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Why You Can’t Be Evicted During COVID & What To Do If You Can’t Pay Rent

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San Francisco, along with most cities in the US, have enacted an ‘eviction moratorium’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This means that residential and commercial tenants cannot be evicted during the coronavirus outbreak, including for non-payment of rent.  The eviction moratorium is currently effective through June 21, 2020 in San Francisco.  (Dates may vary in your city).

We reviewed the new ordinance with Tenants Rights Attorney and Housing Columnist Daniel Wayne.  All the information from the new order is listed bellow along with an example of how you submit a written notice to your landlord via email, in case you cannot pay your rent this month.  You can read San Francisco’s entire Executive Order at  If you are a small business, you can find the moratorium on commercial evictions here.

SF Mayor London Breed

Eviction Moratorium for Non-Payment

If, like many of us, you cannot work right now due to shelter in place or because you or someone you are responsible for has contracted COVID-19, you do not have to worry about being evicted, and you do not have to forgo buying food or medicine in order to pay your rent on time.

This does not mean that nobody has to pay their rent during shelter in place! 

If you can pay your rent, then pay it – or as much of it as you can. What this moratorium means is that your landlord cannot throw you out of your home for non-payment during this crisis.  This does not mean that your rent is waived or not due later – at least for now. San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston is working on a law that would create a waiver of the obligation to pay back rent but that is still a work in progress.

Make sure you read your lease agreement

To see if you landlord can charge you late fees or interest on your missed rent payments.  These are things that you will want to discuss over email, because it creates a ‘paper trail’ in case there is a dispute later on.

To qualify for the moratorium on rent payment you must satisfy ALL of the below requirements:

  1. The rent you owe was due after March 13, and before the moratorium expires – currently April 22, 2020 but likely to be extended);
  2. Your inability to pay rent is/was because of the financial impact of the COVID-19 crises.
  3. You must tell your landlord that you can’t / couldn’t pay your rent due to the financial impact of COVID-19. within 1 month after the rent was due. (You can notify your landlord verbally or in writing, but it is recommended you do so in writing).
  4. Provide your landlord written documentation showing that your inability to pay rent is due to the outbreak within seven days of notifying them.

Note that for each period where you don’t pay rent you will need to repeat steps 3 and 4.

Financial impact means any loss of income due to:

  • Reduced work hours
  • Temporary business closure or slowdown
  • Layoffs
  • Increased expenses

If you qualify, your rent is then not due until six months AFTER the moratorium expires (doing the math that means rent due during March 13 – April 22 would be due on October 22, 2020).


While most people are concerned about their ability to pay rent, San Francisco actually put a moratorium on ALL evictions for the time being, with a few exceptions. That means that even those eviction notices for an owner-move in eviction or breaching your lease aren’t going to get you kicked out until this crises is over. The only evictions that courts are currently still processing are those related to violence / the threat of violence, health and safety issues and Ellis Act evictions. In other words, don’t freak out that you’re going to have to figure out how to move AND shelter in place at the same time.

Here is an email template you can use to write your own notice to your landlord regarding non-payment of rent:

Dear (landlord name),

I am writing to inform you that I will not be able to pay my rent of (amount) this month (dates of non-payment) due to the COVID-19 crises.   I have attached documentation here showing how I have been financially impacted by this crises.

(attachment a document like: proof of layoff, pay stub that shows reduced work hours, EDD receipt, a notice of your business’ closure ect.)

(your name and address)


Effective dates for the eviction moratorium

The eviction moratorium is currently effective through June 21, 2020.

As of April 3, 2020, the Mayor’s Order is set to expire on April 22, 2020. But the eviction moratorium will last for 60 days after the Mayor’s Order expires.

You have up to 6 months to pay your missed rent

If you cannot pay the missed rent payment by the end of the 1-month extension, your landlord must provide you with a written “notice of breach.”

Then, you and your landlord should try to agree on a payment plan. This plan should outline how much of the rent you can repay and on what schedule.

Your landlord may ask you for more documentation showing your inability to pay.

If you do not agree on a payment plan, under the Mayor’s Order, you will have up to 6 months after the expiration of the Mayor’s Order to pay the rent you missed before your landlord can begin eviction proceedings. Currently, the six month period would end on October 21, 2020.

If you need help reaching a payment plan with your landlord, contact the Conflict Intervention Services (CIS) of the San Francisco Bar Association. You can call them at 415-782-8940 or email

An example, if you miss rent due on April 1

If you miss rent due on April 1, you have until May 1 to inform the landlord you are not able to pay April’s rent.

You have until May 8 to provide written documentation to your landlord showing how you’ve been financially impacted. Then, your rent that was due on April 1 is now due 1 month after you provided documentation to your landlord.

If you cannot pay by the 1-month mark, you can try to come up with a payment plan with your landlord, but otherwise you will have until October 21, 2020 (6 months after the Mayor’s Order expires) to pay the rent that was originally due April 1, before your landlord can begin eviction proceedings due to the missed rent payment.

Please Note: Your May rent is still due May 1, unless the Mayor’s Order is extended. If the Mayor’s Order is extended, you must follow the same procedure if you cannot pay rent due May 1 because of the financial impact of COVID-19.


Buildings funded by HUD are protected under a different eviction moratorium order

On March 27, 2020, the federal government issued a 120-day moratorium on all evictions from federally assisted housing.

This includes all housing under the following programs:

  • HUD
  • USDA Rural Housing
  • Low Income Housing Tax Credit programs

See more information on HUD’s moratorium.

Get help paying your rent

You can contact the following organizations about rental assistance.

Get guidance on working with your landlord

You can contact the following agencies if you have questions about how to notify your landlord or determining what documents will demonstrate financial impact:

Landlords must use a specific notice to evict tenants after the moratorium

Landlords cannot attempt to recover possession while the eviction moratorium is in effect.

To give an eviction notice after the moratorium, landlords must use the form titled “Notice to Tenant Regarding the Existence of a Temporary Eviction Moratorium due to COVID-19” under forms for landlords on the Rent Board’s website.

Get guidance about this eviction moratorium order

See the detailed guidance on the moratorium for landlords and tenants. It is published by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD).

Read the guidance in ChineseSpanish, and Filipino.

Mayor Breed also issued a proclamation declaring the existence of a local emergency which contains the temporary moratorium on evictions.

For more information on this guidance, email MOHCD at

For all other inquiries, call the San Francisco Rent Board at (415) 252-4631. Leave a message and we will call you back.

For additional landlord assistance, call the San Francisco Apartment Association at 415-255-2288.

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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

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