If you are a renter who has experienced COVID-related setbacks and you are behind on your rent, there are laws that may protect you from being evicted. However, those laws may be changing soon and you’re going to have to start paying any unpaid rent back – if you haven’t already. Here’s what you need to know today about your rights as a tenant:
Q: I can’t pay some or all of my rent because of COVID-related circumstances. What do I do?
You don’t have to include proof that you’re unable to pay rent, but you can. Some examples of proof include paycheck stubs or bank statements from before and after the pandemic, or a letter from your job stating your hours were reduced or you were laid off because of COVID-19.
And if you can afford it, pay at least some of your rent during the moratorium or work out a payment plan with your landlord. You are still going to have to pay that rent back. More on that later.
Q: If I can’t pay, can I get evicted? Aren’t there laws in place to protect renters?
A: There are temporary County, State, and Federal laws in place now that offer renters some protection. The laws are complicated, but in most circumstances, as long as you have given proper notice, you cannot legally be evicted.
For example, LA County’s Temporary Eviction Moratorium protects renters and mobilehome space renters from being evicted:
- For “no-fault” reasons (like if your landlord is doing a major remodeling)
- Or for other issues where you might otherwise face eviction, such as denying a landlord entry, nuisance, and unauthorized occupants or pets.
However, most of these protections are only in place until June 30, 2021, at least for now. This is the first of several key dates to be aware of.
Q: Does this mean I do not have to pay rent?
A: You are still responsible for paying past-due rent. So, if you’re able to, you should start saving your money or paying partial rent to your landlord right away.
Here are three dates you need to know about paying back the rent you owe:
- June 30, 2021: By that day, you must pay at least 25 percent of the rent that was due over the 10 months between October 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021. That equals about two-and-a-half months’ worth of rent.
- July 1, 2021: Starting that day and moving forward, it’s back to normal with your rent, which means you must pay your rent in full every month to be protected from eviction.
- September 30, 2021: By that day, renters covered by the County’s Moratorium must pay all of the back rent that was due over the seven months from March 4, 2020 to September 30, 2020. (In some cases, renters covered under the state’s moratorium will have until August 31, 2022 to repay past due rent.)
NOTE: These dates may change if there are changes made to local, state, or federal laws.
So, if you just got your stimulus check and are thinking about where to spend it, please consider your rent!
Q: Are there any programs that will help me pay my rent?
A: Yes, the State of California launched the California State Rental Assistance Program on March 15, 2021. The program is open to low- and moderate-income Los Angeles County renters. There are two paths under the state’s rent relief plan, one for landlords and one for renters.
Landlords who apply are eligible for direct payments of 80 percent of the total rent due as long as they agree to forgive the remaining 20 percent of rent owed. The State will pay those landlords up to a year of unpaid, past due rent and up to three months of future rent.
As a residential renter, you may also apply to the program if your landlord chooses not to. If you qualify, a payment equal to 25 percent of the rent that you owe will go to your landlord and you will be protected from eviction through June 30, 2021.
If you live in the City of Los Angeles, you cannot apply for this program. The City of LA launched their own program on March 30, 2021.
Q: My landlord is harassing me or trying to evict me. What do I do?
A: It is illegal for landlords to do things like lock tenants out, remove your personal property, or shut off utility services to evict you, rather than going through the required court process. Landlords who do these things could face fines and penalties up until July 1, 2021. If you believe you’re being harassed by your landlord, call our DCBA rent counselors to learn more about your rights.
During the Moratorium period, a landlord can only evict you if they provide a legally valid reason allowed by the law (also known as a “just-cause” eviction). If you believe you have been unlawfully evicted or you need legal advice, you should contact Stay Housed L.A. County for low- or no-cost legal help.
Q: That’s a lot of information. Who can I talk to for help with my situation?
A: Our rent counselors are available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to help you find answers for your unique situation. Call us at (833) 223-RENT (7368) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re facing an eviction and need assistance, visit Stay Housed L.A. County.