What Tenants Need to Know About Their Protections Under State Law and Federal Policy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Last update: September 25, 2020

On August 31st, supermajorities in the CA Assembly and Senate passed AB 3088, the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020. The legislation takes effect immediately and contains NO provisions for rent forgiveness or cancellation. At the federal level, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also issued an order on September 4, 2020, offering some protections. It is important to understand your rights under AB 3088 and the CDC order, the potential exceptions to protections, and the resources available to defend your rights as a tenant.

COVID-19 Tenant Know Your Rights

(This information is also available as a printable PDF document. Download the COVID-19 Tenant Know Your Rights flyer).

What are my protections at the state level?

Assembly Bill 3088, effective September 1, 2020, states that:

  • For rents accrued between March 1, 2020 and August 31, 2020: Tenants cannot be evicted for ANY rent they were unable to pay between March 1st and August 31st, 2020. However, landlords can take you to small claims court for the owed rent during said timeframe beginning March 1st, 2021.
  • For rents accrued between September 1, 2020 and January 31, 2020: If tenants are currently unable to pay full rent from September 1st through January 31, 2021, your landlord still may not evict you so long as tenants complete the following:
    • Tenants must provide landlord with a declaration of impacts COVID-19 has had to their household, within 15 days of receiving a nonpayment of rent eviction notice from their landlord. For proof of documentation, tenants are recommended to send the declaration by certified mail.
    • Tenants must pay a minimum of 25% of rent for the months of September 1st through January 31, 2021 no later than January 31st, 2021. The 25% payment can be made as installments or in one lump sum so long as your 25% payment is made by January 31st, 2021.
  • Landlords must provide tenants with a 15-day Notice of nonpayment of rent in order for the Notice to be valid.
  • On February 1, 2021, tenants are expected to begin paying their rent in full to avoid eviction.
  • Starting March 1, 2021, landlords can take tenants to small claims court for unpaid COVID-19 rent debt accrued between March 1st, 2020 and January 31st, 2021.
  • Until February 1st, 2021, landlords must give a just cause reason to evict a tenant in California per the protections outlined in AB 1482.
  • Other types of evictions will proceed, including no-fault and Ellis Act evictions starting September 2nd, 2020.
I CAN’T pay 25% or more of my rent. What should I do to protect myself from eviction?

If you receive a written eviction notice, citing your inability to pay rent as the reason, submit this declaration of hardship to your landlord as soon as possible. If you receive a verbal notice, you should send an illegal notice response. (Sample on Tenants Together Website)

I CAN’T pay 25% of my rent owed. How do I tell my landlord?

If you meet the requirements listed below under “What does the CDC order do?”, you may be protected under the CDC order, which functions as a “floor” for protections. If you are not adequately covered by AB 3088 or local protections, consult the CDC order.

What are my federal protections? What does the CDC order do?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) order was issued on September 4, 2020 and expires on January 1, 2021. The CDC order covers renters who expect to make less than $99,000 in income in 2020, received a stimulus check, or are “likely to become homeless or live in close quarters” if they are evicted. This covers evictions for inability to pay rent in full and other types (like no-fault evictions) as well. The CDC order asks that you:

  1. Submit a declaration, and
  2. make “timely partial payments as close to the full rent” if you can.


My landlord has filed an eviction that isn’t related to me not paying my rent in full, but I am at risk if I leave.

You may be protected by the CDC order until January 1, 2021. If you are NOT being evicted for any of these 5 reasons:

  1. violating a lease agreement (other than
    nonpayment of rent),
  2. criminal activity,
  3. threatening health and safety of other tenants,
  4. damaging property,
  5. violating health & safety code,

the CDC order protects you from eviction. We believe the CDC order should prevent “no-fault” evictions.


My landlord is asking me to move out. What do I do?

Do NOT move out immediately! It is illegal for the landlord to physically remove you from your home, unless you have received an order to leave from a court AFTER an eviction case has taken place in that court. Receiving an eviction notice does NOT mean you have to move out. Contact BayLegal at 1-800-551-5554
immediately if your landlord is harassing you or pressuring you to move.


My landlord wants to increase my rent by more than 10%.

This is illegal during the state of emergency for new and existing tenancies under California Penal Code Section 396. This includes both the COVID-19 state of emergency and any county-level states of emergency related to wildfires in California. If your landlord puts forward an agreement with a rent increase, do not sign anything. Use this sample letter to notify your landlord and keep a copy. Lastly, the cost of hotel rooms is covered under the state of emergency provision as well. You can learn more about your price-gouging protections at the state Attorney General website.


I have notified my landlord that they cannot increase my rent above 10%, but they are trying to do so anyway.

Contact a local legal aid hotline, the Tenants Together hotline, or a local tenant organization if your landlord pushes back. Keep all documentation of
communication between you and your landlord handy. Use this link to file a consumer complaint immediately with the state Attorney General.


My landlord is asking me to sign a rental agreement to readjust my rent.

Do not sign any new agreements with provisions that you find questionable, without consulting a local organization first. If your landlord is asking for a repayment agreement related to a COVID-19 stimulus check, do not sign. You are under no obligation to turn over any stimulus or unemployment money from the government to your landlord in a written agreement.


Additional information on COVID-19 tenant resources available here –

The information provided on this web page does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.