What should I do if I can’t pay rent?
You do not have to move out. During the pandemic, millions of people across the country have been unable to make rent. While your landlord may be harassing you and threatening with eviction, you have rights.
You have multiple layers of protection from eviction. According to our local moratoriums, if you are unable to pay rent because you were financially impacted by the pandemic, you can never be evicted for that unpaid rent.
State law has created some confusion by requiring tenants to pay a portion of their rent in order to be protected from eviction. We still don’t know exactly how state, local and federal laws will play out together in court, and we are fighting every day for the best protections possible.
Under our local moratoriums, the rent that you are unable to pay will be converted into consumer debt. Your landlord can take you to small claims court to collect that debt, but cannot evict you for it. We are fighting to pressure state and federal legislators to free tenants from rent debt accrued during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are also a few Rental Assistance Programs available to tenants in California and Oakland. More information below.
How can I protect myself from eviction if I can’t pay my full rent?
- Send your landlord a Declaration of Financial Distress notifying them that you are unable to pay rent due to COVID-19 Impact.
- You can send this even if you have not received an eviction notice from your landlord
- Use this template, which tells your landlord that this declaration does not give up any rights you have under local laws
- Keep a copy: After you have signed the declaration, photocopy or take a picture of the signed declaration.
- Deliver the declaration by mail or in person. If you have received a 15-day notice with an email address on it, you can deliver via email– otherwise, you need to deliver a paper copy of the declaration. Many of the Oakland Public Libraries also offer printing.
- Keep proof of mailing or delivery: You can send the declaration certified with return receipt, and keep a copy of your mailing receipt. If you deliver by hand, bring a witness or take a video of yourself using your phone.
- If you receive 15-day notice, respond with the Declaration of Financial Distress and ask your landlord to rescind the notice. You can inform your landlord that this is not a valid eviction notice and is in violation of Oakland and Alameda law. If your landlord continues to serve you invalid eviction notices, you can inform your landlord that this constitutes harassment. This Cover Letter provides great legal language. Please note that it references AB 3088, a state law passed in 2020 that will likely change in early 2021. Check Centro Legal’s COVID-19 page or come to our Know Your Rights workshops on Evictions for updates.
- Keep proof of how your income has been impacted by COVID-19. This might include pay stubs, bank statements, receipts for healthcare or childcare expenses, or a letter from your employer.
- Keep a journal of interactions with your landlord, and respond to any incidences of harassment. We know that many landlords are harassing and intimidating their tenants during the pandemic. This harassment is illegal. If you are experiencing harassment, visit our Harassment page for more support.
Oakland tenants can apply for rental assistance from Oakland and California relief funds.
Oakland tenants can apply at: https://hpp.bayareacs.org or call 510-899-9289. For questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
California COVID-19 Rent Relief
California tenants can apply at https://housing.ca.gov/ or call 833-430-2122.
Alameda County Housing Secure Emergency Rental Assistance
Alameda county tenants who DO NOT live in Oakland and Fremont apply here and call 211 for assistance.
Come to our Know Your Rights Workshops to learn the latest legal updates and get involved.