[Updated February 24, 2021]

As of February 1st, the new state law SB 91 temporarily extends California’s state-wide eviction protections, including nonpayment of rent and just-cause rights, to all covered tenants until July 1, 2021. BayLegal housing attorneys have assembled the following Frequently Asked Questions and periodically-updated resource list to help tenants and their advocates understand where and how the new law extends the existing protections of its predecessor AB 3088 (which expired January 31, 2021), and where it differs. For background information on the specifics of AB 3088, please see our AB 3088 Resource Page.

FAQ and Additional Resources


 


  • AB 3088’s protections against eviction for COVID-related nonpayment of rent expired January 31, 2021. SB91 extends these protections to nonpayment of rent for the period of February 1, 2021 – June 30, 2021. The law allows for the resumption of evictions for nonpayment beginning July 1, 2021. This is the earliest date the landlord can start eviction proceedings against a tenant for COVID rental debt if 25% of rent due during the covered period has not been paid by June 30, 2021.
  • For covered tenants SB91 extends statewide nonpayment of rent and just cause protections from AB3088.
  • The new law extends protections from landlords filing an unlawful detainer for cause of action other than nonpayment of rent when the true reason is retaliation against tenant for unpaid COVID rental debt.
  • While SB91 does not retract any prior protections found in AB3088, it does continue to leave tenants exposed to legal debt collection and other actions.

  • Landlords are now explicitly prohibited from assessing late fees on tenants who incur COVID-related rental debt.
  • The law provides for additional monetary damages for utility disruption landlord harassment (a form of harassment in which landlords cut off or otherwise disrupt utilities—water, electrical and gas service, etc.—to retaliate against tenants).
  • Landlords are now prohibited from applying tenants’ security deposits to cover COVID rental debt.
  • Landlords must apply monthly rental payments to the months the tenant applied them. Rental payments cannot be applied to already-incurred COVID-related rental debt unless a tenant gives explicit instructions to do so.
  • Prospective tenants are now protected from having COVID rental debt used as a negative factor during the rental application process.
  • The law prohibits assignment/sale of COVID rental debt until July 1, 2021.

 

  • SB 91 allocates $1.5 billion from a federal trust fund to implement a state rental assistance program.
  • The law requires the program to begin accepting rental assistance applications starting March 15, 2021, through an application page that will be available 24 hours a day.
  • Landlords must provide notice of the state rental assistance program to tenants experiencing COVID-related difficulty making full rent payments.
  • SB 91 requires landlords to verify under penalty of perjury before any judgment can be made in their favor that the landlord has no pending applications for financial assistance and has not received any rental assistance or financial assistance from another source.

 


  • The new law went into effect February 1, 2021 and ends July 1, 2021. A few protections extend to some future dates. For example, small claims lawsuits for collection of rent debt cannot start earlier than August 1, 2021.

 


  • As with AB 3088, a tenant who has NOT experienced a COVID-related financial impact is not covered by the law’s protections against eviction for nonpayment of rent.
  • Even if you are a covered tenant, other reasons for eviction may be allowed to proceed. These include:
    • “just cause” evictions (e.g., evictions for violation of lease terms including unauthorized pets, damage to rental property, nuisance or health/safety issues, etc.);
    • past-due rent incurred before March 1, 2020; and
    • certain categories of “no-fault” eviction including owner move-in, taking the unit off the market, or remodel/demolition (only if necessary to comply with health and safety laws).
  • Just cause and no fault eviction laws and tenant protections vary widely at the local level, and many counties and cities provide more stringent and/or different tenant protections than state law. BayLegal recommends that tenants facing eviction for one of these reasons seek legal advice as soon as possible.

 


  • SB 91 requires a 25% minimum rent payment during the period of the law—25% of all rent falling due during the period of the law must be paid on or before June 30, 2021 to avoid eviction for nonpayment becoming allowable by law on July 1, 2021.
  • For tenants meeting the 25% payment required, any remaining unpaid rent is automatically converted to consumer debt that can be collected on as early as August 1, 2021.  While landlords may pursue consumer collections methods including consumer debt lawsuits for this debt, they cannot file UD eviction proceedings on its basis.
  • A prospective tenant is protected from having their COVID rental debt be considered as a negative factor during a rental application process.

 


  • Bay Area Legal Aid (free legal services to low-income individuals)
    • Residents of Alameda County should call our Tenant’s Rights Line at 888-382-3405.
    • Residents of other Bay Area counties should call our Legal Advice Line at 800-551-5554.
  • Oakland tenants can also contact the Neighborhood Law Corps through the Oakland City Attorney’s office.
  • For individuals not meeting income requirements for legal aid providers or public programs, referrals to private tenant side attorneys can often be made through your county bar association’s website.

 


  • In general, SB 91 leaves stronger tenant protections at the local level intact.
  • However, there are specific tenant obligations under SB 91 that may pre-empt local ordinances.
  • For this reason, BayLegal recommends that you seek legal advice immediately if discrepancies between state and local law are a potential issue in your current or potential eviction case.