This article was posted on Thursday, Apr 01, 2021

Q: My tenant has not been affected by COVID-19 and their failure to pay rent is not related to COVID-19. They gave me a Declaration of COVID-19 Related Financial Distress. Does my tenant have to prove that they are affected by COVID-19?

A: No, currently there is no requirement for the tenant to prove they are in financial distress due to COVID-19. The tenant is only required to provide you with a Declaration of COVID-19 Related Financial Distress signed under penalty of perjury.

Q: I received an email from my tenant stating that they would not pay COVID-19 rental debt and that they would only pay 25% of their rent. What is COVID-19 rental debt?

A: COVID-19 rental debt is unpaid rent, late fees, or other fees that became due from March 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.

Q: My tenant has not paid rent since August 2020. Can I evict my tenant for failure to pay rent?

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A: Not yet. An unlawful detainer for nonpayment of rent or any other financial obligation cannot be initiated before July 1, 2021. This date may change, and you should speak to an attorney before filing an eviction based on nonpayment of rent on or after July 1, 2021. 


Q: Previously, I had served my tenants a 3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. What is the proper notice to serve to a tenant that has failed to pay their rent?

A: The correct notice to serve to a tenant that has failed to pay rent is a 15 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. Additionally, depending on the language that is in your 15 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit you might need to serve an additional disclosure form. Make sure that you contact the Apartment Owner’s Association or your attorney to get the most updated forms available since the law has changed several times in the last 12 months.  


Q: I received a Declaration of COVID-19 Financial Distress from my tenant, but they have not paid the 25% of the rent. When is the 25% of rent due?

A: Currently, tenants have until June 30, 2021 to pay at least 25% of unpaid COVID-19 rental debt. Tenants are not required to pay monthly and can pay in a single payment by June 30, 2021. 


Q: My tenant gave me a check that was equal to 25% of the rent for the month of April 2021. On the check the tenant wrote in the memo section “25% of rent for April 2021.” Do I have to apply the rent payment in the way the tenant is requesting on the memo section of the check or can I apply it to older unpaid rent?

A: A Landlord must apply payments of COVID-19 rental debt to the month in which the rent was paid or requested by the tenant. The only time you can apply the rent payment to a different month is if the tenant agrees in writing to do so. 


Q: My tenant requested that I apply their security deposit to their unpaid rent. Can I apply their deposit to COVID-19 rental debt?

A: Yes, if your tenant agrees in writing to let you apply the deposit toward their unpaid COVID-19 rental debt you can do so. However, there is no requirement that requires the landlord to apply the deposit towards rent if they do not want to. 


Q: My tenant recently moved out and they owe rent for September 2020 through March 15, 2021. When can I sue my tenant in Small Claims court for the back rent?

A: You cannot sue a current tenant or a previous tenant in small claims court for unpaid COVID-19 rental debt before August 1, 2021. Before you file a Small Claims court case for COVID-19 rental debt you should check with an attorney to make sure the state has not extended the date. Additionally, if the tenant owes you COVID-19 rental debt and for damages to your rental property you cannot file two separate cases to address these matters.  Since both claims for COVID rental debt and damage to your rental property arose out of the same breach of contract, you are required to include both claims into one case which cannot be filed until August 1, 2021.


Q: My previous tenant owes me more than $10,000 in COVID-19 rental debt. Can I sue my tenant in Small Claims court for more than $10,000?

A: Yes, the limit on the amount of money you can sue for in Small Claims court will not apply to cases filed to recover COVID-19 rental debt. 


Attorney Franco Simone, of Simone & Associates and The Landlords’ Legal Center, has been doing evictions for over 20 years.  He is also an adjunct law professor at the University of San Diego.  Mr. Simone’s office is open Monday – Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Tel: 619-235-6180, website: or email [email protected].