By Governor Gavin Newsom
As November approaches, millions of Americans are preparing for the most consequential election of our lifetimes. So much is at stake, and I encourage all Californians who can to cast a ballot to take this opportunity to shape the future of our country.
But it’s also a time of dread for people who are having a hard time financially. The first of the month is approaching, and rent is coming due.
If you are struggling to make rent and worried about eviction, know that you are not alone. In the Capitol, we are working hard to help you keep a roof over your head, and there are new resources and protections available to you right now.
Tackling the housing crisis in California has been a priority for me since my first days in office. Access to safe and affordable housing is a cornerstone of the California Dream, one that must stay in reach of all Californians. For decades, the high cost of housing in California has been making it harder for families to get by, much less get ahead. Last year, we took action to help more Californians stay in their homes by enacting the strongest renter protections anywhere in the nation.
But the COVID-19 pandemic presented us with even more challenges. Millions of Californians are potentially facing eviction this fall due to the impact of COVID-19—because they’ve lost jobs or hours, gotten sick or faced new costs like childcare. An eviction or foreclosure is always devastating, but it takes on a new danger amid a pandemic, when having a place to stay home and stay safe is so important.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us, it has not affected all of us equally. The impacts of COVID on lives and livelihoods have had disproportionate impacts on our diverse communities. Census data from July 2020 showed that, of all California renters who had fallen behind on rent, three-quarters were Latino or Black.
In partnership with the Legislature, we passed a bill to help people who had fallen behind on rent if they were impacted economically by COVID.
So if you owe rent from March 2020 through today because you were affected by COVID – if you lost your job, got sick or had your hours cut – you are protected from being evicted if you can take a few simple steps.
Here’s how it works.
If your landlord gives you a notice to “pay or quit” – saying you have a certain amount of time to pay the rent you owe, or you have to move out – but you can’t pay the full amount because you were affected by COVID, you can fill out a document and give it to your landlord.
It is called the Tenant Distress Form, and you can find it on our new HousingIsKey.ca.gov website. It is available in English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.
Sign it and don’t delay. You must give your landlord this document within 15 days after you receive the “pay or quit” notice to be protected from eviction.
You still owe the past rent, but if you cannot pay full rent because of COVID, you can’t get evicted for any rental debt that accrued between March and August of this year.
And so long as you further pay at least 25 percent of the rent due between September of this year and January of next year, then you cannot be evicted for unpaid rent for that period, either.
While this bill will give tenants some room to breathe, it is not permanent. As of now, the protection for evictions lasts only until February 1, 2021.
That’s why we’ve been continuing to advocate for action from the federal government to help protect renters. We have made remarkable progress in helping more Californians keep a roof over their heads during this emergency, but even a state as large and influential as ours cannot tackle a national crisis on our own.
We continue to ask the federal government to help us protect renters and homeowners, as well as other important steps like extending unemployment insurance and fully funding essential services like health, nutrition, education and childcare. We have also asked for support for state and local governments that are battling COVID-19 and facing difficult choices about their budgets.
Without federal support for renters and homeowners, anyone out of a job, behind on their housing payments or struggling with medical bills will potentially face the prospect of losing their home. That’s not right, it’s not fair and it’s not good for our economy or communities.
Investing in our renters can make a big difference around the country. It would help stabilize the housing market, help America recover from the devastating economic impacts of the pandemic and keep people in their homes.
No matter what happens in this election or in D.C., California will keep doing everything in our power to help everyone stay safe, healthy and housed during this crisis – because all Californians deserve a place to call home.
You can find more information about your rights and get access to low- or no-cost legal help at https://lawhelpca.org/