What to do if you receive a rental eviction notice in California

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Renter protections put in place during the coronavirus pandemic are ending nationwide and increasing the potential for evictions without payment. A recent US Census Bureau pulse survey says millions of US households fear leaving their homes due to eviction in the coming months.

In California, the statewide moratorium on evictions ended on September 30. This means that from this month on, homeowners can issue eviction notices for non-payment. According to Tina Rosales, a lawyer and policy advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, these notices are usually given in the form of three days’ notice, salary or resignation, both nailed down and sent by mail. .

“We are seeing an increase in non-payment of rent evictions, and these are three-day evictions to pay rent or to leave,” Rosales said.

If you haven’t paid October rent, or are worried about missing upcoming rent payments, The Sacramento Bee spoke with experts about how to avoid eviction. First, don’t panic. Here’s what to do instead:

I have an eviction notice on my door. Does that mean I have to go?

No, in fact, this eviction notice is just the start of the process. You shouldn’t be leaving.

“In order for a person to be forced out of their home, there has to be a full eviction by the court, so there has to be a court judgment that says you have to leave, a sheriff will come within five days after that. judgment you have to go, “Rosales said.” If that doesn’t happen … that person shouldn’t leave. “

Landlords can only sue you 20 days after issuing the eviction notice.

If you are concerned that your landlord is pressuring you to leave or to change the locks, you should make sure you have documents such as a utility bill proving your residence with you, Jia Min Cheng, supervising lawyer at Disability Rights California with housing stability. Project, says. This way you can call law enforcement for help getting into your house. Take note of any type of harassment you experience from your landlord.

You should also inspect the notice itself. It is supposed to include the amount of rent requested, the date each amount became due, the phone number and website of the appropriate rent assistance program, and instructions for requesting rent assistance within 15 days. Cheng said sketchy notices – like something handwritten or a notice that doesn’t list the exact amount of money owed – can potentially be used against a landlord in court.

“The landlord has the burden of proof in these eviction cases, so their mistakes carry more consequences and the tenant can stay if the landlord makes sufficiently large mistakes in the eviction process,” Cheng said.

Request rental assistance

The next critical step is to ask for rent assistance. After filing the eviction notice, you have 15 working days to submit an application. Homeowners are also supposed to apply, but Rosales said they often don’t.

In Sacramento County, emergency rent assistance is being distributed locally through a program run by the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency. To qualify in Sacramento County, your gross annual household income must be equal to or less than:

  • $ 50,750 for one person
  • $ 58,000 for two people
  • $ 65,250 for three people
  • $ 72,500 for four people
  • $ 78,300 for five people
  • $ 84,100 for six people
  • $ 89,900 for seven people
  • $ 95,700 for eight people

Applicants must also have a household member who is eligible for unemployment benefits or has suffered financial burdens related to COVID-19. To apply, you need ID, your lease or other proof that you are renting your home, documents from your landlord showing what you owe, current utility bills showing what you owe and documents showing all current household income for the past two months.

In other parts of California, the state manages the distribution of aid. To apply, go to HousingIsKey.com.

Benefit from legal aid

In addition to asking for rental assistance, the best step you can take during this process is to get legal assistance or hire a lawyer. Rosales cautioned against contacting a landlord unless they have a lawyer present after receiving an eviction notice.

You can find help at LawHelpCA.org, which guides users to resources based on location and need. You can call services such as Disability Rights California-Sacramento at 800-776-5746 and Legal Services of Northern California at 866-815-5990 for advice.

Be careful when talking to your landlord, said Cheng and Rosales. While Cheng said open communication, and especially communication in writing, with landlords is important and can potentially lead to resolutions before formal court intervention, you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where your landlord persuades you to move unnecessarily. That’s why it’s best to at least get legal advice before discussing dispute resolution with your landlord.

Respond to the summons and the complaint

The next step a landlord would take is to file a complaint against you, called an unlawful detainee. The landlord must serve you with documents called a summons and complaint. Renters will receive a copy of this document, which will be filled with everything the landlord claims the tenant owes.

You have five days, excluding weekends and public holidays, to deposit what is called a response. This is where you can talk about any issues with the notice or other issues in the landlord’s complaint against you as well as write your defense, which would include your request for rent assistance. You must file this Response in order to avoid being automatically deported without trial.

Access all your hearing dates

If you do get a court date, be sure to bring copies of everything, Rosales said. This includes documents showing that you have applied for rental assistance, documents indicating the status of your application, copies of statements of financial distress, copies of any communication you have had with your landlord, as well as any other information. relevant.

“Really, what a person is there to show in court is that I have this application, whether it’s pending, complete, or the check is delivered and approved,” Rosales said, “You don’t can’t evict because you’re gonna get your money.

If a request for assistance is in the system – even if that check has not yet been distributed – the judge must pause the case. Rosales said she had heard it sometimes took six to eight weeks to get rent assistance checks because California is currently in arrears. Make sure you don’t promise to pay the rent by a certain date, assuming you’ll have your assistance check by then.

I followed all the steps. Now what?

If you received your rent assistance check and paid your landlord, they are supposed to ask for a dismissal. But sometimes they don’t, Rosales said, so tenants should go to their next court date with documents showing they’ve paid. Then the judge will dismiss the case. Once that happens, your case will be spotless – it will be as if the eviction issue never happened, Rosales said.

More to know

Landlords must use rent payments for the current month’s rent, unless the tenant agrees that this money can be used for rents due. So if you owe rent for the period covered by the eviction moratorium but you pay rent now, make sure the payment isn’t used to pay off your debt unless you want to.

While tenants are protected against evictions for money owed to landlords during the period covered by the eviction moratorium, tenants need to take a few steps to ensure they are protected. Tenants who owe landlords money for the period between March 1, 2020 and August 31, 2020, cannot be evicted for non-payment as long as they have completed a COVID-19 Financial Distress Report each time that an owner requested it.

For a rent due between Sept. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021, it’s a bit more complicated. In order to avoid eviction of monies owed during this period, tenants were required to pay at least 25% of the rent due during this period by September 30, in addition to making this declaration of financial distress whenever an owner asked for it. Landlords can sue in Small Claims Court for the remaining unpaid rent for the entire period beginning March 1, 2020 and ending September 30, 2021 from November 1.

What do you want to know about life in Sacramento? Ask your most important questions to our California Utility Team in the module below or by email [email protected].

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Mila Jasper is a reporter with the Sacramento Bee Public Services Office. A former Bee intern, Mila has also previously reported on information technology for Nextgov. She graduated from Northwestern University.


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