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 3, 2020. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.
Its information is taken from these sources:Contra Costa eviction and rent moratoriumTenant Together CA trackerNolo California emergency tenant protection pageNolo California emergency tenant protection pageContra Costa order 5/26/20Contra Costa government eviction FAQ
- Are there any special laws for renters in Contra Costa County? How long do they last?
Contra Costa County has an eviction moratorium that stops renters from being evicted for nonpayment of rent, if they can prove that they couldn't pay because of COVID-19 hardships. It also stops landlords from evicting tenants without cause or because they have family members living with them during the emergency.
The county's emergency law also stops landlords from increasing the rent, in some cases.
This moratorium went into effect on March 16, 2020 and ends on July 15, 2020. It applies to eviction lawsuits or notices of termination that were served or filed after March 15, 2020. This date may be extended, check here for updates.
- These county laws may not apply to Contra Costa County renters who live in cities that have passed their own protections. For example, residents of the cities of Antioch, Concord, El Cerrito, Pittsburg, and Richmond have city-level protections, and if the city protections concern the same topics of eviction or rent payments -- the city rules override the county rules. Check here for what your local city rules might be.
- These county protections add onto your state and national protections. Be sure to read on below to learn about your state and national protections.
- Reach out for legal help to learn more about your local protections and answer your specific questions.
- What protections do these laws give Contra Costa renters during the emergency?
The local eviction moratorium gives Contra Costa County renters the following protections during the emergency period:
1. Eviction Protection
You are protected from eviction for nonpayment of rent, if related to COVID-19. During the moratorium period, you are protected from eviction if you didn't pay your rent because of a COVID-19 financial hardship, like business closure, loss of hours or wages, layoffs, or out-of-pocket medical costs.
To get this protection, you must write to your landlord, be able to prove your COVID-19 hardship, and provide documentation of it. You should give notice of your inability to pay no later than 14 days after the rent is due, or after receiving a notice of termination of the tenancy from your landlord. Get help here for drafting and mailing a letter to your landlord.
You are protected from eviction for having immediate family members live with you because of COVID-19. Your landlord may not evict you for unauthorized people living with you, as long as they are members of your immediate family and they are living there because of COVID-19.
You are mostly protected from eviction for 'no-fault' reasons. Your landlord cannot evict you if you have not violated your lease terms, except if there are special circumstances. These exceptions include if the homeowner or their immediate family will move into the home, or if it's necessary to protect the owner or another renter's health or safety.
2. Rent, Fees, and Payback Period
You still owe all rent, but you have extra time to pay the rent you can't pay because of COVID-19 hardships.
You have 120 days after the emergency period ends to repay rent that you hadn't paid because of COVID-19 hardships. Currently, that means that you will have until November 15, 2020 to repay rent. Your landlord may agree to a longer time period if you need more time.
You are protected from late fees for rent you do not pay during the emergency. Your landlord cannot charge late fees for unpaid rent during this 120 days.
Some renters are protected from rent raises. In most cases, landlords cannot raise your rent during the emergency period, between April 21, 2020 through July 15, 2020. This rent freeze does not apply to properties that are exempt from local rent control under state laws. For example, the rent freeze does not apply to homes built after February 1995, or to single-family homes and condos. Check this page from Contra Costa's government to see if your home might be exempt from a rent freeze under state law.
Find legal help and financial assistance to help deal with any housing problems you're dealing with.
Your Statewide Protections in California, USA
- Are there any special protections for California renters during the COVID-19 emergency?
Yes, California Governor Newsom signed law AB 3088 that bans evictions of tenants who can't pay rent due to COVID-19 hardships through February 1, 2021. The missed COVID-19 hardship must have occurred between September 1, 2020 and January 3, 2021. The renters must pay at least 25% of their rent to avoid eviction. Read more about California's protections here.
The California Judicial Council has also 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.
Previously, Governor Newsom had 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.
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:
- 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.
- Your landlord can still file an eviction claim in court against you. If the filing was made after March 27, you may have a longer period to respond (rather than the usual 5 day deadline).
- Hearings on eviction are suspended or delayed, 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.
- You cannot be removed from your home if you have a COVID-19 hardship, and you've filled in the declaration of hardship. (For hardships between Sept. 1 and January 31st, you must also pay 25% of your rent to be protected).
- 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.
You may also have US national protections against eviction through the CDC Eviction Moratorium through December 31, 2020. Check here to see if you get these national 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.
To be protected from evictionunder law AB 3088, renters need to pay at least 25% of the rent they owe to their landlord to be protected from eviction.
After the state of emergency ends, renters will have to pay back all 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, if they have a COVID-19 hardship and are paying at least 25% of their rent. 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.
- You may also have U.S. national protections against eviction that last through December 31, 2020. Check here below to see if you are eligible for them.
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.
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 eviction protections under the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
What is the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
The CDC Eviction Moratorium orders that renters should be protected from eviction if they are unable to pay their rent due to hardships like job loss, income loss, or medical expenses. This protection lasts from September 4, 2020 through December 31, 2020.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium is not automatic protection against eviction. Renters need to fill in a Declaration document and give it to their landlord to get the protection.
Landlords may still try to file an eviction lawsuit against renters, but renters can use the moratorium to defend themselves in court.
Do you qualify for protection under the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
The CDC Eviction Moratorium applies to people who:
- Rent a home in the United States; AND
- Make less than $99,000 (or $198,000 if you file a joint tax return); AND
- Are facing eviction based on nonpayment of rent (not for other problems, like lease violations or criminal activity); AND
- Can show they’re unable to pay rent because they’ve had a financial hardship, like losing a job, decrease in income, or medical bills; AND
- Can show that they’ve been trying their hardest to pay their rent and find any rental assistance; AND
- Can show that they’re at risk of homelessness if they were to be evicted.
If you live in a state, county, or city that has an eviction moratorium, the CDC Eviction Moratorium doesn’t replace this local one. It adds on top of your local protections.
What does the CDC Eviction Moratorium get you?
The CDC Eviction moratorium can stop an eviction proceeding against you. It could stop your landlord from removing you from your home, or from a court giving your landlord an eviction order through Dec. 31, 2020.
- If your landlord has already started an eviction lawsuit against you, you can use the CDC Eviction Moratorium as a defense in court.
- You can use the Declaration form to tell your landlord that you are protected from eviction, and to ask the court to stop the eviction.
- You must follow the process below to be protected by the CDC Eviction Moratorium.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium does NOT get you rent relief:
- Even if you fill in the Declaration, this does not cancel rent that you owe, or stop rent or late fees from building up.
- After the CDC Moratorium expires on Dec. 31, 2020, you may be evicted for the rent that you owe.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium may NOT stop a landlord from suing you:
- Even after you fill in the Declaration and send it to your landlord, they might still file an eviction lawsuit against you.
- You can bring the Declaration to the court eviction hearing, to ask the court to stop the eviction.
- Call a local lawyer for help if your landlord sues you for eviction.
How do you use the CDC Eviction Moratorium to protect yourself?
To secure CDC Eviction Moratorium protection, follow these steps:
- Apply for rental assistance. Look for any rental and utility assistance in your area, and submit applications to these programs. Find local assistance programs here.
- Fill out Declarations. You and every adult in the household need to fill out a Declaration about your financial hardships and your attempts to get assistance. In the Declaration, you must say that you are telling the truth and that you may face legal consequences if you are lying. You can use this guide for help with the Declaration.
- Send the Declarations to your landlord, and also tell the landlord that you will do your best to pay when you can. Keep a copy of the Declarations, as well as any receipt or documentation that you have sent it to your landlord (like email receipt or screenshots of the message). These can be useful evidence that you followed the process correctly.
- Protections through Dec. 31st. After you send this, your landlord cannot remove you from your home for nonpayment of rent through December 31, 2020. They are also never allowed to harass or intimidate you, or force you to leave the home without a court order.
- If your landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against you, you can bring your Declarations to the court to ask them to stop the lawsuit. Contact a legal aid lawyer to help you with the lawsuit. Please note: Your landlord can still evict you for reasons other than nonpayment of rent, like for engaging in criminal activity in the home, violating building codes or health ordinances, or threatening the health and safety of other residents.
- You will continue to owe your rent. Try to make a plan about how you will take care of all the rent you owe. At the end of the Eviction Moratorium protections on Dec. 31, 2020, you will no longer be protected from being evicted.
- Make sure you know your lease and its terms. Some landlords may try to evict you based on violations of the terms in your lease. If you know your lease, you can protect yourself by making sure you do not break any of its terms.
If your landlord is trying to evict you, you should contact a legal aid attorney who helps with evictions. The CDC Eviction Moratorium might give you protections that lawyers can help you with.