Tenant activists are organizing rent strikes in a number of California cities, with landlords in Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco as apparent targets.

The more radical tenant groups are spearheading the strikes, calling on tenants to withhold rent payments and demand that unpaid rent be forgiven in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

The demands come despite a statewide moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent attributable to COVID-19. The California Apartment Association, too, called on all rental housing providers to adopt its Safe at Home Guidelines, which include a voluntary rent freeze and halt on evictions for residents affected by the pandemic.

CAA contends, however, that tenants who cannot pay rent now due to COVID-19 financial hardships will still need to compensate landlords for unpaid rent within a reasonable time frame after the crisis subsides.

Moreover, CAA has urged all tenants who can pay their rent on time to do so. The association condemns organizations using the COVID-19 crisis as an excuse for renters unaffected financially by the virus to withhold payment.

“Calls for a general rent strike — where nobody pays the rent and back rent never gets paid — are irresponsible, unethical and illegal,” said Tom Bannon, chief executive officer for the California Apartment Association. “Any organization that is promoting general rent strikes is reckless, and either thoughtless or incredibly self-serving. Rent strikes will have a detrimental impact on housing opportunities for everyone, especially for working-class families.”