EVICTION MORATORIUM, RENT FREEZE, & OTHER COVID-19 INFO FOR SF TENANTS ONLY

EVICTION MORATORIUM, RENT FREEZE, & OTHER COVID-19 INFO FOR SF TENANTS ONLY

 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed issued (and updated several times, most recently on July 27) a rent payment and eviction moratorium that covers both non-payment of rent during the COVID-19 crisis and evictions, except for those due to violence, threats of violence and health and safety issues.

In her latest order, the term “landlord” includes master tenant or any individual who has the right to recover possession of a residential unit.

Tenants who live with their landlords (lodgers) are covered under this order.

EVICTION MORATORIUM

Nuisance evictions involving violence or threats of violence are the only evictions that can still proceed through the courts. This moratorium extends for 60 days after the mayor’s eviction moratorium order expires. That moratorium expires August 31, 2020. That means the eviction moratorium is in effect until October 31, 2020. This could be extended. If you live in a city outside SF, check out Tenants Together’s CA tenant protections under COVID19, English Version & Spanish Version.

The order applies to all rent-controlled and other private market rental units (those built before and after 79, and single family homes, too), as well as units where the rent is controlled or regulated by the City, including privately held units regulated by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development or the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. It does NOT apply to tourist hotels or a tourist unit of a residential hotel. However, a person cannot be removed from these tourist room if they are self isolating or quarantining during the crisis.

A landlord must attach form 1010 (click here to see it) to any eviction notice sent before the mayor’s order is terminated. It advises a tenant of his/her rights under the moratorium.

NON-PAYMENT OF RENT DUE TO COVID-19

The rent payment moratorium order is in effect until August 31, 2020. All of the rent not paid during the months of the mayor’s moratorium (from March 13 until August 31) would then be due six months later, on February 28, 2021. If this order is not extended, it means that rent is due on September 1, even if you have a COVID-19-related financial hardship. The back rent would not be due until February 28, 2021.

If a tenant can’t pay the July rent because of the financial impacts of the pandemic, he or she should notify their landlord in writing (letter, email or other written communication) within 30 days of the rent being due. This is not required under the mayor’s order, but we think it’s a good idea to do this.

An explanation also can be sent with the letter. It’s not required. Third-party documentation is NOT necessary either, but tenants may provide, if they choose to and if available, documentation, such as a letter from their employer, proof of unemployment insurance claim filing, or other relevant documents. Tenants should, of course, hold onto any documentation they have in case they need it later on.

“Financial impacts” means a substantial loss of household income due to business closure, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, layoffs, or increased expenses related to COVID-19. 

COVID19 Sample Notification Letter to Landlord in English, Spanish and Chinese. See also videos on the virus in English, Spanish and Chinese: https://laesf.org/covid19/ 

Remember (and this may change) back rent is not due until February 28, 2021

The moratorium extends to payments due under existing stipulations/ payment plans for back rents, and any late fees, security deposit, interest or similar amounts that a landlord may be authorized to charge due to delayed or missed payments under the express terms of a lease. Landlords are not allowed to charge late fees or interest on missed rent payments due to the financial impacts of COVID-19.

CAN YOU BE EVICTED FOR NOT PAYING BACK RENT ON FEBRUARY 28, 2021?

Legislation was passed on June 9, 2020 by the SF Board of Supervisors that turns the rent money owed during the pandemic into a consumer debt, rather than a just cause for eviction. 

Under the law, the non-payment of the rent owed for April, May, June, July and August would still be due February 28, 2021, but failure to pay it is not a just cause for eviction. A landlord must go into court to collect it. 

On June 29, landlord groups filed a suit against this law in Superior Court, but the court has struck down that suit. Click here for an article about it.

PAYMENT PLAN

A payment plan can be worked out between a landlord and tenant for the rent money owed due to COVID-19. That plan may waive portions of what the tenant owes, and may grant the tenant additional time to pay beyond the minimum requirements of the order. However, if the tenant fails to comply with a payment plan prior to the six-month deadline, it’s not a just cause to evict. Whether the parties agree or do not agree on a payment plan, the tenant still has six months to pay, which at this moment means February 31, 2021. A tenant cannot waive that right.

A landlord has to apply partial or full payments according to when the rent is due. For example, if a tenant has missed an April rent payment, and then pays rent on May 1, that payment would be applied to the May rent, not the April rent. 

The landlord shall not condition a payment plan on changes to lease terms. Which means a tenant does not need to sign a new lease or a change in lease document.

A landlord can temporarily accept partial payment or lower the rent, but after the crisis, it goes back to the amount it was before the crisis. 

RENT FREEZE FOR RENT-CONTROLLED APTS.

A freeze on rent increases on rent-controlled units during the COVID-19 crisis is now in effect in SF.  Rent increases that are not permitted between April 7, 2020 and August 31, 2020 include all annual, banked, operating and maintenance, and passthroughs allowed under section 37.3(a) of the rent ordinance (for example, capital improvement, general obligation bond, water revenue bond, seismic retrofit and soft story retrofit, and utility passthroughs).

Rent increases that are still allowed include: rent increases on apartments NOT under rent control, apartments under state price control (AB1482), Costa Hawkins increases, and rent increases under section 1.21 of the ordinance where the Rent Board has ruled that the master tenant is no longer in primary residence in the apartment.

During this rent freeze period, a landlord can issue a rent increase notice that affirms the tenant’s anniversary date. The tenant does not need to pay it. The landlord would then have to issue a proper rent increase notice after the crisis that reinstates the prior notice, but doesn’t change the anniversary date. The tenant would NOT be responsible for the rent during the months of the freeze.

A landlord could, however, decide not to reinstate the increase and take it the following year, along with the next year’s increase. For instance, if the rent increase is frozen in May of this year, the landlord sends a letter, but doesn’t reinstate it at the end of the crisis. Next May, he gives next year’s increase plus this year’s 1.8%.

If a tenant pays a rent increase that comes during the crisis, he or she should write the landlord requesting a refund. If there’s any question about the correct amount of the tenant’s rent, he or she can always file an unlawful rent increase petition with the Rent Board.

For units regulated by the Mayor’s Office of Housing or the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, rents cannot be increased until one month after the August 31 order expires, meaning September 30.

SRO TENANTS

The eviction moratorium applies to all people in SROs. An SRO tenant who has not gained tenancy yet (i.e., been in their room for 32 consecutive days to be under the protection of the rent ordinance) cannot be evicted or forced out for nonpayment because of the coronavirus or any other reason, except for nuisance involving violence or threats of violence. However, if they’re in their room for 22 days and they’re protected during the crisis, when it’s over, they are still at day 22 and must physically be in their room until the 32nd day to gain their rights.

THE COURTS

Note: we do not give legal advise. If you receive a UD or eviction notice for nuisance involving violence, threats of violence, or health and safety issues, you should contact the Eviction Defense Collaborative (415-659-9184 or email legal@evictiondefense.org) or talk to a lawyer. 

Unlawful Detainers (UDs) filed prior to the COVID-19 crisis are now being heard in Superior Court, but last Monday (June 22), all of those cases were stayed until August 24. We don’t know if this trend will continue. New UDs — unless they’re for nuisance evictions involving violence or threats of violence or health or safety concerns — are not being processed. They won’t be until there Judicial Council lifts its ruling halting them. We don’t know when that will be. Keep checking this site for updates.

THE SHERIFF

The sheriff is not doing evictions right now. If you have a 5-day notice to vacate from the sheriff, it is stayed for the time being. The department website only says “until further notice.” More info will be posted, as it becomes available.

DEPARTMENT OF BUILDING INSPECTION

As of May 4, all construction work is allowed to resume, provided contractors are complying with the safety protocols (see Appendix B-1 and B-2 of the linked health order) the department has established. 

Inspections are continuing (including building, plumbing, electrical and housing). Inspections can be requested through the department’s online scheduling portal. Link is here.

DBI inspectors are practicing social distancing measures when doing inspections.

For general questions, you can call DBI’s main line at (415) 558-6088 or email dbicustomerservice@sfgov.org.

For technical code questions, please email TechQ@sfgov.org.

If you need to contact a specific DBI division or Program contact, review the Department’s Program Directory here.

RENT GOUGING

During this emergency, rent gouging is not allowed under state law. Landlords cannot charge more than 10% what they were charging February 10, even in non-rent controlled apartments. If your landlord tries to raise the rent above 10%, you should write him or her. It’s a criminal offense under Penal Code Section 396.

RENTAL ASSISTANCE

To reach RADCO for possible rental assistance, (415) 470-5211 or email ​EDCRADCo@evictiondefense.org Leave your name, phone number, address and reason for your call.

UTILITIES: WATER DEPT.

(This is from the SF Water Department website): During these difficult times, SFPUC (SF Public Utilities Commission) will not shut off water or power services due to late payments. SFPUC is also postponing liens and collections during this time. If you are having financial difficulties and need to enter into a payment plan, please email them at customerservice@sfwater.org or call them at (415) 551-3000.

PG&E

Pacific Gas and Electric Company announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has voluntarily implemented a moratorium on service disconnections for non-payment, effective immediately. This suspension will apply to both residential and commercial customers and will remain in effect until further notice. To further support customers who may be impacted by the pandemic, PG&E will offer a payment plan to customers who indicate either an impact or hardship as a result of COVID-19. For customer service, call 1-800-743-5000.

Call our office at 415-703-8634 for more info, or if you have any other questions, and someone will get back to you Monday through Thursday, 1-5pm. The office is closed, but counselors are working from home.  If you live in the Richmond area, you can call Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 9am-12noon, 415-947-9085 for counseling.

This page was last updated on August 5, 2020.