A HANDY GUIDE TO THE RIGHTS OF SAN FRANCISCO TENANTS DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS
Here’s a guide to your rights as a tenant affected by COVID-19. This guide only applies to San Francisco tenants. If you live outside SF, contact Tenants Together.
For the latest updates, watch this site, or call one of our counseling lines: 415-703-8644 (Mon.-Thurs., 1-5pm) or 415-947-9085 (Mon., Wed., Thurs. and Fri., 9am-noon).
Probably the most important question on the minds of tenants impacted by COVID-19 is what happens after September 30, when the eviction moratorium for nonpayment of rent due to the pandemic ends in California. No extensions of the moratorium are expected.
First of all, full rent is due October 1. That’s for everyone, including tenants impacted by COVID. If you can’t pay your full rent each month between October 2021 and March 2022, your landlord can try to evict you. However, you might stop or delay an eviction by applying for and receiving rental assistance from the state. The city program has merged with the state’s, see details in “rent relief program” below.
3 TIME PERIODS WHEN YOU MIGHT OWE RENT
There are three time periods when you might owe back rent, and the rules for each of them differ.
The first is the one mentioned above — October 2021 to March 2022.
This second is September 2020 to September 2021. You should be OK if, by September 30, you’ve paid at least 25% of your rent that became due between September 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021. You must have sent your landlord the declaration that the pandemic prevented you from paying that rent. You can find the declaration here. This applies especially if you received a 15-day notice to pay or quit.
The remaining 75% of the rent is due by October 31. Your landlord cannot evict you for nonpayment of the 75%. They will have to sue you in Small Claims Court, starting November 1.
What if you can’t pay 25% of the rent you owe by September 30? In that case, the landlord can sue you for eviction in Superior Court. However, filing for rent relief from the state (https://housing.ca.gov/covid_
THIRD TIME PERIOD
The third time period is March 1, 2020 through August 31, 2020.
You cannot be evicted for rent due during this period if you have submitted, in a timely fashion, a single declaration of hardship to the landlord. This is true even if you did not pay 25% of the rent due. You still owe that rent, but the landlord must go to Small Claims Court to collect it.
SAMPLE LETTER TO LANDLORD
Below is a sample letter notifying your landlord that you’ve filed for help from the rent relief program. Remember to save a copy for your records. You can also find alternative sample letters from the state, translated into many languages, at Resources for Renters/Landlords. Link is here.
Subject: Notification of Submission of CA COVID-19 Rent Relief Application
Dear [Insert Landlord Name],
I am writing to inform you that I have submitted my portion of the application for the State of California’s CA COVID-19 Rent Relief program to cover any unpaid rent which I might owe. I have already met the eligibility requirements and supplied the necessary paperwork to prove eligibility.
If you have not already submitted your portion, you will receive a notification in your email with a link to our application. To learn more and apply, visit HousingIsKey.com or call 833-430-2122.
Under the COVID-19 Rental Housing Recovery Act, Code of Civil Procedure section 1179.11 (a), a court shall not proceed with an eviction case on this unpaid rent while the rental assistance is processed and issued to you.
OTHER INFO ON UNPAID RENT
Landlords cannot charge late fees for rent due because of COVID-related hardships.
No rolling ledgers. Landlord can only apply monthly rent payments to current month’s rent, unless the tenant agrees otherwise in writing.
Landlords cannot apply the security deposit to unpaid rent unless the tenant agrees.
Landlords and screening services cannot use credit reports of COVID rental debt to deny future housing.
Landlords can sue in Small Claims Court starting November 1. The usual dollar limit of 10,000 is waived for COVID-related debts.
RENT RELIEF PROGRAM
San Francisco has merged the local Rental Assistance Program with the State Rent Relief program. This means all tenants should apply for help at https://housing.ca.gov/covid_rr/index.html or call 833-430-2122. Tenants will now be eligible for up to 18 months of assistance for rent and/or utilities through the state program, including 3 months of future rent.
If you applied for the city program, you should get an email soon explaining the process to transfer your application.
If you’ve only applied to the city program, a city implementor organization should follow up with you to help you apply for state rent relief. Or you can call the state program at 833-430-2122. Tell them you haven’t heard from the city and you want to file the state application.
If you’ve already applied to the state program, you can contact the state program directly at 833-430-2122 to ask for the full 18 months of assistance.
If you haven’t already applied for the state fund, you need to initiate an application with the state relief fund.
If you’ve received state funds and need additional funds, you should apply again.
HELP WITH THE APPLICATION
Housing Rights Committee cannot help you with the actual application. We can, however, counsel you on rent relief and the eviction moratorium. Here’s a list of San Francisco organizations that can help with filling out the actual application:
Bill Sorro Housing Program (BiSHoP): 415-513-5177, firstname.lastname@example.org. Languages: English, Spanish, Arabic. Can help with filling out applications.
Chinatown Community Development Center: 415-984-2749. Languages: Cantonese and Mandarin. Can help with filling out applications.
La Voz Latina/ Catholic Charities: in-person help at 456 Ellis, call 415-983-3970 or email email@example.com to schedule an appointment. Languages: English, Spanish. Can help with filling out applications.
SOMCAN: 415-552-5637, firstname.lastname@example.org. Languages: English, Filipino. Can offer help with filling out applications.
You must meet all these qualifications:
You must be a tenant residing in California with unpaid rent or utilities, and have experienced financial hardship related to COVID.
You must have a COVID-related hardship, meaning that you qualified for unemployment benefits, experienced decreased income, significant COVID-related costs, or other COVID-related financial hardship.
In addition, you must have an increased risk of homelessness or housing instability, meaning that you have a past-due rent or an eviction notice, live under unsafe or unhealthy conditions, or any other other evidence of such risk.
Finally, you have a household income that is at or below 80% of the area median income (AMI). Here’s a list of that AMI:
For 1 person, $102,450/ For 2 people, $117,100/ For 3 people, $131,750/For 4 people, $146,350/ For 5 people, $158,100/ For 6 people, $169,800/For 7 people, $181,500/ For 8 people, $193,200.
Note that tenants are eligible regardless of immigration status.
EVICTION AFTER SEPT. 30
Beginning Oct. 1, landlords can issue a 3-day notice to pay or quit. After that notice expires, they must sue you for eviction in Superior Court. The court, however, probably won’t evict you unless the landlord does all of the following:
Gives you a written explanation of how to apply for rent relief and tells you to do so within 15 days.
Certifies to the court that they (the landlord) has applied for rent relief and the governing agency denied it, or they applied for rent relief, but you (the tenant) did not notify them that you had also applied for rental assistance. This applies to rent due between October 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022.
After your application for assistance has been approved, the court will set a hearing on the matter within 5-10 days, stay the execution of the eviction, and notify the Sheriff.
Once the rental assistance has been paid in full to the landlord, the eviction action will be dismissed.
SHOWING AN APT. OR HOUSE
Here’s what the Department of Public Health’s website has to say about a landlord or realtor showing an apartment or house during the COVID-19 pandemic:
“Service providers that enable real estate transactions (including rentals, leases, and home sales), including, but not limited to, real estate agents, escrow agents, notaries, and title companies, provided that appointments and other residential real estate viewings must only occur virtually or, if a virtual viewing is not feasible, by appointment with no more than two visitors at a time residing within the same Household and one individual showing the unit (except that in person visits are not allowed when the occupant is present in the Residence).” (Amended January 27, 2021.)
DEPT. OF BUILDING INSPECTIONS
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.
DBI’s office is partially closed due to COVID. To schedule an inspection, you can call (628) 652-3401 or go online. If you need to contact a specific DBI division or Program contact, review the Department’s Program Directory here.
updated on September 15, 2021