Your Rights Under California Law
If you can't pay your rent because of COVID-19 financial hardship, or are being threatened with eviction for any reason, do not move out of your home. Only a court can order you to leave. You have rights and are protected by federal, state and local laws. To understand these laws, please attend one of our workshops. This page provides a brief summary of state protections that recently expired on Spetember 30, 2021. Limited State protections will remain in place for renters who are eligible and awaiting rental assistance. The State’s Housing Is Key emergency rental assistance program will remain open for as long as funds are available. Visit our Los Angeles County page or City of Los Angeles page to determine what local protections you may still have.
Under state law you can’t be evicted for not paying your rent until October 1, 2021 if you lost income or your expenses increased due to COVID-19. If your landlord wants to evict you for another reason, they need “just cause.” Although this law protects you from being evicted for not paying rent, it does not mean you don’t owe the rent later. And, if your landlord does file an eviction you still must answer!
If you owe rent for any months from March 2020 to August 2020, you must submit a declaration form to your landlord for those months. You should do this via regular mail with proof of mailing and via email. You can also use this free tool to send your letter. Once you submit a declaration, your landlord cannot legally evict you for not paying rent for those months. If your landlord issues you a Notice to Pay Rent or Quit for those months, you should reply with another declaration.
You should also submit a declaration form to your landlord for any month from September 2020 to September 2021 you can't pay rent in full. It is not too late to submit declarations for past months. You can use one declaration form for any past months that you didn’t pay full rent. For future months, use a separate declaration for each month that you cannot pay the full rent. Send the declaration by your rent due date.
The form must state that you cannot pay your rent because you lost income or have added expenses due to COVID-19. You must also pay at least 25% of the total rent owed for September 2020 through September 2021. You must pay this 25% by September 30, 2021. To meet this requirement, you can pay 25% each month or make one or more payments by September 30, 2021. When paying rent, you must always note on the payment itself which month it is for and your address. For example:
- 25% of rent for January 2021 for YOUR ADDRESS; OR
- 25% of rent for September, October, November, December 2020 and January 2021 for YOUR ADDRESS.
As long as you do this, your landlord would not legally be able to evict you. Even if you have been submitting declarations each month, if your landlord issues you a Notice to Pay Rent or Quit, you should reply with another declaration. If your landlord files an eviction case against you, you still must respond to the lawsuit!
Starting on November 1, 2021, landlords can start suing tenants for unpaid rent.
If you have not made full rent payments for any month since March 2020, your landlord must issue you a “15-day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit.” They must also give you a blank copy of the declaration form to return. We recommend that you fill out a declaration and return it by your rent due date each month, even if your landlord doesn’t send you the 15-day notice. Click here for a copy of the declaration form. You can also use this free tool to send your letter. Even if you have been submitting declarations each month, if your landlord issues you a Notice to Pay Rent or Quit, you should reply with another declaration.
While these laws protect you from eviction, it doesn’t mean your landlord won’t still try to evict you. If you receive an eviction lawsuit, you must file an answer to the lawsuit! The court won’t know your landlord is violating these laws if you don’t tell it! If you receive a notice of any kind or paperwork from the court, do not move out of your home until a court orders you to!
You should seek legal help immediately if:
- You get written notice from your landlord other than a 15-day notice to pay rent or quit.
- You have an eviction lawsuit and have received a summons and complaint.
- You are facing an illegal lockout and/or an illegal utility termination.
- Your Section 8 or public housing is being terminated.
We focus on the most urgent requests first, so it may take us a while to get back to you.
Everyone else, please attend a workshop before seeking legal assistance.
The new law also says your landlord CANNOT:
- Use tenant security deposits to cover unpaid rent.
- Charge late fees on missed rent if you qualify for the protections and have sent in all your declarations.
- Go to small claims court to recover unpaid rent until November 1, 2021.
- Recover unpaid rent unless they work with qualified tenants to access rental assistance.
Under the new law, the State will pay landlords 100% of rent from April 1, 2020. Both tenants and landlords can apply. If you already received some funds, you can still apply for any unpaid rent. You can also get future rent paid, for a total of up to 18 months of past and future rent. From October 1, 2021 through March 31, 2022, landlords who want to evict a tenant for nonpayment (where a tenant has had COVID hardship) must show that they applied for rental assistance and it was denied. If the landlord can’t do that within 60 days the eviction case should be dismissed.
Starting October 1, 2021, if you are being evicted for nonpayment and you have been approved for rental assistance, you can ask the court to hold the case until the rental assistance is received. The case should then be dismissed if the rental assistance covers the same months the eviction covered.
We are here to help! If you've received a notice from your landlord or are receiving threats or harassment, do not move out of your home until a court orders you to! Sign up for a free workshop to learn more about your rights and resources that can keep you in your home.
For immediate legal help, you can also call 1-888-694-0040.
The federal government gave money to the State, Los Angeles County and individual cities for rental assistance. For more information visit our Rental Assistance page.