• The People Clerk Team

Can't pay rent in California because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

On March 27, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Executive Order N-37-20 ("Executive Order") which will delay eviction proceedings by 60 days.

Quick Summary:

The Executive Order extends the eviction process for an additional 60 days if a tenant has been affected by the coronavirus (specifically, it now gives a tenant an additional 60 days to respond to an eviction lawsuit).

To obtain the additional 60 days to respond to an eviction lawsuit, the tenant must notify a landlord in writing within 7 days from when rent is due and must save any evidence that proves they have been affected by the coronavirus. The tenant must be current on their rent before March 27, 2020, to qualify. Many cities have issued ordinances that offer more protection than the Governor's Executive Order. Tenants will still owe rent.

If you are a tenant, you can find a template letter here.

Steps to take now if you are a tenant:

Step 1: Determine if your city has any other procedures relating to the inability to pay rent as a result of the coronavirus.

Many cities across California have issued their own ordinances that offer more protection than the Governor's Executive Order. Please refer to your city government's website. We are working on summarizing city ordinances to see how they relate to the Governor's executive order.

Step 2: Determine if you meet the requirements of the Governor's Executive Order.

1. You must be current on any rent that was due before March 27, 2020.

2. You can't pay the full amount of rent due as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Here are some examples directly from the order (you are not limited to these examples):

  • "(i) The tenant was unavailable to work because the tenant was sick with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 or caring for a household or family member who was sick with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19;

  • The tenant experienced a lay-off, loss of hours, or other income reduction resulting from COVID-19, the state of emergency, or related government response; or

  • The tenant needed to miss work to care for a child whose school was closed in response to COVID-19."

Step 3: Notify your landlord in writing within 7 days from when the rent is due.

  • Write a letter or email. Technically, to meet the writing requirement you can text your landlord. However, to be on the safe side, you should do this via email or in a letter. If you want to be extra careful, you ideally should have the landlord respond to the email to confirm receipt.

  • What to include in the written notification? Here is a start: "Dear Landlord, I need to delay all or some payment of the rent because of an inability to pay the full amount due to reasons related to COVID-19." We suggest you list any specific reason(s) outlined above. If you already have documentation, you should also include it. Additionally, the order states that if you are able to pay all or some of the rent due, you should pay it. According to the order, you will still be liable for any unpaid rent later.

  • You can find a template here.

Step 4: Save any documents that prove your inability to pay.

The order states "these documents may be provided to the landlord no later than the time upon payment of back-due rent" which presumably means that you do not have to provide the documents until you pay back any rent due.

Here are some examples of the documents that may prove your inability to pay rent:

  • termination notices

  • payroll checks

  • pay stubs

  • bank statements

  • medical bills

  • signed letters or statements from an employer or supervisor explaining the tenant's changed financial circumstances

  • doctors notices

  • school closure notice

If you already have access to these documents, you should include them in the letter to your landlord. Otherwise, we suggest you should send them to your landlord as soon as they are in your possession.

If you need any help writing this letter or have any questions, contact us at help@peopleclerk.com.

You can find a template here.

To read Executive Order N-37-20 signed on March 27, 2020 see here.

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