News
July 3, 2020
link to facebook link to twitter

Is COVID-19 affecting your ability to pay rent?

By: Irene Hilsendager
April 10, 2020

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, which also serves as the Board of Commissioners for the Community Development Commission, passed the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Ordinance, effective immediately for 60 days after the end of the local and public health emergency.

The new ordinance aligns with the Governor’s Executive Order N-28-20 which authorized local jurisdictions to suspend evictions for non-payment of rent for reasons associated with the coronavirus. At the meeting the board also set the date of June 2, 2020 to review the ordinance to consider additional data and information about the availability of other assistance programs and community needs.

The ordinance creates a legal defense for all renters who can demonstrate that their failure to pay rent is due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tenants who use this defense are required to share that information with their landlord to support claims for any prospective mortgage relief.

The above being said and put forth by the Community Development Commission, one assignment was to inquire as to how the apartment houses and mobile home parks will be receiving the news and how it is handled.

After calling and talking to apartment house managers, it was apparent that that the guide lines for federal, county and local governments were being followed. Some of the newer apartment dwelling directors said they have not had any tenants come to them and saying they can’t afford to pay rent because of job loss and the coronavirus. If a problem such as this arises, the tenant would have to come directly to the manager and fill out a form and it would be turned over to a case worker. One mobile home manager said, “If the tenants cannot pay the rent they will work with and do up a payment plan according to the law.”

The Eviction Defense Ordinance prevents evictions for the duration of the locally-declared emergency and for 60 days after it ends to allow tenants time to make up the unpaid rent. The ordinance also directs the Sonoma County Housing Authority to extend deadlines for housing assistance recipients and applicants to provide stability for community members housed with a critical subsidy. The ordinance is considered urgent based on the closure or extreme restrictions on local businesses, severe loss of income for many residents who depend on wages or business income to pay rent and substantial medical expenses for some community members. Barbie Robinson, co-director of the County’s Emergency Operations Center and Interim Executive Director of the Community Development Commission said, “The county recognizes that without local protection eviction notices for failure to pay rent are likely to surge. We need to protect families living paycheck to paycheck who are unable to work during school and business closures and who are doing their part to follow the shelter-in-place health order.”

The following are financial assistance for residents and employees for Sonoma County:

For paying utilities call the Salvation Army, 93 Stony Circle, Santa Rosa, 707-542-0981. They will help to pay water, electric and other utility bills. Monday-Friday afternoons by appointment only.

Rent

Season of Sharing, Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County, call 211. Disaster assistance with housing costs and critical family needs applications accepted through June 30. Supports low-t0-moderate income families with dependent children, age 55 and older, disabled individuals, veterans, pregnant women in their second or third trimester, survivors of domestic violence and transitioning emancipated foster youth between 18 and 24. During the pandemic, support is also available for those who have lost income due to the coronavirus. Visit the website on low-income rent and deposit assistance programs, www.capsonoma.org.

Mortgage

While federal financial agencies have suggested hardship forbearance for distressed borrowers, you should contact your lender if you have a financial hardship. Do not wait to miss a payment. The state order asks that banks to halt foreclosures and related evictions through May 31, 2020.

Student loans:

Borrowers who need immediate relief may apply for a forbearance, which suspends payments for a period of time.

Income taxes:

The Internal Revenue Service said individuals may defer up to $1 million of federal income tax payments for the tax year of 2019 including self-employment tax due on April 15, 2020  until July 15, 2020, without penalties or interest. The guidance does not change the April 15 filing deadline, but taxpayers can always file for a six-month filing extension. The California Franchise Tax Board earlier extended the April 15 deadline for making state income tax payments and estimated payments until June 15.

Property taxes due April 10

The California Board of Equalization is working with the state to see if it could allow counties to provide some penalty relief if property tax payments are not paid by April 10. Each county would have to extend the deadline for its property owners.

Unemployment benefits:

If your employer has reduced your hours or shut down operations due to coronavirus, you can file an unemployment claim by phone or mail with the State of California. The state executive order waived the normal one-week waiting period to file for people who are unemployed and or disabled because of coronavirus.

Sick leave:

For information contact your employer and visit https;//WWW.DIR.CA.GOV/DLSE/2019-NOVEL-CORONAVIRUS.HTM.

State disability or family leave:

Disability insurance and paid family leave are part of the same program, called state disability insurance. If a medical professional has certified that you  can’t work because you have or have been exposed to COVID-19, you can file a claim for state disability insurance. If you can’t work because you are caring for an eligible relative who is sick or quarantined by COVID-19, you can file for paid family leave.

The Attorney General alerts all tenants of the following aspects of the Governor’s executive order which came  in April 6:

• Tenants still owe rent; if you can afford to pay your rent, you should. 

• If you cannot pay all of your rent, you must notify your landlord in writing right away and no later than seven days after the rent is due.

• You should gather and keep documentation showing your inability to pay your rent.

• Local measures may offer additional protection, since they remain in effect following the Governor’s order. Research local eviction moratoriums that may apply in your area.

Facts for tenants unable to pay rent due to COVID-19

The Governor’s order does not stop landlords from filing eviction cases. Until May 31, 2020, the executive order delays those eviction cases for tenants who cannot pay rent due to reasons related to COVID-19 if the tenants also take action to assert their rights. While the order is in effect, qualifying tenants who take the actions specified below may be able to obtain a 60-day extension of their time to respond to an eviction, and are protected against lockout by the sheriff. 

Actions tenants must take in order to obtain the protections of the Governor’s order

First, tenants who will not be able to pay should notify their landlords in writing as soon as possible, and no later than seven days after the rent is due. The notice must be in writing and should say that the tenant is unable to pay the full rent due to reasons related to COVID-19. 

Second, tenants should gather all documentation that shows their inability to pay, so that they can prove they are entitled to the protections of the Governor’s order. That documentation can include notices of layoffs or reductions in hours, pay stubs, bank statements, medical bills, or signed letters from the tenant’s employer or supervisor explaining the situation.

Third, tenants should be prepared to take quick action in the event that their landlord files an eviction case. Affected tenants should consult with legal aid or courthouse self-help clinics.

 

The information came from The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and Governor Newsom’s desk.