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March 31, 2020
 

 

If you’re a renter in San Francisco worried about making your monthly rent, this is the single most important email you need to read. 

As April 1 approaches, so do monthly rent and mortgage payments for the vast majority of San Francisco residents. Meanwhile, COVID-19 has ground entire sectors of our economy to a halt. Workers have lost jobs or are working reduced hours, and for those experiencing health concerns, rent is the last thing on their minds.

No one should lose their home during this emergency or as we recover. This email is designed to inform you of the various forms of relief available if you have experienced a financial impact due to COVID-19.

As with everything else, we’re learning in real time and pushing for additional relief. Your health and safety are critical, and that includes ensuring that tenants remain housed and properties are not foreclosed on. Continue to check in at https://sf.gov/topics/coronavirus-covid-19 for the latest updates.

And please remember to shelter in place, leave the house only for essential needs, and avoid contact with others as we move toward the light at the end of this tunnel.

Sincerely,

Aaron
 

SAN FRANCISCO EVICTION MORATORIUM
A Step-By-Step Guide to Relief

 
On March 23, 2020, Mayor Breed issued revised terms of an eviction moratorium in San Francisco, providing that no landlord may attempt to recover possession of a residential unit (that is, no landlord may evict a tenant) - including for nonpayment of rent - unless due to violence, threats of violence, or health and safety issues.

It’s important that everyone understands the non-payment protections are not automatic. In order to avail yourself of the eviction moratorium, you must follow the following steps:

Step 1: Provide Notice. Within 30 days after the date that rent was due, a tenant must provide notice to their landlord that the tenant is unable to pay rent due to financial impacts related to COVID-19.
  • Tenants must provide this notice even if they have received a late notice or a “notice to pay or quit,” and they must provide notice for each rent payment missed while the Order is in effect.
  • Tenants are advised to provide this notice in writing.
  • Here are the links to template letters you can use to let your landlord know you are not able to pay rent in English, Spanish/Español, and Chinese/中文版 (please share!).

Step 2: Provide Documentation. Within 7 days of providing the notice required in Step One (and for each month that Notice is provided), the tenant must provide the landlord with documentation that - due to financial impacts of COVID-19 - the tenant is unable to pay rent.
Documentation may include a letter, email, or other written communication explaining the financial impact that the tenant is experiencing.
  • “Financial impact” could include reduced income due to temporary business closures or slowdowns, layoffs, reduced work hours, or medical expenses related to COVID-19.
  • The explanation should be objectively verifiable. Third-party documentation is not necessary, but tenants are encouraged to provide supporting documents. A landlord may extend this deadline!
Step 3: Six-Month Payment Plan.
  • If the tenant has followed the two-step process described above, then the tenant automatically receives an additional month after the date the documentation was provided to pay the rent. The rent owed shall not include any late charges or interest or similar amounts unless such charges are expressly authorized in the lease.
  • The parties must follow the six-month payment plan process for each rent payment the tenant misses while the Order is in effect. In particular, a landlord must still provide the written notice of breach for each missed rent payment as noted above.
  • The tenant shall have six (6) months after the Order’s Expiration Date to pay the rent owed, before the landlord may attempt to recover possession due to the missed rent payment.
  • The landlord may provide the tenant additional time under a payment plan. However, a tenant’s failure to comply with a payment plan prior to the six-month mark is not just cause to evict. Similarly, a landlord may request follow-up documentation of the tenant’s inability to pay during the six-month period, but a tenant’s failure to timely respond to a follow-up request for documentation also shall not create a just cause to evict.
For more details, and for all future updates, visit the sf.gov resource page. For a slightly more detailed version of the above guidance (updated March 27), click here.

FAQs


Q: Should I pay partial rent if I can?
A: No.  Avoid a situation where you are spending money you don't have during a crisis, and if you can, save the money aside so you can repay your rent obligation in full when it becomes due (currently, six months after the health order is lifted). Alternatively, you can negotiate with your landlord to reduce your rent temporarily, but make sure to get the new terms of the lease in writing.

Q: Can a landlord demand to see pay stubs or bank statements, or require a letter from my boss, to prove I can’t pay rent?
A: No, it’s not required, but any third-party documentation you can provide makes a stronger case.

Q: What’s the difference between an eviction moratorium and rent freeze?
A: All of the protections right now prevent most evictions (with the exception of Ellis Act evictions and those pursued for the health and safety of other residents), but they don’t reduce the renter’s debt. We agree with many who fear that this is simply rushing toward an eviction “cliff” - delaying but not preventing evictions. Until we find a better solution, which may require action by state legislators, there is no moratorium or “freeze” on paying rent.

Q: Are the courts still processing eviction cases for reasons other than non-payment of rent?
A: No. The Superior Court of San Francisco has stayed (or suspended) all eviction cases for 90 days until June 19, 2020 - including trials, motions, discovery, and ex parte applications - except for eviction cases resulting from violence, threats of violence, or health and safety issues. Find more information about the extent of the Superior Court’s suspended criminal and civil case operations here. Additionally, the Sheriff’s Department has announced that they are not following through with eviction orders to remove people from their homes.
 

IF YOU NEED ASSISTANCE

The above process and questions can be confusing and difficult to navigate, and your own particular circumstances may raise additional questions. If you need further assistance:
  • Feel free to reply to this email directly, and we’ll connect you with the most appropriate resource.
  • The Lower Polk CBD Tenant-Landlord Clinic specializes in mediating conflicts and other negotiations between landlords and tenants and can be contacted by emailing kevin@lptlc.org or by calling (415) 782-8940.
  • For additional mediation services, you may contact the SF Bar Association helpline at (415) 782-8940 or by email at cis@sfbar.org and they’ll reply within 24 hours.
  • The Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco is providing assistance to renters and can be contacted at (415) 703-8644. They also have a Westside Office that can be reached at (415) 947-9085.
  • The Chinatown Community Development Center is providing assistance in English and Cantonese and can be reached at (415) 984-2728.
  • The San Francisco Tenants Union provides advice to tenants and can be reached at (415) 282-6622.
  • If you are a landlord seeking additional guidance on how to understand your tenant’s new rights under the Eviction Moratorium, you may contact the San Francisco Apartment Association at (415) 255-2288.

APPLYING FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

Over 1 million California residents applied for unemployment benefits in the past two weeks alone, blowing past all previous records. These are truly extraordinary times.

If you have lost your job or still have your job but are working reduced hours, the below resources are for you:
  • The California Employment Development Department (EDD) has a general page with links to applying for unemployment benefits and other critical information for businesses to understand, here. 
  • For more specific Information from the State on who may be eligible, how long it will take to receive benefits and more, click here. 
  • This helpful FAQ in the New York Times answers many common questions about the new $2 trillion federal stimulus payments, unemployment benefits, retirement accounts, charitable contributions and other aspects of the package. Under the plan, eligible workers may receive an extra $600 per week on top of their state benefits. For example, in California, where the maximum payment is $450 a week, a worker may get $1,050 with the added federal relief. Also, self-employed people are newly eligible for unemployment benefits and the additional $600 a week.
 
DEMANDING MORE RELIEF

Working to avoid an eviction “cliff.”

 

As many have noticed, Governor Newsom’s eviction “moratorium” -- from which our San Francisco Eviction Moratorium flows -- is deficient in one critical way: renters will still have to pay back-rent for any rent payments missed during the emergency.

If you’re having trouble affording rent during the emergency, it’s likely you’ll be having just as much trouble with increased rent for the 6 months following the emergency while trying to pay back-rent on top of your usual rent.

We’re working on it. I’ve signed on to a Resolution introduced by my colleagues Supervisors Ronen, Haney and Preston which calls on state and federal leaders to enact moratoria on rent and mortgage payments.

I’m also working to understand what we can do locally to alleviate the pressure renters will face if made to pay all back-rent once the emergency is over. Again, these are extraordinary times, and the last thing we need is a rash of eviction that will disproportionately harm San Francisco’s most vulnerable residents.
 
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Board of Supervisors | District 3 | Aaron Peskin
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