COVID-19 What the rental housing industry needs to know
Coronavirus: Resources for navigating the outbreak
With the continued spread of the coronavirus, rental housing professionals are sure to have some questions. CAA is working around the clock to keep our members and the general public informed. This website is being updated daily, and you are encouraged to bookmark this page and visit it for answers to many of your questions related to this crisis.
Table of contents
- COVID-19 Tenant Protections
- Shelter in Place Order – Local, City, County and State Orders
- Action alert: Write to lawmakers
- Sample letters to residents
- Tenant Payment Plan Agreements
- Frequently Asked Questions by CAA Members
- Video Resources for Rental Housing Providers
- Safe at Home Guidelines in response to COVID-19
- U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention
- Employer-Employee Resources
- Government & Community Resources for Renters and Housing Providers
- Insurance tips
- Sign up email alerts
COVID-19 Tenant Protections
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has taken root in California, Governor Gavin Newsom has issued two executive orders related to evictions of residents who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. These executive orders have raised many questions for housing providers. The most common of those questions are addressed in CAA’s Industry Insight – Frequently Asked Questions: Governor Newsom’s Executive Orders on Evictions During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
In addition, local governments throughout California have adopted or are considering prohibitions on evictions of residents who have been affected by fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. This is a rapidly developing situation, and CAA will update this page as new information becomes available. Read CAA’s story.
CAA urges rental housing providers to act with compassion in dealing with residents who face coronavirus-related hardships.
To view the list of localities that have adopted or are considering adopting specific eviction restrictions, please click on the + sign in the appropriate header.
To ensure compliance with all applicable laws, CAA strongly recommends that rental housing providers consult with an attorney before issuing any notice to pay rent or quit or notice of termination of tenancy while this pandemic persists.
Shelter in place orders
On March 19, 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-33-20, which directed all California residents to heed the order of the state public health officer. The order of the state public health officer, also issued March 19, 2020, orders all residents to stay at their place of residence except as needed to maintain continuity of operations for operations of federal critical infrastructure sectors, as defined by the federal Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). CISA has identified the Commercial Facilities Sector as one of 16 critical infrastructure sectors. The Commercial Facilities Sector includes real estate (e.g., office and apartment buildings, condominiums, mixed-use facilities, self-storage). As professionals in the real estate industry, providers of rental housing are permitted to continue operating to the extent necessary to maintain continuity of operations. Additional information regarding the order of the state public health officer can be found here.
In addition, several public health officials have issued “shelter in place” orders and recommendations, specifically in the following areas (the relevant order/recommendation is linked to each area):
Generally speaking, these orders require individuals living within these areas to stay in their homes and mandate that most businesses cease all activities, subject to certain limitations. The orders allow “essential businesses” to continue operating, and allow people to leave their residences only for “essential activities,” which includes engaging in tasks essential to their health and safety, purchasing groceries, and engaging in outdoor activity like walking, hiking, or running, subject to social distancing rules. “Essential activities” also include performing work providing “essential products and services at an essential business.”
It appears that engaging in limited functions necessary to operate rental housing are considered essential business functions and essential activities under these orders. Moreover, businesses – including rental housing providers – remain free to take measures necessary to maintain “Minimum Basic Operations” so long as they follow social distancing requirements.
Several cities and counties have revised their shelter-in-place orders to require essential businesses that continue to operate to prepare, post, and implement a Social Distancing Protocol at each of their facilities. A link to the Social Distancing Protocols prepared by each city and/or county health department that has mandated this requirement in provided under the name of the city or county above. One of the requirements of these Social Distancing Protocols is to post a sign at each entrance to the facility. CAA has created a sign that can be used to comply with this requirement.
These local shelter in place orders may be enforced by local sheriffs or police departments and violation could be a crime. Fact-specific questions regarding the orders should be discussed with your attorney.
CAA recommends that rental housing providers implement the following measures:
- If applicable in the city or county where the rental property is located, provide a copy of the Social Distancing Protocol for the property to each employee working on-site and post a copy at each entrance to multi-family properties.
- If applicable in the city or county where the rental property is located, post the CAA Entrance Sign – Social Distancing Measures at each entrance to multi-family properties.
- Limit having employees on-site to the level necessary to maintain Minimum Basic Operations (e.g., processing rents and payroll, handling service requests for urgent habitability issues).
- To the extent possible, limit the necessity for in-person rent payments and other resident requests by providing contactless methods for making rent payments and service requests (e.g., rent drop boxes, online portals for payment and requests). Note: under state law, landlords cannot mandate that tenants pay rent online, one option other than electronic or cash payments must be provided. For more information, see CAA’s Industry Insight – Payment of Rent and Security Deposits: Cash and Electronic Funds Transfer.
- Cease non-essential maintenance and repair work (e.g., continue to fix overflowing toilets and broken heaters, but don’t move forward with plans to repaint walls for cosmetic purposes and upgrade appliances).
- Inform residents of limited staffing and contact information for urgent matters. CAA recommends using multiple methods of communication to ensure residents are informed of the changes (e.g., sending both an email and placing sign in the office window/door or distributing flyers to residents’ doors).
- Contact your vendors (e.g., plumbers, exterminators) regarding their availability to respond to emergencies to determine if you need to make alternative arrangements.
- To the extent possible, work with residents who seek to defer move-in and move-out dates in cases where the move is not necessitated by safety, sanitation, or habitability reasons.
- Continue to perform walk-through inspections for planned move-out if requested by the resident, as these are legally mandated, but follow social distancing protocols by keeping a six-foot distance from individuals and provide appropriate protective equipment to employees performing inspections, such as gloves and disinfectant wipes. If a resident requested an inspection prior to the outbreak, follow up with the resident to confirm whether they would still like the inspection done. If resident withdraws their request, get that withdrawal in writing. For more information, see CAA’s Industry Insight – Walk-Through Process.
- Continue to send security deposit itemizations as necessary to comply with the law. Note that in some circumstances, Civil Code Section 1950.5 allows a landlord to send an estimated itemization and refund. For more information, see CAA’s Industry Insight – Security Deposit Collection and Return.
- It is a business decision whether to continue showing vacant units. If showings will continue, to the extent possible, provide virtual and low-contact options (e.g., allowing prospective residents to enter unit on their own). Disinfect high-touch surfaces of vacant units between each showing. In circumstances where virtual and self-touring options are not feasible, showings should be by appointment-only with no more than two visitors at a time residing within the same household or living unit and one individual showing the unit. Do not allow in-person showings of occupied units.
- Continue to process planned move-ins, but observe social distancing guidelines and implement no and low contact measures to the extent possible (e.g., using electronic signatures for lease signing when feasible).
Action Alert: Ask Legislature to support renters, housing providers
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the California Apartment Association is calling on the governor and California Legislature to enact emergency measures to protect renters and provide temporary relief to housing providers. Learn more
Sample letters to residents
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust our community into unknown territory. We recognize this is a frightening time and that many in our community have faced both health and economic impacts. We are here to try to help. CAA has created sample letters rental housing providers can use to communicate with residents about key issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Sample letter regarding rent coming due (available in English and Spanish)
- Sample letter to residents participating in a rent strike
Tenant Payment Plan Agreements
The California Apartment Association has over 200 forms and addenda to manage your rental property. Normally these forms are only available to our members. With the current COVID-19 crisis, we have decided to make the payment plan forms available to the general public. There are two forms that are available:
Frequently Asked Questions by CAA Members
As anxiety over COVID-19 continues to grow, the California Apartment Association has received a flood of questions about how to handle the myriad issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. CAA has created Industry Insights to address these frequently asked questions:
- FAQ: Challenges with Rent Collection Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic
- FAQ: Governor Newsom’s Executive Orders on Evictions During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Video resources for rental housing providers
To assist rental housing providers in California with their response to the coronavirus pandemic, CAA has created webinars specific to the challenges facing rental housing providers.
Safe at Home Guidelines in response to COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought frightening and uncertain times, leaving many Californians with health challenges and economic difficulties. The California Apartment Association urges rental housing providers to act with compassion and work with residents who face COVID-19 related hardships… (Read More)
Government & Community Resources for Renters and Housing Providers
To help rental housing providers and their residents during the COVID-19 crisis, the California Apartment Association is maintaining a list of various government, nonprofit, and community-based resources to assist with housing, food, medical needs and more. We also have this information available in a printable format to hand out to your residents. This information, along with the handouts, can be found at our Government & Community Resources for Renters and Housing Providers page.
Review your policy: COVID-19 has brought unprecedented times for all businesses, including insurance. If you are confused about your coverage or would like a policy overview, please contact your agent or one of the licensed professionals at the CAA Value Insurance Plan. Many businesses maintain several types of insurance policies to protect employees, property, and contracts. All policies vary, and a licensed professional can help you navigate the coverage’s within your particular policy.
Call your carrier for help with premiums/other issues: Many insurance companies are offering financial assistance to customers affected by COVID-19, such as by waiving late fees and granting grace periods for premium payments. The California insurance commissioner has specifically requested that all companies providing insurance in California give their insureds at least a 60-day grace period to pay their premiums. Not paying your insurance premium on time can result in your coverage lapsing or terminating, so it may be worth a call to your carrier to see how they can assist you. A list of several insurance companies and what they are offering can be found here.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- How it spreads
- Fact sheet: What you need to know about (COVID-19)
- Preventing the spread in communities, including at work
- Communication resources including handouts and posters
- Paycheck Protection Program: Potentially forgivable loans for small business expenses. Applications processed starting April 3, 2020
- CalChamber Coronavirus Resource Page
- EDD COVID-19 Resource Page
- Cal/OSHA Interim Guidelines for General Industry on 2019 Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
- COVID-19 Overview
- Hazard recognition
- Control and prevention
- Protecting workers during a pandemic
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