COVID-19 Legal FAQs for Renters in

This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information. Your local city or county may have additional protections for renters.

This page was last updated on July 10, 2020. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.

Its information is taken from these sources:Governor's executive orderJudicial Council orderPrinceton Eviction Lab's COVID Policy ScorecardsColumbia Law School COVID-19 Eviction Moratoria analysisEnergy and Policy Institute Utility Disconnect TrackerNolo's page of California emergency tenant protectionsGovernor's extension of local moratorium

COVID-19 Legal FAQs for Renters in California
Are there any special protections for California renters during the emergency? How long do they last?

The California Judicial Council ordered local courts to freeze most eviction proceedings. This went into effect on April 6, 2020. The order is scheduled to end either 90 days after the state of emergency is lifted, or when the Judicial Council says.

California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered that renters facing an eviction lawsuit that started during the state of emergency have an extra 60 days to respond to it, and protects residents from utility shutoffs for non-payment. It went into effect on March 27, 2020. As of the last update, the order ended on May 31, 2020.

Governor Newsom also issued an order giving local governments the authority to halt evictions, slow foreclosures, and protect against utility shutoff until September 30, 2020.

Many local California cities and counties have implemented such eviction freezes and additional protections for renters. Check here to see if any apply to you.

What do the protections mean for renters in California?

The protections mean that through California's state of emergency:

  1. Your landlord can still give you a notice to quit. You still cannot be made to leave without going through the court process. The notice is a warning that your landlord will begin that process as soon as they are legally able to do so.
  2. Your landlord can still file an eviction claim in court against you. If the filing was made between March 27 and May 31, you will have 60 days (rather than the usual 5 days) to respond.
  3. Hearings on eviction are suspended, and the court will not hear an eviction case against you unless there is a health and safety threat. If they are claiming this type of threat, they must let you know about the hearing so you can decide if you want to go.
  4. The court may issue a new order, judgment, or writ of eviction against you if there is a health and safety threat.
  5. Law enforcement may still enforce an existing eviction order against you.
  6. Your utilities cannot be shut off if you do not pay your bills.

Please check if your local California city or county gives you additional protections from eviction. Over 150 local California governments have issued eviction freezes or other protections.

Do I still have to pay rent during COVID-19 in California?

Yes, California renters still need to pay rent during the emergency. If you are unable to pay, you may be protected from eviction during the state of emergency. But after the state of emergency ends, renters will have to pay back rent or face consequences.

Many local California cities and counties give additional protections about how long a renter will have to pay back the rent owed, but not all do. Check here to see if your local government has set a special timeline for paying back rent, or if they have rules to protect you from late fees.

If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:

  1. Communicate with your landlord: Send a written letter or email to your landlord within 7 days of the rent's due date. (You must do this for each missed rent payment). Explain why you cannot pay the rent because of COVID-19 impact. You can also try to negotiate with your landlord to make a payment plan or get a temporary rent reduction. Get help here with drafting and mailing a letter to your landlord. You can also use this letter-writing tool here.
  2. Get written records of all communication: Keep copies of any letter or email you send, and any responses from the landlord. Keep receipts for any payments you make. If you make a payment plan or rent agreement, make sure to get it in writing.
  3. Keep proof of COVID-19 impact on you: Keep any proof of your COVID-19-related employment problems, health care issues, or other issues that affect your ability to pay rent. You may need to use these as evidence to protect yourself against eviction.
  4. Check for help: If you need financial assistance for housing costs, you may be able to get help.
Can my landlord evict me during COVID-19?

California renters cannot be evicted during the emergency. Many local city or county California governments may give you additional protections.

During the emergency period, landlords can still file eviction lawsuits against renters, though the courts will not hear these cases unless it is necessary to protect public health or safety. All pending eviction cases in the courts are delayed for at least 60 days.

If you receive a notice to quit from your landlord, or an eviction lawsuit, reach out for legal help.

Can my utilities be shut off during COVID-19?

California renters' utilities cannot be shut off due to a lack of payment during the state of emergency.

Governor Newsom's Executive Order guarantees that if a person does not pay for utilities during the emergency, their utilities will not be shut off. The California Public Utilities Commission is in charge of guaranteeing this protection.

See more information and resources at CPUC's COVID-19 page.

Renters must still pay their utility bills. If you need financial assistance for utility costs, you may be able to get help.

Landlords are never allowed to shut off a renter's utilities in an attempt to force the renter out. This is illegal. Reach out to a lawyer for help if this happens to you.

Are you eligible for U.S. national protections against eviction?

Renters in 3 categories have special national protections against being evicted during the Emergency Period of March 27, 2020 to July 24 or 25, 2020. These national protections add onto any state and local protections you have.

Do you fit in any of these 3 categories?

Your home’s owner has a federally backed mortgage loan or other guarantee (like through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae). Search if your home is covered.
You pay rent through a federal assistance program like the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, Rural Development Voucher, or other 'covered housing' program.
You live in Public Housing, where the government is your landlord.

If you are a renter in one of these 3 categories, the federal CARES Act section 4024 gives you these protections. (Remember, these protections add onto any state and local protections you have)

  • Your landlord cannot file a new eviction lawsuit against you for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period. They can still evict you for other behavior, like drug abuse, other criminal activities, or other lease violations.
  • Your landlord cannot charge you new fees or penalties for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period.
  • After the Emergency Period ends, your landlord may not be able to evict you immediately.(Different states interpret the protections ending on July 24 or 25. Check with local lawyers to see about your state). If you have not paid your rent in full during the Emergency Period, your landlord must wait until the period ends before giving you a notice to vacate. For example, they may give you a notice on July 26, and you must be allowed until at least August 25 to leave the property.

For more help on these national protections, reach out for legal and financial help here. Also, use this tool to write a letter to your landlord if you are having issues with rent or eviction.

What if I need repairs to my home during COVID-19?

Can I break my lease during COVID-19?

What do I do if my landlord tries to evict me during COVID-19 in California?

Are eviction cases still proceeding through California courts?

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