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Applying for COVID-19 Rental Debt Assistance

According to census data from 2019, approximately 45% of households are renting. That’s an extremely high number of landlords to manage these properties, and an even higher number of tenants. What happens to these owners when a large portion of people in California struggle to pay their rent as a result of a global pandemic? Renters worry about eviction or late payment penalties, and landlords worry about paying their own bills.

Luckily, the state of California offers a solution. The CA COVID-19 Rent Relief Program provides rental assistance to low-income Californian via the payment of unpaid rent to landlords. This both takes the burden of payment off the renter and provides payment to the landlord. A total of $2.6 billion in federal rental assistance funds accomplishes this. In order to learn how to tap into rental assistance funds, keep reading. At Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, we have an experienced team of landlord-tenant experts at your disposal. To schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, call 415-956-6488 today.

How Does Rental Assistance Work?

Unpaid Rent & Future Rent

Landlords choosing to participate in the program get up to 80% of eligible unpaid rent in reimbursement from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021. In order to receive this 80%, they must waive their right to obtain the remaining 20% of unpaid rent for that period.

If you are a tenant and your landlord chooses not to participate in the program, you may apply on your own. After applying, you may receive 25% of your unpaid rent from the period of April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021. If you pay this 25% by June 30, 2021, it will opt you into the extended eviction protections listed in SB-91. Renters who are eligible can also receive rent assistance up to 25% of their monthly rent. This, combined with the unpaid rental assistance, will help tenants avoid eviction when the protections expire on June 30, 2021.

Utility Assistance

Additionally, eligible renters will receive assistance for current and future unpaid utility bills. These unpaid changes accumulated from April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021 will be covered at 100% of the cost. This is limited to a total of 12 months of unpaid utility bills. 

How To Tap Into Rental Assistance Funds: For Landlords

First, we recommend that all applicants determine their eligibility for the rental assistance program. Owners qualify for the program if they have one or more eligible tenants. They may apply for reimbursement of up to 80% of unpaid rent for each renter from the period of April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021. These landlords must agree to waive the remaining 20% of that period’s unpaid rent.


  • Payments must be used only to satisfy unpaid rent for the specified period.
  • The tenant’s must verify that they meet the eligibility criteria and sign the application.
  • The tenant’s household must be at or below 80% of the AMI (Area Median Income).

Before Applying, Gather:

  • Property deeds
  • Mortgage notes
  • Property tax statements
  • Copies of property insurance statements
  • Lease or rental agreements that show the tenant’s name, address, and monthly rental amount

How To Tap Into Rental Assistance Funds: For Tenants

If you are a renter whose landlord chooses not to participate in the program, you may apply on your own. Should you choose to apply on your own, you will receive 25% of your unpaid rent from April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021.

Requirements: 1 or more members of your household must meet all criteria

  • Qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced a reduced household income, or experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19.
  • Be at risk of homelessness or housing instability. This includes past-due rent or utility bills, or an eviction notice; unsafe living conditions; other evidence of risk.
  • Have a household income no more than 80% of the AMI

Before Applying, Gather:

  • Proof of income loss
  • Costs incurred due to COVID-19
  • Letter of job termination
  • Proof of having applied for unemployment benefits
  • Other items that show COVID-related financial hardship

Contact an Experienced San Francisco Landlord-Tenant Lawyer Today

At Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, we understand that times are tough. Our firm is dedicated to landlord-tenant relationships, laws, and disputes. Because of this, we’re here to help you get back on your feet after the hardships of COVID-19. If you’d like to speak with an experienced San Francisco landlord-tenant lawyer, call Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners today at 415-956-6488.

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