As the coronavirus continues to cause job loss and financial burden for Californians, it is crucial for tenants to know their rights. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, state and local governments have worked together to create new policies to protect homeowners and renters, and to offset the hardships that the pandemic has inevitably caused.
COVID-19 as a Disability
Under the Fair Housing Act, a condition is considered a disability if it substantially limits one or more major life activities.
When someone has a disability, they are entitled to certain rights, like requesting a “reasonable accommodation” from their housing provider so they can use their housing on an equal basis as everyone else. Therefore, when an individual tests positive for COVID-19, they may experience breathing problems, fatigue, and other symptoms, labeling them as a person with a disability and entitling them to a reasonable accommodation.
Examples of reasonable accommodations for household members that have contracted COVID-19 include deadline extensions to complete yardwork or other household maintenance, acceptance of late paperwork, or the appointment of another person to handle their tenancy-related tasks during the illness.
Tenants may also request that their landlord accommodate them with payment plans or waivers of late charges if COVID-19 has prevented them from being able to pay rent on time.
Rent Payments & Eviction Policies
Depending on which California city a tenant lives in, there are specific guidelines on how to move forward if they cannot afford to pay their rent due to COVID-19. Tenants MUST inform their landlords in writing that they are unable to pay rent due to a COVID-19-related issue and provide supporting documentation. Failure to provide notice or documentation within the required days (depending on the city) waives the protections of the eviction moratorium. Notice MUST be provided each month a tenant cannot pay rent because of COVID-19. The emergency eviction moratorium applies to every residential tenant, regardless of the type of unit they live in or how long they have lived there. For city-specific guidelines, please visit Legal Aid Society of San Diego’s website for a fact sheet on Housing & COVID-19 policies.
What Landlords Can and Cannot Do
Landlords are also subject to new policies during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fair Housing Act prohibits them from inquiring about an individual’s disability, including COVID-19. They may not ask a tenant to move out because they have COVID-19, or otherwise treat them differently than tenants who have not contracted COVID-19. Therefore, they may not segregate elderly people or those with serious health conditions from other tenants in an effort to protect them from COVID-19. Finally, a housing provider cannot harass tenants based on their status as a person with a disability, which applies to tenants who have tested positive for COVID-19, as well.
For more detailed information on how to request a reasonable accommodation related to COVID-19 or on your specific situation, please contact Legal Aid Society at (877)534-2524, Monday-Friday, 9:00a.m. to 5:00p.m., or visit our website for a fact sheet on city-specific guidelines.