December 1, 2020 – During this difficult year, many families are struggling to decide between paying their rent, or buying groceries or diapers. A new law passed recently ensures millions of California renters who are unable to work because of the pandemic have a chance to get back on their feet without fear of immediate eviction, while property owners have a way to recover unpaid rent.

A new tool called “The California COVID-19 Information App for Tenants & Landlords,” which you can access here, helps both tenants and landlords understand their rights, and what protections or support they may have under California law. Download the app for information on eviction protections, rent recovery, and find additional resources.

Here’s what you need to know about California’s protections for tenants, small landlords and homeowners:

Protections for Tenants:

Applications for the San Diego County’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program will be accepted beginning Tuesday, December 1. Applications will be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis and assistance will be paid directly to the landlord. Click here for all eligibility requirements and to apply online.

If you are having trouble paying your rent due to the coronavirus or quarantine and you receive an eviction notice, that does not mean you need to leave immediately. There may be legal protections to help you stay in your home. After receiving a Notice to Pay Rent or Quit for missed rent from the landlord, a tenant has 15 business days to make one of the following choices before the landlord proceeds with an eviction case for unpaid rent:

  • Return a declaration form to the landlord, signed under penalty of perjury, indicating that the tenant cannot pay the demanded amount because of a COVID-19 related financial hardship,
  • Pay the needed amount, or
  • Vacate.

If a tenant returned a signed COVID-relief declaration form between September 1 and January 31, the tenant cannot be evicted for failure to pay rent until February 1, 2021. If the tenant pays 25% of their total rent from September 2020 to January 2021 by January 31, 2021 they cannot be evicted for failure to pay rent. Starting on February 1, 2021 and going forward, tenants must pay their full rent.

However, the tenant still owes their total rent to the landlord. A landlord can take a tenant to small claims court to recover rent debt on March 1, 2021. Tenants who get an eviction filed against them but did not receive a notice from their landlord or have a good reason for not returning the hardship form (for example, because they were in the hospital) can use that reason as defense in an eviction proceeding.

If your landlord is attempting to evict you and you took all the above steps, contact a local legal aid provider and learn about your protections, or take short survey about your circumstance here to find out more about your rights and protections.

Small Landlord and Homeowner Protections:

Homeowners and small property owners (defined as operating four units or less, not occupied by the owner) who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments because of COVID-19 will be covered by the Homeowners Bill of Rights until January 1, 2023. The Homeowners Bill of Rights provides protections and rights to homeowners prior to a foreclosure sale, including requiring mortgage servicers to contact borrowers to explore foreclosure prevention alternatives, and halting the foreclosure process to consider any loan modification application that a borrower submits.

Mortgage servicers that deny a borrower’s request for forbearance on mortgage payments must provide the borrower with a written explanation of the denial.

If you have questions about your rights and protections as a residential landlord, you can find more information here.

For questions on these new protections, accessing unemployment benefits, or for help with other state resources, please contact our office. To speak to someone over the phone, contact our District Office during regular business hours, Monday-Friday: (619) 338-8090. To reach someone by email, contact