COVID-19 Info for Tenants
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. Find information about emergency rent relief programs on our Rent Help 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 information about rent due before September 2020 or for more details about all the topics below, see our Frequently Asked Questions page.
For rent due September 2020-June 2021, state laws AB 3088 and SB 91 lay 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 2020-June 2021 rent on or before June 30, 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.
For information about where to get help with rent debt or future rent payments, visit SFADC.org/rent.
Federal CDC Order
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued and subsequently extended a temporary national moratorium on most evictions for nonpayment of rent until at least June 30, 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 September 30, 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 June 30, 2021, and allows a declaration to be provided to the landlord at any time (more information is available here).
State laws AB3088 and SB 91 add 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.
OTHER CHANGES IN TENANT PROTECTIONS
Large Rent Increases are Temporarily Banned: 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.
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.
Changes in Access to Tenant Counseling and Legal Services
→ This guide is for San Francisco renters. If you live outside of San Francisco, see the Coronavirus Resource Guide developed by Tenants Together.
Changes in Tenant Counseling
Most organizations have switched to phone counseling or phone check-ins before scheduling 1-on-1 appointments when possible. See the list below for how to access services from Tenant Counseling and Legal Service organizations, and check their websites for the most up to date information.
Tenant Counseling Organizations
SAN FRANCISCO RENT BOARD: Phone counseling at (415) 252-4631 Monday-Friday, 9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm. For filing of documents with few pages, including tenant hardship applications, scan and attach your documents in PDF format and send them to: email@example.com or by fax to (415) 252-4699. Please indicate your name, phone number, the property address and case number, if any, in the email.
TENANT COUNSELING ORGANIZATIONS
BILL SORRO HOUSING PROGRAM (BiSHoP) For help with affordable housing applications or tenant rights information. Phone counseling only: Please call (415) 513-5177 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and leave your name, phone number, the reason for your call, and the best time to reach you at and a housing counselor will follow up with you. Languages: English, Tagalog, Spanish, French
CAUSA JUSTA::JUST CAUSE (CJJC) Phone counseling only: Leave a voicemail at 415-487-9203 with your name, phone number, and a brief description of your problem. A counselor will call you back as soon as possible. Languages: Spanish, English
SOUTH OF MARKET COMMUNITY ACTION NETWORK (SOMCAN) Phone counseling only, Monday-Friday, 10AM-6PM by Appointment only. Appointments must be scheduled at least one day in advance. To schedule an appointment, please call or send a text message to (650) 273-6713. Appointments can also be scheduled here or send an email to email@example.com. Please leave your name, phone number, and a short message about your situation. Languages: English and Tagalog
CENTRAL CITY SRO COLLABORATIVE Central City SRO Collaborative and La Voz Latina are only making in-person appointments after a phone consultation with a staff member. Call (415) 983-3970 (La Voz) or (415) 775-7110 (CCSROC). Languages: English and Spanish
MISSION SRO COLLABORATIVE (MSROC) Telephone counseling only: leave a voicemail with your name, phone number, and a brief description of your problem. Someone will call you back as soon as possible. Spanish Hotline: (415) 570-4329 English Hotline: (408)-658-6389 Languages: English and Spanish
Languages: English, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Hindi
LEGAL ASSISTANCE FOR THE ELDERLY Appointments only. If you need legal assistance, please call (415) 538-3333. If you are an existing client, please contact your advocate directly for assistance. If you are a new client, please leave a message and we will return the call as soon as we are able. We are prioritizing the following issues: evictions; notices to cut or terminate benefits; notices terminating rental subsidies; restraining orders to protect seniors. Languages: English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish, Russian
Bayview office located at 4634 3rd Street (for residents of zip codes 94107, 94124, 94134)
Excelsior office located at 60 Ocean Avenue (for residents of zip codes 94112, 94132)
Western Addition (temporarily closed) clients can be seen at either of the above office (for residents of zip codes 94117, 94115, 94122, 94102, 94109)
TENDERLOIN HOUSING CLINIC (THC) Tenants seeking assistance should contact 415-771-9850 for an intake phone interview to determine whether a THC attorney will represent the tenant.
Many tenant rights organizations and legal service providers have switched to phone counseling or appointment-only meetings due to the Stay-in-place order. You can find a list of how to get in touch with them all here.
There are many excellent resource guides available right now. We recommend you start with the one by Bay Rising, a comprehensive guide for the Bay Area, searchable by city or county, and available in English, Spanish, and Chinese.
OTHER LOCAL RESOURCE GUIDES:
• Resources for Tenants, produced by Causa Justa :: Just Cause in Spanish and English
• Filipino Bay Area COVID-19 Resources, produced by SOMCAN
• A resource guide created by the Mission SRO Collaborative for SRO tenants in Spanish and English.
• Chinese-Language COVID Resource List: Chinese for Affirmative Action’s guide in Chinese, focused on SF resources.
• Bay Area COVID-19 Relief Funds for Undocumented Communities
• Bay Area Mutual Aid Wiki: Round up of food, financial, and mutual aid resources in the Bay Area. Languages: English and Spanish
• The Bay Area COVID-19 Mass Resource List (or here in Spanish) from the Freedom Community Clinic
• 1 Degree resource Guide, searchable by city/county in SF Bay Area and LA.
OTHER LOCAL RESOURCES:
• Free COVID19 testing for anyone with symptoms in San Francisco
• Help paying for housing costs: informational page by city of San Francisco
• High Risk Community Housing Program: this program provides free rooms and meals at a centrally located hotel for eligible residents who work outside the home
• Office of Economic and Workforce Development: San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development has information about federal, state, and local resources for workers and employers in a clearly laid out website. For more questions. call the Worker Information Line at 415-701-4817 or Email firstname.lastname@example.org 7 days a week, 8am-6pm.
• Tenants Together has two resources guides: one for California tenants and one for CA Organizations doing tenants’ rights advocacy during Covid-19.
• The Guide for Immigrant Californians produced by the state of California. Languages: Spanish, Chinese traditional, Chinese simplified, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
• A List of Relief Funds for Undocumented Workers in California
• Click here to search ProPublica’s database to see if your address is covered by the Federal CARES Act, which offers some tenant protections.
• Legal Aid at Work: FAQs: The guide discusses how to file a claim for Unemployment Insurance benefits or disability, how to access paid sick leave, and what resources undocumented workers, independent contractors, and gig workers have access to. They discuss discrimination at work, reasonable accommodations for workers with a disability such as a compromised immune system, and much more. Languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese