Top Questions - And Answers - For Tenants Who Can’t Pay Rent During The COVID-19 Pandemic
Cassidy Chansirik Student at U.C. Berkeley
Arek Socha from Pixabay
Many of our Court Buddy users have called us asking questions about rent relief resources and what to do if you can’t pay your rent because of the pandemic.
That is why on Friday, June 26 at 1:00 PM, Court Buddy is hosting a free virtual Legal Meet-Up, where a panelist of eight Court Buddy attorneys will answer all rent and eviction-related questions.
You can sign up online here or call us at (866) 999-9297.
One of our panelists during this Meet-Up is Jennifer Bock.
Bock is the sole practitioner at Bock Legal Services based in Ohio. She handles every case by herself and has a quick turnaround.
“If you call me, you get me. Not a paralegal or a secretary. If you gave me something today at 4:00 PM,” Bock says. “I will have the paperwork ready to go out tomorrow.”
During the pandemic, Bock realizes how important it is to maintain the health and safety of her clients, while also ensuring that they receive the service they need. She has set up a system that allows her to process applications, documentation, and payments online so that physical contact is minimized.
Furthermore, she provides free consultations to tenants to explain the eviction process.
In advance of the Meet-Up, we wanted to share Bock’s top questions and answers for tenants about their legal rights and obligations.
If my landlord is not making any repairs, what can I do? Can I get out of my lease early?
Every state will have different avenues you can pursue to address this issue. One option is to provide a 30-day written notice to your landlord about any repairs that need to be made. If repairs are not made after you have provided a 30-day written notice, you can put your rent into escrow.
Putting your rent into escrow means that you pay your rent to a court clerk or to a government agency. When you do this, the court clerk will release the rent money to your landlord once the needed repairs have been made. It’s important to note that there are variations of this across each state.
Once you have put your rent into escrow, a judge can then order your landlord to do one of the following:
- Make needed repairs
- Allow the rental lease to be terminated
- Allow the tenant to receive rent back
Is my landlord legally allowed to raise my rent at any time?
If your lease is set for a specific term, for example 12 months, then your landlord is not legally allowed to raise your rent at any time.
However, if the lease is a month-to-month lease, your landlord can raise your rent after providing 30-days’ notice. This notice generally has to be written and dated. In some cases, the notice will have to be delivered personally or sent by registered mail.
If you live in an area that has rent control, there are restrictions that limit how much your landlord can increase your rent by.
I just received a 3-day notice to leave. I thought that I had to receive more than 3 days of notice. Is another type of notice required?
A 3-day notice to leave is only required if there is nonpayment of rent, illegal activity, or a serious lease violation. In some states, this 3-day notice is counted based on calendar days. In other states, this 3-day notice is counted based on court days.
If there is no reason as to why your landlord is terminating your lease, a 30-day notice is required. If you live in Section 8 housing, the window for notice requirements is different. More information about Section 8 housing notice requirements can be found here.
If an eviction complaint has been filed against me, what can I do? How much time do I have?
Depending on the state you live in, there will be a limited number of days with which you can respond. Be sure to check what your state’s guidelines are on filing an Answer.
If you are in a state that does not provide you with the option to file an Answer, be sure to attend the hearing. The hearing location, date, and time can be found on the eviction complaint that has been filed against you.
At the hearing, state any valid defenses you have and bring any documentation to support your case.
If you are ruled against during the hearing, a lock out can occur anywhere from 3-10 days after the hearing. In a lock-out, a sheriff can remove you from the property. Any belongings left inside the property will be left under the landlord’s possession and can be disposed of.
If I didn’t receive my security deposit back, can I sue my landlord?
Yes, you can sue your landlord for your security deposit. Generally, you will file a small claims suit with your local court.
What if I received my security deposit, but I don’t agree with the deductions that were made? What can I do?
First, you can dispute the charges in writing and negotiate a settlement with your landlord. Be sure to provide proof to your landlord as to why you don’t agree with the deductions that were made.
If no progress is made, you can choose to sue your landlord in small claims court.
What are some things I can do to protect myself as a tenant during the COVID-19 pandemic?
- Read your lease. Not reading your lease can lead to miscommunication between you and your landlord in the future.
- Ask your landlord how many tenants previously lived in the unit. This is important to know so that you can prevent the transfer of COVID-19.
- If you are immunocompromised, a multi-unit apartment may not be the best option for your health. You can look into renting a duplex or condominium, where the transmission for COVID-19 is minimized and social distancing is easier.
- If you are moving into a new apartment, ask your landlord when your unit was last cleaned and sanitized professionally. This is generally a disinfectant spray and is not just soap and water.