SB91 Know Your Rights - Housing Now! California

California Eviction Protections during the Covid-19 Pandemic

On January 28, 2021, the California legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 91 which extended eviction protections which were first passed through AB 3088 in September 2020. The law creates eviction protections for tenants that have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Broadly speaking, tenants who have lost income due to COVID, may not be evicted for non-payment of rent through July 1, 2021.  

Rent debt owed between March 2020 through August 31, 2020 is converted into consumer debt  and can never be the basis for an eviction (if the tenant follows all requirements). The debt is however, collectable through other means such as small claims and regular civil court. However, the landlord may not seek the debt owed until July 1, 2021. 

Tenants who were unable to pay their rent from September 2020- June 30, 2021,are required  to pay at least 25% of their rent from this period before June 30, 2021 in order to avoid eviction. The remaining 75% of rent will be converted to consumer debt. 

Is the Rent Cancelled?

Sort of.  SB 91 created a robust rental assistance program for tenants who make less than 80% of the area median income. In many areas, landlords may apply for rental assistance and if they agree to waive 20% of the rent owed, the government will pay the other 80% of the money owed. If they do, then the tenant’s consumer debt for that period will be gone.  

If the landlord refuses the program, a tenant will be able to apply to the same fund for the 25% payment. 

Tenants must provide a signed declaration of COVID-19 related financial distress if given a pay or quit notice by their landlord

If you can’t pay your rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic, your landlord must give you a 15-day notice to pay rent or quit before filing an eviction lawsuit for failure to pay rent.

If you receive a 15-day notice, within 15 days you must give your landlord a signed declaration that says that you cannot pay rent because of COVID-19.

A declaration that complies with the law is available here (Courtesy of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment-ACCE).

If you give this declaration to your landlord, we recommend sending it by certified mail so that you have evidence that you send it. You should send this declaration to your landlord each time you receive a 15-day notice to pay rent or quit. Make a copy of the declaration after you sign it and keep proof that you sent this notice each time -- like your certified mail receipt.

Paying your Rent

If you owe rent that was due from March 1, 2020 - August 31, 2020: If you return the declaration to your landlord in time, you cannot be evicted for not paying this rent. 

If you owe that was due from September 1, 2020 - June 30, 2021. You will need to pay 25% of the total rent between September 2020 and June 2021 no later than June 30, 2021. The other 75% of rent is converted into consumer debt. You may be able to qualify for a rent assistance program through your city, county, or the state that will pay some or all of your back rent.

If you receive an eviction notice or summons for an eviction lawsuit, or notice to vacate, seek legal help immediately. 

A state rent assistance program will be set up by March 2021. If you were unable to pay rent because of the pandemic, you should apply for funding. Depending on where you live, you will either be able to apply through a local program or through a program administered by the state. 

Other Types of Evictions

State law protects tenants from “no cause” evictions until July 1, 2021. 

Your city or county may also have passed stronger protections than state law for other types of evictions or even for tenants who can’t pay rent. 

Legal Resources

You can find legal services organizations in your area here or check out Tenant's Together Local Resource Directory here.