Senate Bill 91: A Temporary Lifeline for Covid-19 Impacted Tenants

The COVID-19 pandemic generated a slew of new rules, extended rent moratoriums, eviction restrictions and complicated compliance calendars for both landlords and tenants. Just as California’s COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act was expiring, SB 91 took effect January 29, 2021.  Its purpose is to further protect tenants suffering financial setbacks from Covid-19 related events.

Check These Key Dates If You Are Behind on Rent

  • Tenants owing back rent received an extension prohibiting eviction through June 30, 2021. The extension applies if you are economically impacted by COVID-19, and you have been paying a minimum of 25% of your rent.
  • As of March 15, 2021 $2.6 billion in federal aid could be available for rent assistance for eligible low income tenants and their landlords. Funds can be used for rent and utilities. You can work with your landlord to apply for rental assistance through the State of California’s Rental Assistance Payment Program.
  • If you fell behind on rent (even just one month) between March 1, 2020 and February 1, 2021, and your landlord did not send you a notice by February 28, 2021 explaining the Covid-19 Tenant Relief Act Extension and the New Rental Assistance Program, you may be protected from the landlord’s attempt at eviction. Your landlord was required to notify you.

Can My Landlord Sue Me to Collect Back Rent?

Your landlord can take you to small claims court, but they cannot file before August 1, 2021. Cases against tenants in limited (damages less than $25,000) or unlimited (damages of $25,000 or greater) civil court cannot be filed before July 1, 2021 unless they were filed before October 1, 2020 and you would not have qualified for the new state rental assistance program. Assistance is offered only to lower income individuals.

How Can Covid-19 Impacted Tenants Protect Themselves?

Did your landlord try to discover if government assistance was available to you, and then help you apply to receive it? If not, you could have a case to avoid eviction.

Did you submit a Covid-19 Tenant Relief Act (CTRA) Declaration? If so your landlord can’t charge or collect late fees, increase fees or charge new fees. They can’t use your security deposit without your permission while you still live in your rental, and they can’t hold COVID-19 rental debt as a negative factor in tenant screenings. There are also some rules protecting tenants from being sent to collection.

Act Quickly

If these sound like challenges you are facing, contact a tenant attorney as soon as possible before Senate Bill 91 deadlines expire.

Know Your Rights. Protect Yourself.

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Mary Catherine Wiederhold

Tenant Attorney
1458 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

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