratorium as a defense against a future eviction case, once those cases can be filed. And, many of the moratoria provide a time period for tenants to repay back rent —from two months after the expiration of the moratorium in the case of Sonoma County to up to 12 months in the case of Solano County.

For local rules, it all depends on where you live.  Below is a list of the moratoria for the eight Bay Area counties that have them (Napa County does not have its own). San Jose, Oakland and Alameda are among the cities that have passed their own rules -- check here for details.

Alameda County

Expires: 30 days after end of local public health emergency

Repayment term: up to 12 months after end of moratorium

For more info, click here.

Contra Costa County

Expires: July 15

Repayment term: until Nov. 15, 2020

For more info, click here.

Marin County

Expires: June 30

Repayment term: up to 90 days after the end of moratorium

For more info, click here.

San Francisco County

Expires: July 31

Repayment term: until Jan. 31, 2021

For more info, click here.

San Mateo County

Expires: July 28

Repayment term: up to 90 days after the end of state of emergency, with three, one-month extensions

For more info, click here.

Santa Clara County

Expires: July 28

Repayment term: up to 6 months after moratorium ends to repay at least 50% of the past-due rent, and up to 12 months after moratorium ends to repay past-due in full

For more info, click here.

Solano County

Expires: 90 days after state of emergency ends

Repayment term: up to 12 months after state of emergency ends

For more info, click here.

Sonoma County

Expires: 60 days after state of emergency ends

Repayment term: up to two months after state of emergency ends

For more info, click here.

So what else is available to tenants? Here's what we know.

Reminder: There is currently no rent freeze or moratorium on rent in California. So if you can't pay, action is likely required on your part.

And remember: Partial payment of rent does not prevent your landlord or property manager from starting the eviction process, unless you get a written agreement.

Do I have to pay rent?

If you can afford it, yes.

State and local eviction moratoriums do not prevent rent from being due, and local officials are encouraging those who are healthy and employed to pay it.

What do I do if I can't pay rent?

If you can't pay rent due to coronavirus-related circumstances, here's what you should do:

  • Put your case in writing: Declare, in writing, the reason you cannot pay your rent. The advocacy group Tenants Together created this sample letter you can use.
  • Provide specific documentation: Include documents that show your income has been impacted by the pandemic and resulting shelter-in-place orders. That could be a letter or text from your employer detailing a reduction in work hours, pay stubs showing a decrease in wages or some documentation demonstrating a loss of available work opportunity — like decreases in Lyft rides or Postmates deliveries.
  • Submit documents to your landlord or property manager: Ideally, you'd do this before rent is due. So make sure you get it in as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of all documentation for your records: If your landlord decides to pursue the eviction, or take you to small claims court, you'll need these documents. Store them somewhere safe!
  • Reach out to a lawyer or advocate: To get ahead of any potential court proceeding, you can reach out to an attorney or legal aid office ahead of time. Check here for more resources.


How do local and statewide eviction moratoriums work?

In early April, the Judicial Council of California adopted an emergency rule that effectively prevents evictions, other than those necessary for health and safety. This is a much stronger ruling that the statewide eviction moratorium set by Gov. Gavin Newsom in March.

Here's what the new rule does:

  • Prevents a court from issuing a summons after a landlord files an eviction case: Except when necessary to protect health and safety, this means that tenants will not be under the normal five-day response deadline and will instead have time to respond up until the courts' emergency rule is lifted.
  • Prevents default judgments: Normally, if the tenant failed to file a response, the court would issue a default judgment. Often siding with the landlord. This prevents that, except in cases of health and safety. Or if the tenant failed to file a response before the statewide order was lifted.
  • Extends time for trials: If an eviction case is already in process, and the tenant has already responded or appeared, judges must set the hearing for a time that is 60 days after the date requested, unless necessary to set it earlier for health and safety.

You can read more about the rule, including how it applies to foreclosures, here.

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What if I get an eviction notice?

If for some reason you do receive an eviction notice, get in touch with a lawyer or legal aid office as soon as possible. Many local legal aid offices are still operating — albeit remotely — and should have the best resources to help navigate through the particular rules in your city and county.

Here are a few tenant resources you can use for help with an eviction notice:

San Francisco:

Alameda County:

  • East Bay Community Law Center: Call 510-548-4040 to schedule a free legal consultation.
  • Eviction Defense Center: Call 510-452-4541 for free and low-cost legal services.
  • Centro Legal de la Raza: Reach out via 510-437-1554 to request legal consults and assistance.
  • Bay Area Legal Aid: The Housing Unit is available for telephone counsel and advice through the Tenants Rights Line (for Alameda County residents) at 866-346-3405, or the Legal Advice Line at 800-551-5554 (for residents of all other counties in their service area).

Santa Clara County:

San Mateo County:

Tenants Together has also compiled a list of resources for renters here and here.

KQED's Erin Baldassari contributed to this report.
A version of this story was originally published March 31.


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