California Renters – Can’t Pay Rent Due to COVID-19 Pandemic?

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The public response to the COVID-19 Pandemic requires non-essential places of business to close or at least severely curtail their operations. Millions across the U.S. are now unemployed or under-employed. Recognizing the financial situation of many renters in California, Governor Newsom issued an executive order on March 27, 2020 to impose a statewide moratorium on evictions.

You are supposed to stay home, but without income, how are you supposed to pay your rent?

If you cannot pay your usual rent, the good news is that you cannot be evicted for now for not being able to pay. The reality remains that you will have to pay that rent later, so no, you are not getting free rent.

You have to follow the rules of the Governor’s executive order to benefit from avoiding eviction. You must notify the landlord in writing no later than seven days after the rent is due that you cannot pay the total amount due. As your landlord is permitted to give you a three-day notice to pay rent or quit as soon as you miss the usual rent payment on the first of the month, it is better for you to provide that written notice before the due date.

The Governor’s order provides some examples of situations that qualify as not being able to pay due to COVID-19. If you got sick with the virus or had to stay home to care for someone who has the virus, such that you could not work, you should qualify. If you were had a lay-off, lost hours, or otherwise lost income from the COVID-19 situation, you should qualify. If you had to miss work because your child’s school was closed due to COVID-19, you also should qualify.

The eviction moratorium requires you to pay what amount of the rent you can afford now. You must keep proof of your qualifications for the eviction moratorium, such as a notice of job loss, payroll check stubs, bank statements, medical bills, or other documents to show that you cannot pay the full amount of rent. You must give those documents to the landlord when you end up paying the back rent.

I am providing a sample form for you to use to provide written notice to your landlord.

Make sure to keep your own copy of the letter that you send. Send a copy of the Governor’s order with the notice.


The author of this article and the accompanying form is providing these materials for informational purposes only and are intended to be used as a guide before consultation with an attorney familiar with your specific legal situation. The author of the article and form is not providing legal advice here and this form is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. If you need legal advice, seek the services of a local, competent, available attorney.

Frederic M. Douglas is a solo practitioner specializing in litigation involving intellectual property (patents, trademarks, trade secrets, copyright, and more). Mr. Douglas has been registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for over 18 years. Before college, he drove a taxi for eight years in Ventura County California.

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