Protection for Tenants
A number of temporary measures to protect tenants during the public health emergency have been enacted at state, county, and city levels. Making sense of this patchwork of overlapping, sometimes contradictory legislation and policy can be challenging. Bay Legal recommends that tenants:
- Consult the web page, "Resources and News for Tenants During the COVID-19 Emergency," which lays out essential first steps to protect yourself if you are having trouble paying rent during the emergency, and provides links to self-help resources, news, and updates. Check back frequently, as we are updating the page as changes affecting housing law emerge.
- Consult this useful Q&A published by the San Jose Mercury News on April 14, 2020, which quotes housing law attorneys including Bay Legal Senior Attorney Hilda Chan. (The Mercury News’ coronavirus-related coverage is being made available free of charge during the state of emergency).
- Seek legal advice and counsel. Tenants concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on their housing issues:
- [Alameda County residents]: Please call our Tenants Rights Line at 1 (888) 382-3405.
- [All other Bay Area residents]: Please call our Legal Advice Line at 1 (800) 551-5554.
- Read the FAQs for Alameda County Renters’ Rights During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Moratorium on Evictions
On March 24th, the City Council voted unanimously in favor of a temporary suspension of evictions for qualifying residential and commercial tenants in Union City.
The Ordinance prohibits evictions for residential and commercial tenants that can show:
1. Inability to pay rent due to, or arising out of a substantial decrease in household or business income or substantial out-of-pocket medical expenses; and
2. The decrease in income, or out-of-pocket medical expenses, was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, or by any local, state, or federal government response to COVID-19, and is documented in writing.
Qualifying impacts on residential tenants related to COVID-19 include:
• COVID-19 illness or caring for a household or family member with COVID-19 illness
• Work closures, layoffs, job loss, a reduction in the number of compensable hours or other economic or employer impacts
• Missing work due to a minor child’s school closure, compliance with government health authority orders, or other similarly-caused reasons.
Qualifying impacts on commercial tenants related to COVID-19 include:
• Work closures
• Reduction in staff reporting to work
• Reduction in opening hours
• Reduction in consumer demand
• Compliance with government health authority orders
• Other similarly-caused reason resulting in loss of business income
• Tenants have 10 days after rent is due to notify landlord
• Tenant that meets the requirements of the ordinance has an affirmative defense in unlawful detainer proceeding
• The moratorium on rent for a tenant that meets the requirements of the ordinance is in effect until May 31, 2020, the expiration of the local emergency or the Governor’s proclamation of a state of emergency, whichever occurs last
• Tenants will have ninety (90) days from the end of the moratorium to pay any back-due rent
On March 25th, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that financial institutions will provide major financial relief for millions of Californians suffering financially as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. You can read more about the stipulations and participating financial institutions on the COVID-19 state government website.
90-Day Grace Period for Mortgage Payments
Financial institutions will offer, consistent with applicable guidelines, mortgage payment forbearances of up to 90 days to borrowers economically impacted by COVID-19. In addition, those institutions will:
- Provide borrowers a streamlined process to request a forbearance for COVID-19-related reasons, supported with available documentation;
- Confirm approval of and terms of forbearance program; and
- Provide borrowers the opportunity to request additional relief, as practicable, upon continued showing of hardship due to COVID-19.
No Negative Credit Impacts Resulting from Relief
Financial institutions will not report derogatory tradelines (e.g., late payments) to credit reporting agencies, consistent with applicable guidelines, for borrowers taking advantage of COVID-19-related relief.
Moratorium on Initiating Foreclosure Sales or Evictions
For at least 60 days, financial institutions will not initiate foreclosure sales or evictions, consistent with applicable guidelines.
Relief from Fees and Charges
For at least 90 days, financial institutions will waive or refund at least the following for customers who have requested assistance:
- Mortgage-related late fees; and
- Other fees, including early CD withdrawals (subject to applicable federal regulations).
Click here for details on how to apply for relief. Loans held by a financial institution may be serviced by another company.
Property Tax Information
The Alameda County Treasurer-Tax Collector (TTC) plans to work with taxpayers on an individual basis to address hardships caused by the corona virus and the shelter-in-place order.
Beginning after the property tax delinquent date, which remains as April 10th, the TTC office will make available a penalty cancellation request form specifically related to COVID-19. The taxpayers will need to submit the appeal form and to sign a statement, under penalties of perjury, to represent that they were unable to pay on time for reasons related to the impacts of the corona virus from “reasonable cause and circumstances beyond the taxpayer’s control” under current state law. Valid reasons to seek penalty cancellation, which may change if state law changes, may include illness, recent effects from under- or unemployment, and business losses (including loss of rental income). Eligible taxpayers will include homeowners, small businesses, and small landlords. Documentation will be required, specific to COVID-19. A special team in the TTC office will be set up to process these requests, and we will attempt to respond to all requests within 60 days.
The TTC continues to ask all those who are not impacted by COVID-19 to pay by April 10th. The office remains open and operating, receiving mail and answering the phones, but not accepting in-person payments. Payments can be made in many ways, including via on-line and by phone, including credit cards. Online payments can be made at https://acgov.org/propertytax/online.htm. The phone number is 510-272-6800. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
For free and affordable internet options: Click here
Moratorium on all utility disconnections: All CPUC-regulated energy, water, sewer, and communications providers to halt customer disconnections for non-payment. Utilities must also restore service to those whose service was disconnected prior to the CPUC’s March 17, 2020 order. Read more about CPUC’s efforts here.
The California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program provides a 20 to 35 percent discount on utility bills. Many people who have recently lost their job due to COVID-19 will be eligible for the program. Customers just have to call their utility and ask to be enrolled. Information on participating in the program, including monthly income limits, can be found on the CPUC’s website.
What is the Stay Housed Program? (Open to Union City residents!)
The City of Fremont’s Stay Housed Program is designed to assist individuals/families in securing or staying housed using the following approach: a temporary tenant based rental subsidy, and enrollment in the City’s SparkPoint Program. The goal of the program is to help families avoid eviction and prevent homelessness due to a financial crisis, as well as help families maintain their housing long term as they transition from financial instability to self-sufficiency.
What is the SparkPoint Program?
SparkPoint is a financial coaching and asset building initiative coordinated by United Way Bay Area. Tenants work one-on-one with a SparkPoint financial coach, who assists each family to make a financial plan to achieve self-sufficiency. The coach also connects the clients with services provided by partner agencies, such as career coaching and training. This integrated approach is designed to give families useful tools in budgeting and money management, along with opportunities to repair credit, increase income, and save for the future.
How long is the temporary rent subsidy for?
Tenants may receive a rent subsidy for up to 24 months, depending on eligibility.
How does the subsidy work?
The City pays their portion of the rent to the landlord directly every month. From 0-12 months, the tenant pays 30% of their income towards rent. From 13-24 months, the tenant pays 40% of their income on rent.* If the tenant has no source of income, their contribution towards rent is $50.
*The maximum rent contribution the program can provide is the difference between the Fair Market Rent (FMR) and 30% of the family’s adjusted income. If the contract rent exceeds the FMR, the tenant must be willing to pay the difference, in addition to their contribution.
Security deposit assistance may be equal to up to two month’s rent.
What other requirements are there?
The landlord must be willing to sign a contract with the City, provide a W9, and pass a Housing Quality Inspection.
Tenant must recertify every 6 months with Stay Housed staff. During recertification, the tenant must show they are still income eligible, and are still continuing to work with their SparkPoint financial coach.
Residents of Fremont, Newark, Union City, or Hayward, with
- a housing crisis and income at or below 60% of area median income
- income potential that will allow them to cover their entire rent within a short period of time
- a willingness to work with a SparkPoint financial coach
Who I do contact for more information?
Call Carolyn Robertson, SparkPoint Program Coordinator at 510.574.2003.
Centro Legal de la Raza
East Bay Community Law Center
Bay Area Legal Aid
Tenants Rights number: 1(888)-382-3405
Eviction Defense Center
Legal Aid for Landlords/Property Owners
Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA)
Non-Legal Tenant Support
Causa Justa - Just Cause
(general advice in English and Spanish)
(main number/tenant organizing)