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 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.
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 between March 27 and May 31, you will have 60 days (rather than the usual 5 days) to respond.
- 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.
- The court may issue a new order, judgment, or writ of eviction against you if there is a health and safety threat.
- Law enforcement may still enforce an existing eviction order against you.
- 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:
- 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. 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 July 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 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.