5 things renters must know about their COVID eviction protections

By Public Advocates, ACCE, Housing Now! California

It’s been almost a year since the start of the pandemic and California renters are hurting. A new law signed on January 29, 2021, provides important protections AND debt forgiveness for renters. Here are five things you must know about Senate Bill 91:

1. Many renters impacted by COVID are protected from non-payment evictions if they fill out a declaration form

If you can’t pay your rent because of COVID, your landlord must give you a 15-day notice to pay rent before filing an eviction lawsuit. If you receive a 15-day notice, within 15 days you must give your landlord a signed declaration form that says that you cannot pay rent because of COVID-19. A declaration form that complies with the law is available here. For unpaid rent between September 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021, you will also need to pay at least 25% of your rent by June 30, 2021, to be protected from eviction. The state is finalizing the details for the application process. Some big cities and counties also have their own rent relief funds with different rules.

2. There is $2.6 billion to forgive rent

Yes, it’s true! There is money to forgive rent! The state’s fund would allow landlords to apply to get 80% of unpaid rent from the government if they waive the remaining 20%. If landlords decide not to apply for this funding, tenants will be able to apply directly to the state to cover the 25% required to protect against evictions.

3. Landlords cannot consider any missed rent payments when they are looking at your apartment application

Landlords are prohibited from considering rental debt accrued between March 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, as a negative factor when evaluating a renter’s application to rent.

4. Landlords cannot charge late fees or interest

Landlords are prohibited from charging fees or interest for unpaid rent that came due between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.

5. Landlords cannot sue tenants to recover unpaid rent

Landlords cannot sue tenants in court to recover unpaid rent or sell or assign that debt to a third party until July 1, 2021, and refusal to apply to state funds can be used against them by the judge.

Senate Bill 91 is a good first step, but it’s far from enough. Even with this law, millions of renters could be facing a mountain of rental debt, through no fault of their own, that they will never be able to pay off and that will follow them for years. Our organizations will continue fighting to ensure that NO renter in California is evicted or saddled with rental debt for rent that they’re unable to pay during the pandemic.

Click here for updates on our work to stop COVID evictions.

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