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Emergency Moratorium on Residential Rent Increases and Evictions

Date Posted: April 9th, 2020 @ 9:20 AM
Last Updated: April 9th, 2020 @ 9:45 AM

About

On March 9, 2020 the Oakland City Administrator issued a proclamation of Local Emergency, which was ratified by the Oakland City Council on March 12, 2020, due to the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. On March 27, 2020, the Oakland City Council adopted an ordinance imposing a moratorium on residential evictions and rent increases, and prohibiting late fees during the Local Emergency. The Ordinance also prohibits evictions based on nonpayment of rent that became due during the Local Emergency when the tenant suffered a substantial reduction of income or substantial increase of expenses due to COVID-19. The moratorium is set to end May 31, 2020, unless City Council extends it.

The Emergency Moratorium on Rent Increases and Evictions only applies to tenancies regulated under the Oakland Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance and the Oakland Rent Adjustment Ordinance. The following is a summary. For complete information, please consult the full text of the Ordinance at https://bit.ly/2UQl52b. Commercial tenants with questions about the eviction moratorium should send e-mail to busdev@oaklandca.gov.

This emergency ordinance establishes moratoriums on:

Most Evictions

Most evictions are banned during the Local Emergency. Evictions where the tenant poses an imminent threat to the health or safety of other occupants and Ellis Act evictions are exceptions.

Evictions for nonpayment of rent that became due during the Local Emergency

A property owner cannot evict a tenant for failure to pay rent during the Local Emergency if the rent was unpaid due to a substantial loss of income or an increase in expenses resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. This includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • the tenant suffered a loss of employment or a reduction in hours;
  • the tenant was unable to work because their children were out of school;
  • the tenant was unable to work because they were sick with COVID-19 or caring for a household or family member who was sick with COVID19; or
  • the tenant incurred substantial out of pocket medical expenses.

The tenant is still obligated to pay rent owed during the Local Emergency. The emergency moratorium on evictions does not relieve the tenant of liability for unpaid rent.

Residential Late Fees

For residential tenancies, no late fees may be imposed for unpaid rent that became due during the Local Emergency if the rent was late for reasons resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rent Increase

The moratorium prohibits rent increases above 3.5% (the Consumer Price Index, or CPI) unless required to provide a fair return. Property owners contemplating a rent increase during the Local Emergency should contact the Rent Program and speak with a housing counselor.

Additional Provisions

Good Samaritan Temporary Rent Decrease

A property owner and tenant may agree in writing to a temporary rent reduction without the owner losing the right to raise the rent back to the rate established before the temporary rent reductions. Owners must still comply with all noticing requirements for rent increases, unless the agreement specifically states when the rent will return to the original rent amount.

Notice Requirements

The emergency ordinance has very specific noticing requirements. For notices required for evictions and rent increases during the moratorium, please see the Ordinance for specific language.

Residential tenants and property owners may contact the Rent Adjustment Program with questions by calling (510) 238-3721 or sending e-mail to RAP@oaklandca.gov. Rent Adjustment Program information is also online at https://www.oaklandca.gov/rap.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the dates when the moratorium is in effect?

The Oakland City Council passed this moratorium on Friday, March 27, 2020, effective immediately and continuing through May 31, 2020, unless City Council extends that date.

Are tenants required to notify the property owner in writing that they can't pay rent due to COVID-19?

No. While there is no requirement that tenants notify the Owner that they cannot pay rent due to COVID-19, the Rent Adjustment Program (RAP) encourages tenants to be as communicative as possible about an inability to pay rent due, and to keep accurate records and notes of the communication.

Are tenants required to provide proof to the property owner that their income was reduced because of COVID-19?

No. While a property owner cannot require a tenant to provide proof that their income is reduced because of COVID-19, RAP encourages property owners and tenants to work together during the moratorium.

Are tenants still required to pay rent during the moratorium?

Yes. While the tenant cannot be evicted for non-payment of rent due to loss of income related to the coronavirus pandemic, the emergency ordinance does not relieve a tenant of the obligation to pay back rent that was due during the moratorium.

What happens if the tenant’s lease expires during the moratorium?

Termination of a lease is never just cause to evict a tenant. A diagnosis of coronavirus, the sale of a property, and foreclosure are also not grounds for evictions under the Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance.

What happens when the moratorium is over?

When the moratorium is over, Oakland laws on evictions and rent control still apply. Rent that has not been paid, is still due. While a property owner may not evict for unpaid rent due to a loss of income because of the coronavirus pandemic, a property owner may file a small claims action to recover the back rent owed.