Eviction Moratorium during the COVID-19 Pandemic

With COVID-19 ravaging the world, there is an eviction moratorium in many counties the Bay Area. Here we breakdown the current state of the law on evictions and the options for tenants facing financial hardship during the pandemic.

SAN FRANCISCO

Eviction Moratorium for Non-Payment of Rent 

In March San Francisco issued an order placing a moratorium on evictions for non payment of rent where a tenant cannot pay rent due to the COVID-19 crises. The order is currently slated to continue until April 22, 2020. As we are still in the midst of the shelter-in-place order, it is highly like this moratorium will be extended.

If you’re unable to pay rent due to the financial impact of the crises you can defer rent payments for up to six months provided ALL of the below requirements are met:

  1. The rent that you owe was due AFTER March 13, 2020 and before the Mayor’s Order expires;
  2. You couldn’t pay rent because of the financial impact of the COVID-19 crises;
  3. Notify the landlord (ideally in writing) within thirty days of when the rent was due that you can’t pay rent due to the financial impact of the crises; AND
  4. Within seven days after notifying your landlord, provide documents / other verifiable information showing that your inability to pay rent is due to the financial impact of COVID-19

Note that for each month that you are unable to pay rent, you must repeat steps three and four above again. Currently there are no details on what constitutes proper documentation of a tenant’s inability to pay rent. Presumably a letter from your employer, or paystub reflecting a reduced number of hours would be sufficient. Realistically it seems doubtful that a landlord would be able to take action to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent even if the tenant failed to provide documentation.

What Constitutes “Financial Impact?”

“Financial impact” includes reduced income due to factors such as work hours, temporary business closure or slowdown, layoffs, and/or increased expenses, related to COVID-19.

What Happens at the End of the Six Months?

Tenants have six months after the eviction moratorium is rescinded to pay the rent owed. Your landlord cannot attempt to collect the missed rent payment before the six month time period has expired. Technically the entirety of the rent owed will become due at the end of the period. Currently, “six months from the expiration of the mayor’s order” is October 22, 2020 (though again, this could change). Landlords will likely work with you to put together a payment plan since most people won’t just all of a sudden have six months worth of rent saved up to pay come October. Supervisor Dean Preston is currently working on legislation that would wipe out a tenant’s obligation to pay back rent if they were impacted by COVID-19 but this is still a work in progress.

Should I stop paying rent?

Only if you really can’t afford to pay. For now, if you can afford to pay some or all of your rent, we do recommend that you do so since the current laws do not waive your obligation to pay the rent at a later date. Not paying your rent also only shifts the problem to the landlord, who then doesn’t pay the bank and so on.

Can I get Evicted for other reasons still?

Probably not. San Francisco has put in place a temporary moratorium on ALL residential evictions if the eviction falls within sixty days after the Mayor’s Order expires. Using the April 22, 2020 expiration date that is currently in place, that would mean the moratorium would extend through June 21, 2020.

The eviction moratorium DOES NOT apply to those related to violence/threats of violence, health and safety issues for obvious reasons, nor does it apply to Ellis Act Evictions (because this is a state law and the city does not have the authority to supersede state law). This means that if your landlord is trying to evict you for an owner-move-in eviction, or any of the other “just cause” eviction reasons listed in the San Francisco Rent Ordinance other than nuisance (where violence/health and safety violations come into play) or for the Ellis Act (because it is a state law), they aren’t going to be able to get you out for so long as the city’s moratorium is in place.

Does the Eviction Moratorium Apply to New Buildings?

Yes. On March 23, 2020, Mayor Breed amended the temporary eviction moratorium to rental units that are exempt from the Rent Ordinance (I.e. units / buildings built after June 1979 and public housing)

What if I am Involved in an Eviction Lawsuit that has already been filed with the Court?

If you were dealing with an existing eviction issue when the COVID-19 crises hit San Francisco, there is a delay on all court proceedings. San Francisco Superior Court has stayed all eviction cases for ninety (90) days – again with the exception of cases related to violence or health and safety issues. Currently San Francisco Superior Court is open but deadlines for discovery and motions have been extended. For more information on the logistics of the Courts check the city website or contact an attorney.

Oakland

Oakland also passed an eviction moratorium for residential renters, which prohibits most evictions, effective immediately and continuing through May 31, 2020, unless extended by the City Council. The moratorium also prohibits residential rent increases above 3.5% and prohibits any late fees related to COVID-19 issues in residential units. Unpaid rent will still be due, and the moratorium does not relieve tenants of the obligation to pay unpaid back rent in the future. More more information check out: https://www.oaklandca.gov/resources/emergency-moratorium-on-residential-rent-increases-and-evictions

Berkeley

Berkeley City Council placed a moratorium on residential evictions for failure to pay rent due to financial impacts related to COVID-19 during the state of emergency and on no-fault evictions other than Ellis Act evictions. For more information check out: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Rent_Stabilization_Board/Home/Can_t_Pay_Rent_Due_to_COVID-19_.aspx

Additional Information & Resources

If you’re in need of rental assistance, please contact Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco at (415) 703-8644, Chinatown Community Development Center at (415) 984-2728, San Francisco Tenants Union at (415) 282-6622, or visit the San Francisco Anti-Displacement Coalition’s website: www.sfadc.org

San Francisco tenants can also contact 211 for local rental assistance agencies. Catholic Charities and your local Salvation Army may also have rental assistance opportunities.