San Francisco: Paying Rent and COVID-19
Updated: Apr 9
Step-by-step guide on what to do if a tenant cannot pay rent in San Francisco as a result of COVID-19.
This summary is based on San Francisco Mayor London N. Breeds "Fifth Supplement to Mayoral Proclamation Declaring the Existence of a Local Emergency," dated March 23, 2020.
Step 1: A Tenant must provide notice to the landlord within 30 days after rent is due.
If rent payment was due on or after March 13, 2020, the tenant has to provide notice to the landlord within 30 days after the date that rent was due. (For example, if your rent was due April 1, you have until May 1 to provide notice.)
The notice must state that the tenant is unable to pay rent due to financial impacts related to COVID-19.
"Financial Impacts" and "Related to Covid-19" defined:
"'Financial impacts' means a substantial loss of household income due to business closure, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, layoffs, or extraordinary out-of-pocket expenses.
A financial impact is 'related to COVID-19' if it was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mayor's Proclamation, the Local Health Officer's Declaration of Local Health Emergency, or orders or recommended guidance related to COVID-19 from local, state, or federal authorities."
Step 2: Within one week of providing notice, the tenant must provide the landlord documentation.
The order specifically states "documentation or other objectively verifiable information that due to the financial impacts related to COVID-19, the tenant is unable to pay rent."
If the tenant does not comply with this step, the landlord may attempt to proceed with an eviction.
Step 3: The tenant must attempt to pay rent within 1 month of providing documentation.
If steps 1 and 2 are done, the tenant automatically receives "an additional month after the date the tenant provided the documentation to pay rent."
The tenant must repeat steps 1, 2, and 3 each time rent is due.
Step 4: If the tenant does not pay rent due within 1 month of providing documentation, the landlord must notify the tenant in writing and attempt to develop a payment plan.
If the tenant does not pay the rent at that time, the landlord must inform the tenant of the failure to pay the rent in writing, and the landlord and tenant shall then attempt to discuss the matter in good faith in order to develop a payment plan for the tenant to pay the missed rent."
If the tenant complied with Step 1 (gave notice to the landlord), then a tenant has 6 months from when the Order ends (unclear right now when the Order will end) to pay unpaid rent to the landlord (a landlord can choose to give the tenant more than 6 months to pay back rent owed). Only after the 6 month period is over and if the tenant has not paid rent, the landlord may proceed with an eviction.
During those 6 months, a landlord may request documentation of the tenant's ongoing inability to pay, and the tenant shall pay if able to do so, but under no circumstances shall a tenant's failure to timely respond to a follow-up request for documentation invalidate the 6 month extension period.
When will the Order end?
Whichever occurs sooner of these 3 options :
30 days from March 23 (April 22, 2020).
Until the Proclamation of Local Emergency is Terminated
Upon further Order from the Mayor
The Mayor may also extend the Order by an additional 30 days.
Will a Tenant still owe rent?
Yes, rent will still be owed, but the tenant now has at least 6 months to pay it if they followed the correct steps.
What to do if I am a Landlord?
It is a difficult situation for landlords as well. While we wait for further government guidance, contact your mortgage servicer and see what options they have. We hope mortgage relief will come soon.
It is very important to follow the law as laid out in the Mayor's Order. Do not harass tenants.
It is important to work with your tenant and set up a realistic payment plan.
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