California Tenants Rally for Extension as Rent Relief Expiration Date Looms

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  • Many California tenants are still behind on rent payments due to the pandemic.
  • A federal eviction ban that protected renters earlier in the pandemic has expired.
  • The deadline to apply for rental assistance is March 31, but advocates are calling for more time to apply for aid.

California residents still need help catching up on rent.

Millions of Americans lost their jobs early on in the COVID-19 outbreak. And in the absence of having money in savings, they fell behind on their rent.

While there was a federal eviction ban in place earlier on in the crisis, that ban has since expired. Now tenants who are behind on their rent need to get current on their payments or otherwise risk losing their homes.

In California, the deadline to apply for rent relief funds is March 31. But advocates are calling for an extension of the program to give more people time to apply for aid and avoid evictions.

A much-need extension

The Housing NOW! California coalition is calling on state leaders to extend the application deadline for rent relief to the end of August. The logic is that doing so will give more tenants time to apply for rental assistance.

So far, language barriers have prevented some eligible tenants from applying for aid. The hope is that in giving them more time, the state can prevent a massive wave of evictions that could spur a major homelessness crisis.

To be clear, at this point, California's rent relief portal is set to close to new applicants on March 31. But that doesn't mean the program won't continue to process and approve applications that are already in the system. Still, advocates argue, tenants need more time to gather the right information and get their applications in. They say that moving that deadline to August is essential.

Who's eligible for rent relief?

In California, both landlords and tenants can apply for rental assistance funds. To qualify, tenants must prove they've been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those approved for funding can receive money to cover both past-due rent as well as upcoming rent. There are also funds available to cover unpaid utility costs.

Renters who are applying for aid should have at least one of the following documents on hand (though it may be possible to apply without formal documentation, provided applicants certify to the right information on their applications and provide proof of ID):

  • 2020 tax returns
  • 2020 W-2s or proof of unemployment, such as Form 1099G
  • Current pay stubs
  • Proof of participation in a state or federal subsidy program like CalFresh or CalWORKS
  • Copies of unpaid utility bills dated later than April 1, 2020 (for those requesting relief to catch up on utilities)

Landlords, meanwhile, will need these documents to apply:

  • Lease agreements for tenants with past-due balances
  • Ledger statements showing unpaid rent balances
  • Form W-8 or W-9

Landlords who are applying for 10 or more tenants can also fill out a bulk application to cut down on time.

Don't wait

While advocates may be pushing for more time to apply for rent relief, that's not guaranteed to happen. Those who are behind on rent should therefore aim to submit an application for aid as soon as possible. And anyone who's unsure about whether they qualify should call the CA COVID-19 Rent Relief Call Center at 833-430-2122.

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