MORONGO BASIN — If you are a tenant who won’t be able to pay rent because of COVID-19 or the government response, the state urges you to act quickly to preserve your rights.
Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order at the end of March that allows tenants affected by COVID-19 to delay their eviction process. It does not exempt anyone from paying rent; it does require landlords to give tenants more time to pay before eviction.
The governor’s order does not stop landlords from filing eviction cases. Until May 31, the order delays eviction cases for tenants who cannot pay rent for reasons related to COVID-19 if the tenants also assert their rights.
Through May 31, a tenant who qualifies has 60 days to submit a response to the eviction lawsuit, instead of the normal five days.
If you are served with an eviction lawsuit, also called an “unlawful detainer,” you should notify your landlord and the court right away that you believe you have a COVID-related inability to pay rent and that you have taken the necessary steps to qualify for the 60-day extension.
Law enforcement is not allowed lock out a tenant who qualifies for protection under the executive order.
Actions tenants must take to be protected
If you can’t pay rent for reasons related to the pandemic:
1. Notify your landlord in writing as soon as possible, and no later than seven days after the rent is due. The notice must be in writing and should say that the tenant is unable to pay the full rent due to reasons related to COVID-19. Find a printable form that you can use at https://tinyurl.com/rentnotice.
2. Gather all documentation that shows your inability to pay so you can prove you are entitled to the protections of the governor’s order. That documentation can include notices of layoffs or reductions in hours, pay stubs, bank statements, medical bills or signed letters from your employer or supervisor explaining the situation.
3. Be prepared to take quick action if your landlord files an eviction case. Affected tenants should consult with legal aid or courthouse self-help clinics. If you receive an eviction notice or lawsuit and need legal guidance, contact your local legal aid organization, which you can find at https://tinyurl.com/CAlegalaid.
Tenants can qualify for the eviction delay for the following reasons:
• You could not work because you were sick with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 or you were caring for a household or family member who was sick with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.
• You were laid off or lost hours or income because of COVID-19, the state of emergency or related government response.
• You had to miss work to care for a child whose school was closed in response to COVID-19.
The attorney general notes tenants still owe rent; if you can afford to pay your rent, you should.
For a guide to the executive order, visit https://oag.ca.gov/system/files/attachments/press-docs/Tenant%20Executive%20Order%20Guide%20UPDATED.pdf.