It’s April 1, and the rent is due.  

With COVID-19 prompting layoffs and job cuts across California, though, many tenants won’t be able to pay it. In these cases, the California Apartment Association urges landlords to respond with patience and compassion.  

Owners who haven’t already done so are encouraged to provide their tenants with the association’s sample letter on rent payments, which offers guidance to tenants unable to pay rent because of COVID-19. CAA also offers a form that can be used to create a back-rent payment plan for when the crisis subsides.  Of course, CAA’s sample letter urges tenants to pay their rent on time if they’re able to do so.   

Further, owners can refer struggling tenants to CAA’s resource page for renters, where they’ll find a list of government, nonprofit, and community-based resources to assist with housing, food, medical needs, and more.  

Tenants who can’t pay rent because of COVID-19 are protected against eviction by a statewide executive order issued last week by Gov. Gavin Newsom, and dozens of local jurisdictions have imposed eviction moratoria in response to coronavirus.  

CAA urges all California landlords to follow the law and adopt the association’s Safe at Home Guidelines through May 31 by:     

  • Freezing rents on all residents & pledge to not issue any rent increases. 
  • Halting evictions on renters affected by COVID-19, absent extraordinary circumstances. 
  • Waiving late fees for residents who pay rent after the rent due date because they have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and related government actions. 
  • Offering flexible payment plans for residents who cannot pay rent by the due date. 
  • Directing renters to available resources to assist with food, health, and financial assistance. 
  • Communicating with residents proactively that you are available to assist them and want to work with them to ensure they remain housed. 

Obviously, renters aren’t the only ones facing financial hardships during the pandemic. Owners who go without rent payments may find themselves unable to pay their mortgage. In that case, the owner should consider contacting their lender to discuss forbearance options. On March 25, after more than a thousand rental housing providers took up CAA’s call to action, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that Wells Fargo, US Bank, Citigroup, and JP Morgan Chase, as well as 200 state-chartered banks and credit unions, agreed to a 90-day forbearance of mortgage payments for many smaller property owners impacted by COVID-19. 

Landlords suffering a loss of rental income also may want to contact their insurance carrier to request a modified payment schedule. 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.