COVID-19 Information for Tenants

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*Updated 1/21/2021

SAN FRANCISCO RENTERS: the patchwork of local and state laws can be confusing, but there are lots of groups here to help.  Find a full list of tenant groups here. Some basic information is below, and you can find more in-depth information on our Frequently Asked Questions page.

I can’t pay my rent.  What should I do? 

If you can’t pay because of pandemic-related income loss or increased expenses, you cannot be evicted for the debt and you have some time to come up with the money to pay it back. 

→ For rent due March-August, you can never be evicted for this rent, as long as you meet certain requirements. Under local San Francisco protections, you have until February 28, 2021 to pay your April-August rent, after which your landlord can begin the debt collection process but cannot evict you for that unpaid rent. It is a good idea, but not required, to provide your landlord written notice and supporting documentation if you cannot pay. Find a sample letter to send to your landlord here (PDF) (DOC). Under a new state law (AB3088), you cannot be evicted for March-August rent if you meet certain requirements and give your landlord a declaration saying that you could not pay your rent for COVID-related reasons.

→ For rent due September-January, a new state law, The Tenant, Homeowner and Small Landlord Relief and Stabilization Act of 2020 (AB 3088), lays out a very specific process that both you and the landlord have to follow.

• If your landlord gives you a notice to "pay or quit," you have 15 days to return the form “Declaration of COVID-19-Related Financial Distress”, signed under penalty of perjury. If you do not file in time, an eviction proceeding may be filed against you.  If you make more than 130% of area median household income, your landlord may demand proof of your COVID-19 related hardship. 

• You must pay at least 25% of your September-January rent on or before January 31, 2021 or your landlord can begin eviction proceedings. 

• The remaining 75% of your rent can be collected via small claims court or other debt collections processes, but you cannot be evicted for that portion of the rent. 

* San Francisco renters are also covered for the month of September by a local law that says you can’t be evicted for your rent debt, but we recommend if at all possible that you defer to the state law.

→ After January 31, there are not currently any protections in effect, but we will fight to get longer-term, more comprehensive protections in place by then.

For help paying the 25% of rent required under the new state law, reach out to RADCo  or QFoundation, or get help applying for funds from counselors at BiSHoP.

Federal CDC Order

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a temporary national moratorium on most evictions for nonpayment of rent from September 4, 2020 to December 31, 2020. It was recently extended to March 31, 2021. In most cases, the state and local laws provide better protection for San Francisco tenants, but in some cases, it may provide additional coverage.  Reach out to a tenant rights group if you want help figuring out whether it’s helpful to you. In order to access the protections, all adults in the household must submit this declaration to the landlord.  The National Housing Law Project and the National Low Income Housing Coalition have created an easy to read Fact Sheet for tenants to understand if they qualify and how to access protections.  NHLP has also created a more detailed legal analysis of the order, and has compiled more resources here.

Am I protected from other kinds of evictions? 

AB3088 defines protections for eviction based on non-payment of rent.  Local legislation bans all other kinds of evictions (except for those related to health and safety or the Ellis Act) until March 31, 2021. We are working to ensure that these protections continue. Additionally, the CDC Order prohibits nearly all evictions, including Ellis evictions, for covered tenants until April 1, 2021, and allows a declaration to be provided to the landlord at any time (more information is available here).

The new state law (AB3088) adds penalties of up to $2,500 for landlords who attempt to illegally evict their tenants (by changing locks, shutting off power, removing belonging, etc) and makes it illegal for landlords to use other kinds of evictions as retaliation for protected non-payment of rent. The federal law adds penalties of up to $200,000 for violations of the federal order.


Rent Increases are Temporarily Banned:

If you live in a rent-controlled unit, your landlord could not increase your rent between April 7 and October 21, 2020, but this protection has expired and has not been extended. If you have paid a rent increase that became effective during the covered dates, you may ask your landlord for a refund. This freeze applies to capital improvements or utilities and bond passthroughs, as well as increases due to increased operating expenses. It does not apply to Costa-Hawkins increases or increases because you lost a 1.21 petition (not your principal place of residence). More information can be found on the Rent Board’s website here.

If you live in a city-regulated unit. your rent could not be increased before November 1, but that protection for units regulated by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development or the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing has also expired.

Large rent increases are banned statewide during the state of emergency.  State law bans rent gouging during a state of emergency.  That means it is illegal for any landlord to charge (or advertise) rents 10% or above what they were charging before February 10, even if you do not have rent control.  It is also illegal for a landlord to evict tenants and then re-rent the vacated unit at a higher rent than what the evicted tenant was paying. Use this Tenants Together sample letter if you received a notice of increase above 10% after the February 10th Declaration of a State of Emergency.

Sheriff Evictions: As of 3/16/2020, the San Francisco Sheriff’s office is not executing eviction orders until further notice.


Applying for Affordable Housing: All lotteries in San Francisco will go on as scheduled, but they are now only accepting online applications.  See this page for more information.


Residential Hotels (SROs): The local eviction moratorium applies to tenants in SROs, even if they have not gained tenancy yet (i.e., been in their room for 32 consecutive days).  If a tenant has not gained tenancy yet (ie; they had only been in their room for 22 days), they are protected from eviction during the crisis, but when the moratorium is lifted, the clock on their tenancy starts where they left off (ie; at 22 days). Additionally, there are a number of new laws and guidelines specifically aimed at protecting those living in residential hotels right now.

One emergency ordinance requires the city to make private hotel rooms available to SRO residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 and establishes a hotline for residents to call with questions about testing, healthcare, and access to hotel rooms. A second emergency ordinance prohibits future evictions for non-payment of rent owed by SRO tenants during the moratorium and establishes a COVID-19 SRO Relief Fund to cover these missed rent payments.

On March 10, the Department of Public health ordered that residential hotels are required to clean all common areas and frequently touched surfaces at least once per day and more as needed. The minimum cleaning standards can be found here.


Tourist Hotels: Those staying in a tourist hotel or tourist unit of a residential hotel are not covered by the residential eviction moratorium, but are protected by an April 14 executive order that prohibits removing guests who want to shelter in place during the current public health emergency. Guests must continue to pay for the hotel room and inform the hotel that they have either tested positive for or are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or are self-isolating or quarantining because of potential exposure to COVID-19. More information can be found here.


Utilities: San Francisco Public Utilities Commission won’t cut-off power and water services due to non-payment right now, and they will waive late fees on overdue payments. Pacific Gas and Electric Company has also suspended service disconnections for non-payment for both residential and commercial customers and will offer a payment plan to customers who indicate either an impact or hardship as a result of COVID-19.

Link to tenant counseling groups and legal services
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