Frequently Asked Questions
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
EMERGENCY REGULATION 2020-001
Establishing Temporary, Countywide Moratorium on Eviction Due to Non-Payment of Rent by Residential Tenants Directly Impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic
(*Note: These FAQs may be supplemented from time to time with additional information.)
What is Emergency Regulation 2020-001?
Emergency Regulation 2020-001 temporarily prohibits landlords from evicting residential tenants in two situations:
- Where tenants are unable to pay their rent in full and/or on time because they have been directly impacted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic; and
- Where a landlord seeks to terminate the tenancy for “no-fault” causes, except where the eviction is necessary for the health and safety of the tenant, other residents in the tenant’s building, the landlord, or the landlord’s family, or the landlord or the landlord’s family intend to occupy the unit.
Where does the Emergency Regulation apply?
The Emergency Regulation covers the entire County of San Mateo, which means it applies in the unincorporated area, as well as all the cities located within the County, including Atherton, Belmont, Brisbane, Burlingame, Colma, Daly City, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Half Moon Bay, Menlo Park, Millbrae, Pacifica, Portola Valley, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Carlos, San Mateo, South San Francisco and Woodside.
How long will the Emergency Regulation last?
The Emergency Regulation is effective from March 24, 2020 through August 31, 2020, unless it is extended by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.
Is the Notice Re: San Mateo County Emergency Regulation 2020-001 available in languages other than English?
Yes, the Notice is also available in Spanish, Chinese, and Tagalog. If a tenant or landlord would like to receive a copy of the Notice in a language other than English, please call (650) 363-7873 or visit https://housing.smcgov.org/covid-19-smc-eviction-regulations
Can a tenant be evicted for reasons other than non-payment of rent while the Emergency Regulation is in effect?
Yes, a tenant may be evicted for other lease violations where they are alleged to be at fault, such as materially breaching other terms of the lease, intentionally damaging the rental unit or using the rental unit to engage in criminal activity. However, no-fault evictions are not permitted.
while the Emergency Regulation is in effect unless:
- Necessary for the health and safety of the tenant, nearby tenants, the landlord, or the landlord’s family; or
- The landlord’s family or the landlord or the landlord’s family intend to occupy the unit.
What can a tenant do to enforce the Emergency Regulation if the tenant believes that their landlord has violated it?
If a landlord knowingly violates the terms of the Emergency Regulation, a tenant may report the violation to County Code Compliance.
The tenant may also bring a lawsuit against the landlord to stop the landlord from continuing to violate the Emergency Regulation any further and to recover money damages, including damages for mental or emotional distress. If the tenant prevails in such a lawsuit, the tenant can recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs with a court order. If the landlord prevails, the landlord can recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs with a court order.
A tenant can also raise the Emergency Regulation as a legal defense to any unlawful detainer action initiated by a landlord in violation of the Regulation
DOES THE COUNTY’S EMERGENCY REGULATION APPLY EVEN THOUGH THE GOVERNOR HAS ISSUED TWO ORDERS GOVERNING EVICTIONS STATEWIDE?
Yes, the County’s Emergency Regulation works with the Governor’s Executive Orders governing evictions (N-28-20 and N-37-20) to provide additional protections for tenants living within the County who are directly impacted by COVID-19 during the County’s Local Emergency and the County’s Shelter-in-Place Order.
HOW DOES THE EMERGENCY REGULATION WORK?
What happens if a tenant misses a rent payment that becomes due while the Emergency Regulation is in effect?
If a tenant misses a rent payment that becomes due while the Emergency Regulation is in effect, and the tenant’s landlord seeks to evict the tenant for a failure to pay that rent that became due while the Emergency Regulation is in effect, the Emergency Regulation will temporarily suspend a landlord’s right to evict for that missed payment if the tenant takes certain actions. Here’s how it would work:
If a tenant misses a rent payment and the landlord wants to move forward with an eviction for non-payment of rent, the landlord must first send the tenant a copy of a form entitled “Notice Re: San Mateo County Emergency Regulation 2020-001”, which is available at https://housing.smcgov.org/covid-19-smc-eviction-regulations. In completing the Notice, the landlord provides the tenant with all applicable contact information (i.e. telephone and email, if available), as a tenant’s access to certain methods of communication could be disrupted or unavailable during the time the Emergency Regulation remains in place. After the landlord provides the tenant with a copy of this Notice, the tenant has 14 days to do each of the following:
- Notify the landlord in writing that the tenant cannot pay the rent in full and on time if the tenant’s ability to timely pay the full rent has been directly impacted by COVID-19 or the government’s response to COVID-19, and
- Provide the landlord with written proof showing that the tenant’s inability to pay is directly due to COVID-19 or the government’s response to COVID-19.
What are examples of being “directly impacted by COVID-19 or the government’s response to COVID-19?”
- Increased out-of-pocket medical costs related to COVID-19;
- Loss of household income as a result of being sick with COVID-19;
- Loss of household income as a result of caring for a household or family member who is sick with COVID-19;
- Loss of household income because of a lay-off, loss of hours, loss of business, or other income reduction resulting from COVID-19;
- Loss of household income as a result of complying with the local shelter-in-place order issued by San Mateo County Health Officer, the statewide shelter-in-place order issued by the Governor, or any other order or recommendation from a government agency to stay home, self-quarantine, or avoid congregating with others; and
- Inability to work because of the need to care for minor children affected by school, pre-school and/or childcare closures.
What form of writing is acceptable for the tenant to notify the landlord that the tenant is unable to timely pay the full rent?
Emergency Regulation 2020-001 provides that a tenant may inform the landlord of the tenant’s inability to pay by letter, email or text. Other forms of written notice may also be acceptable.
What are examples of written proof/documents that a tenant could show a landlord to show that the tenant’s inability to timely pay the full rent is directly impacted by COVID-19 or the government’s response to COVID-19?
- Letter or note from an employer or a former employer citing the COVID-19 pandemic and related government action as the basis for termination of employment or reduced work;
- Paycheck stubs or copies of paychecks from before and after the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency showing that the tenant’s income has been reduced;
- Letter, text message or e-mail from the tenant’s employer asking the tenant not to come to work;
- Screenshots from Uber, Lyft, Instacart, DoorDash, etc. applications showing that the tenant has experienced reduced income;
- Photo showing the tenant’s place of employment is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic;
- Bank statements before and after the COVID-19 pandemic showing that the tenant’s income has been reduced;
- Letter, e-mail or text message from school in which the tenant has a child enrolled regarding COVID-19-related closures that substantially affected the tenant’s income;
- Documentation of out-of-pocket medical expenses related to COVID-19; and
- Statement under oath attesting to the circumstances of the tenant’s inability to pay, for example, a declaration signed under penalty of perjury explaining in detail why the tenant is unable to pay full rent as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic (i.e., lost or reduced employment, out-of-pocket medical expenses, need to care for a child or other family member, etc.) and what portion of rent, if any, the tenant is able to pay.
Is the landlord required to keep confidential the written proof/documentation received from the tenant showing the tenant’s inability to timely pay the full rent due to COVID-19?
Yes. However, nothing in the Emergency Regulation affects the rules of evidence, and a landlord may submit the written proof/documentation received from a tenant as evidence in a legal proceeding regarding applicability of the Emergency Regulation.
While the Emergency Regulation is in effect, if a tenant cannot make full rent payments in a timely manner, but is able to pay a portion of the rent, is the tenant required to do so?
Yes, to be eligible for protection from eviction under the Emergency Regulation, tenants must make partial monthly rent payments if and to the extent they are financially able to do so.
Is a tenant who has a missed payment or payments covered by this Emergency Regulation still responsible for the past due rent?
Yes. However, the tenant has up to 180 days after the Emergency Regulation expires to pay the full amount of rent payments missed as a direct result of COVID-19. Specifically, within 90 days after the Emergency Order expires, the tenant must pay the full amount of missed rent payments, if able to do so. If the tenant is still unable to fully repay the missed rent payments at the end of 90 days as a direct result of COVID-19 or the government’s response to COVID-19, prior to the expiration of that 90 day period, the tenant must provide the landlord another written notice and additional documentation that shows this continuing inability to fully repay the missed rent payments to extend the payment date an additional 30 days. The tenant may provide additional written notices and documentation every 30 days to further extend the deadline to fully repay the missed rent payments, but under no circumstances is the landlord required to extend the deadline beyond 180 days after the Emergency Regulation expires.
Once the Emergency Regulation expires, will a tenant have to pay full rent on time?
Yes, the Emergency Regulation does not apply to rent payments due after the Emergency Regulation expires and a landlord may take action to evict a tenant for failure to timely pay rent that comes due after the Emergency Regulation expires.
Is a landlord required to provide a Notice Re: San Mateo County Emergency Regulation 2020-001 each month a tenant fails to pay the full rent due while the Emergency Regulation remains in place?
No, once a tenant establishes a continuing inability to pay full rent when due as a direct result of COVID-19, the landlord is not required to provide a new Notice Re: San Mateo County Emergency Regulation 2020-001 each month rent is due. However, if while the Emergency Regulation remains in place a tenant regains the ability to make full rent payments when due and pays full rent when due for at least one month, the landlord must again provide the Notice Re: San Mateo County Emergency Regulation 2020-001 before moving forward with an eviction based on non-payment of rent.
WHO IS COVERED BY THE EMERGENCY REGULATION?
Does the Emergency Regulation only cover tenants in buildings with a certain number of units?
No, the number of units in a tenant’s building does not matter.
Does the Emergency Regulation cover tenants renting a single family home?
Does the Emergency Regulation cover housemate tenants in a home-sharing arrangement?
Does the Emergency Regulation cover tenants renting mobilehomes?
If a tenant has COVID-19 and continues to pay their rent on time, can the tenant be evicted just because the tenant has been diagnosed with COVID-19?
No, a landlord cannot evict a tenant simply because the tenant or members of the tenant’s family have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or suspects the tenant or members of the tenants’ family of having COVID-19. However, as described above, no-fault evictions are permitted while the Emergency Regulation remains in place where the eviction is necessary for the health and safety of the tenant or the health and safety of other residents in the tenant’s building, the landlord, or the landlord’s family, or if the landlord or the landlord’s family intend to occupy the tenant’s unit.
WHAT IF I STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?
Who can I contact for information and resources regarding the Emergency Regulation?
For more information on these FAQS or for assistance accessing and using the Notice re: San Mateo County Emergency Regulation 2020-001, please contact the County Department of Housing at firstname.lastname@example.org or 650-363-7873.
For additional tenant assistance, please contact:
- Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County at (650) 558-0915 or (650) 517-8911
- Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto at (650) 326-6440 or (650) 422-2885
- Project Sentinel – San Mateo County hotline at 650-399-2149
For additional landlord assistance, please contact:
- San Mateo County Association of Realtors at (650) 696-8200
- California Apartment Association at (408) 342-3500
- Silicon Valley Association of Realtors at (408) 200-0100
- Project Sentinel – San Mateo County hotline at 650-399-2149