Self-Help Center

COVID Related Help

Law Suit for COVID Back Rent


California law protected tenants for eviction for nonpayment of the rent normally due between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021, called the “covered period”, because the government had shut down businesses and prevented tenants from working. This Tenant Relief Act included that landlords could later sue the tenant to collect that covered period rent, even using “small” claims court for any amount, and for as many cases as that landlord had to file for his tenants.

The federal government’s COVID Relief fund was distributed through the State to local programs to pay up to18 months’ worth of rent which the tenants were unable to pay due to the effect of these COVID regulations. The system paid whatever the landlord claimed, with little to no questioning, for any 18 months between March 1, 2020 and March 31, 2023. Landlords could have applied for covered period rents, as some did, or made their application for the 18 months’ rent after that covered period [10/1/21-3/31/23], if the tenants were still in possession during that transition period. In doing that, the landlords preserved their right to sue the tenants later for the covered period rent.

That is what you are probably facing now. You may have gotten either the small claims form, called a Plaintiff’s Claim, or a normal Summons and Complaint in the Superior Court, which is the landlord’s lawsuit against you for that money. You can fight and win that case, or at least greatly reduce what you have to pay, and even sue the landlord. There are strict deadlines, and you have to it right. It is best that you take action now. Staying ahead of the game is important. Watch this video and then set up a consultation to learn exactly what you need to do first.

Lots to think about and then discuss in a consultation.

The Future

The primary problem for tenants is urban congestion: square peg in a round hole. There is just not enough room in cities for the people who need to work there. Vacancy rates are low, so rents keep going up because we need a place to live. Freeways are congested, with travel time on a constant “rush hour” eating up gas and our off-time.

Due to COVID, businesses that have turned to letting employees work from home. They may find that they can operate just as well, and even cheaper. The technology exists to displace employees from their cubicle to their home office. Fiber optic cables are cheaper than freeways, and the government has money to resolve other problems.

Employers don’t need the office space, employees are willing to work for less not to commute to work, and tele-commuting becomes the norm. With that, tenants can buy a house in a small town for less than they are paying for rent, and a mass exodus from the cities follows. Vacancy rates drop, as do rents, freeway congestion disappears, and the landlords have to keep their places habitable. It’s not a dream, but an idea that needs promotion. The pendulum needs to swing in the other direction.

California Civil Code 1511

The want of performance of an obligation, or of an offer of performance, in whole or in part, or any delay therein, is excused by the following causes, to the extent to which they operate:

1. When such performance or offer is prevented or delayed by the act of the creditor, or by the operation of law, even though there may have been a stipulation that this shall not be an excuse; however, the parties may expressly require in a contract that the party relying on the provisions of this paragraph give written notice to the other party or parties, within a reasonable time after the occurrence of the event excusing performance, of an intention to claim an extension of time or of an intention to bring suit or of any other similar or related intent, provided the requirement of such notice is reasonable and just;

2. When it is prevented or delayed by an irresistible, superhuman cause, or by the act of public enemies of this state or of the United States, unless the parties have expressly agreed to the contrary; or,

3. When the debtor is induced not to make it, by any act of the creditor intended or naturally tending to have that effect, done at or before the time at which such performance or offer may be made, and not rescinded before that time.