Are you an East Bay resident with legal issues relating to any of the following topics?
If you have legal issues that do not fall into the categorizes listed below please feel free to call our front desk for more information or referrals at (510) 548-4040.
Additionally please see our resources and tools listed below to help you navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic:
We are currently working with local organizations and officials to ensure that resources are available to help community members navigate through these challenging times. To help answer your vital questions, we have compiled the list of helpful resources below.
For more legal assistance, please call us to schedule a free legal consultation at 510-548-4040.
Resources for Renters on Eviction & Eviction Moratoriums
Know Your Rights! Important Tenancy Information for ALL residents in Alameda County:
- There is no “eviction moratorium” that applies to the entire state of California.
- For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, a court order issued temporarily preventing California Courts from issuing a new summons for eviction lawsuits in California, other than those necessary to protect health and safety but did not prevent landlords from serving notices that required immediate action on the part of a tenant.
- On March 21, the Alameda Board of Supervisors passed a strong ordinance applicable to all of Alameda County. Now a landlord may not serve you with a notice of eviction, nor may a landlord give you a Summons and Complaint to start an eviction lawsuit (unless the eviction is necessary to protect health and safety) during the COVID-19 state of emergency. Note some cities, such as Oakland, have stronger ordinances and may opt-out of the County Ordinance, but the County Ordinance sets the minimum level of protection in Alameda County.
– A Notice is a document that states something the landlord wants you to start doing, or stop doing, or else your landlord will start an eviction lawsuit against you. Notices are not filed with the court. Usually, you will know your landlord has given you a Notice because it has been posted to your door. Common Notices are for rent or nuisance. As of right now, a notice for eviction may only be served if there is an imminent threat to health and safety, if there is a government order such as a red tag issued by Code Enforcement, or if the landlord wishes to permanently remove all rental units at that property from the market.
– A Summons and Complaint come after a Notice and are required for any eviction lawsuit. They are filed with the court. Recent rule changes have barred all landlords from giving any tenant a Summons and Complaint during the COVID-19 emergency unless the eviction is necessary to protect public health and safety.
- If you have been given a Notice or receive any documents from your landlord or the court related to your housing, you can call us at (510) 548-4040, ext. 629 for guidance and information on options to respond. Our team is tracking legal changes daily and is ready to provide tenant counseling over the phone.
– If you are served with a court summons, you still MUST quickly respond to preserve your rights, even if the lawsuit should not have been filed. If you call us, we can advise you of your rights and what you need to do to preserve those rights.
Alameda County Residents:
- In addition to the above, the following COVID-19 tenant protections apply to ALL of Alameda County; some cities offer broader protections (applies to tenants, mobile-home owners who rent space for their home, and homeowners who have already suffered a foreclosure but remain in their home and are at risk of eviction):
- You cannot be evicted because your landlord believes you have COVID-19 or that you are at risk of exposure to COVID-19 – that is NOT considered a threat to health and safety under the County Ordinance.
- A tenant may not be evicted for nonpayment of rent based on rent accrued from April 21 through at least May 31 but may be extended further by the Governor, even after the state of emergency is lifted.
– However, if after 12 months the tenant has not repaid the past due rent or entered into a repayment agreement with the landlord, a tenant may be sued for the overdue rent as if it were a consumer debt – so while they cannot lose their housing over the past due rent, they could be subject to a collection action which could result in wage garnishments or bank levies, and/or negatively impact their credit
– As of right now, any rent that accrues after 30 days from when the state of emergency lifts could become the basis of an eviction action for non-payment of rent, even if there is a COVID-19 related reason.
– To be eligible for this relief a tenant must provide documentation to the landlord within 45 days of the landlord’s request or 30 days after expiration of the shelter in place order, whichever is later, showing that there is a substantial loss of income, a substantial out-of-pocket medical expense, or extraordinary childcare needs.
- A tenant DOES NOT have to give documents with personal information, such as bank account information or personal medical records, if they do not wish to do so, although such proof may be required if there is an eventual lawsuit. Instead, a tenant may provide a sworn statement or other documentation.
- A landlord could still FILE an eviction action, so it is important to keep proof of notification and documentation provided to your landlord to protect your rights in court and to keep records.
- A tenant cannot waive any rights granted by the County ordinance – so a landlord cannot force or intimidate a tenant into signing their rights away
- A landlord may not charge late fees, fines or interest for rent that became due while the ordinance is in effect
- Retaliation against a tenant exercising their rights under this ordinance is prohibited
- All of the following provide an affirmative defense to a tenant should they be served with an unlawful detainer complaint (the burden is on the tenant to provide proof, so it is important to get as much in writing as you can and to save those records, whether they be paper records, emails, texts or other written formats):
– Refusal to provide the needed documentation for a tenant to receive rental assistance from a third party
– Service of a notice during the effective period of the ordinance
– Filing an unlawful detainer for nonpayment when the nonpayment is based on a COVID-19 related loss of income, out-of-pocket medical expenses or extraordinary childcare needs
- Violation of this ordinance is subject to both civil and criminal penalties
- Information for Berkeley Renters
- Sample Letter to Landlords for Inability to Pay Rent
- Contact us at 510-548-4040 ext. 629 for additional questions on tenancy.
- Information for Oakland Renters
- Information for Oakland Renters (Chinese)
- Visit Catholic Charities East Bay at https://www.cceb.org/housing-services-in-the-county-of-alameda/ and complete a housing application; Or call: (510) 768-3100 or (510) 860-4985 Monday – Friday 9a-5p.
- Contact Centro Legal de la Raza at (510) 437-1554 to be screened for eligibility.
- Contact 211
For more information on our housing legal services please click here or call us at 510-548-4040.
Didn't File Taxes? Here's how to get your IRS Stimulus Check
Who is Eligible for the Economic Impact Payment?
U.S. citizens or resident aliens who:
- Have a valid Social Security number,
- Could not be claimed as a dependent of another taxpayer, and
- Had adjusted gross income under certain limits.
Who will receive the Economic Impact Payment automatically without taking additional steps?
Most eligible U.S. taxpayers will automatically receive their Economic Impact Payments including:
- Individuals who filed a federal income tax for 2018 or 2019
- Individuals who receive Social Security retirement, disability (SSDI), or survivor benefits
- Individuals who receive Railroad Retirement benefits
Who should use Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info to provide additional information to receive the Economic Impact Payment?
Eligible U.S. citizens or permanent residents who:
- Had gross income that did not exceed $12,200 ($24,400 for married couples) for 2019
- Were not otherwise required to file a federal income tax return for 2019, and didn’t plan to
You can provide the necessary information to the IRS easily and quickly for no fee through Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info. We will use this information to determine your eligibility and payment amount and send you an Economic Impact Payment. After providing this information you won’t need to take any additional action.
Information You Will Need to Provide on the Form:
- Full name, current mailing address and an email address
- Date of birth and valid Social Security number
- Bank account number, type and routing number, if you have one
- Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN) you received from the IRS earlier this year, if you have one
- Driver’s license or state-issued ID, if you have one
- For each qualifying child: name, Social Security number or Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number and their relationship to you or your spouse
What to Expect:
Clicking “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here” above will take you from the IRS site to Free File Fillable Forms, a certified IRS partner. This site is safe and secure.
Follow these steps in order to provide your information:
- Create an account by providing your email address and phone number; and establishing a user ID and password.
- You will be directed to a screen where you will input your filing status (Single or Married filing jointly) and personal information.
- Note: Make sure you have a valid Social Security number for you (and your spouse if you were married at the end of 2019) unless you are filing “Married Filing Jointly” with a 2019 member of the military. Make sure you have a valid Social Security number or Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number for each dependent you want to claim for the Economic Impact Payment.
- Check the “box” if someone can claim you as a dependent or your spouse as a dependent.
- Complete your bank information (otherwise we will send you a check).
- You will be directed to another screen where you will enter personal information to verify yourself. Simply follow the instructions. You will need your driver’s license (or state-issued ID) information. If you don’t have one, leave it blank.
You will receive an e-mail from Customer Service at Free File Fillable Forms that either acknowledge you have successfully submitted your information, or that tells you there is a problem and how to correct it. Free File Fillable forms will use the information to automatically complete a Form 1040 and transmit it to the IRS to compute and send you a payment.
Complete your Non-Filer’s form today to receive your IRS stimulus check: Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here
Berkeley Housing Retention Program
The City of Berkeley provided increased funding to EBCLC’s Berkeley Retention Program in light of the COVID19 Crisis. Due to the incredibly high volume of inquiries, there are now two organizations processing applications – East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) and Eviction Defenses Center (EDC). The application and processing is the same regardless of which organization you contact.
**Please Note**: If you have already contacted either organization, there is no need to do so again. EBCLC and EDC are coordinating and tracking all inquiries. Please do not contact both organizations, as it will simply slow our ability to promptly respond to tenants.
How to Apply:
If you believe you are eligible please call either EBCLC at 510-548-4040 ext. 695 or EDC 510-452-4541 and leave a message. In your message please state your (1) name, (2) phone number, and (3) that you are a Berkeley resident seeking assistance. Due to the incredibly high volume of calls, an EBCLC or EDC staff member will return your in call in 3-5 business days to determine your eligibility. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this difficult time.
Below is a list of the eligibility requirements, also listed on the City of Berkeley’s website:
- Berkeley resident
- You are currently a tenant with a rental agreement
- Grant must prevent an eviction or support housing-related financial assistance (including but not limited to, rent, future rent, utilities and needed home repairs necessary to health and safety) due to income loss
- Household must meet one or more of the following requirements. You are applying for assistance because of:
- COVID-19 related financial losses
- Decrease in income
- Unexpected medical and/or disability expenses paid without credit
- Fleeing domestic violence
- Work-related vehicle expense (vehicle is required for job)
- Fell behind in rent for other reasons
5. Your household income is currently 80% of Area Median Income or Lower (see chart below)
After you are contacted by an EBCLC staff member, you will be asked to provide documentation for this application. Please begin compiling this documentation now:
- Completed Application
- Completed Consent Form
- Picture ID/Social Security card for household members over 18
- Verification of current income
- Documentation of Housing Crisis: This includes a dated Notice of Eviction from landlord stating amount owed for back rent or a letter of verification from landlord stating the amount owed for back rent (requirement waived for COVID-19 related assistance, applicant will provide certification of amount owed if verification from the landlord is not available).
- Rental agreement or lease
- W-9 Form signed by landlord
- Documentation of Need for Assistance: Documentation showing decrease in income, unexpected medical/disability expense, fleeing domestic violence, or work-related vehicle expense, if applicable. An affidavit signed by the applicant is an acceptable form of documentation during the COVID-19 emergency.
Unable to Pay April 2020 Rent?
If you were unable to pay your April rent due to COVID-19 related financial losses, you must notify your landlord in writing immediately. You can use this sample letter when informing your landlord.
You may also refer to EBCLC’s Berkeley FAQs which discusses additional tenant protections included in Berkeley emergency ordinance which passed on March 17, 2020. We also strongly encourage you not to agree to sign any agreements with your landlord prior to receiving advice of a legal advocate.
Need Legal Advice?
If you have any other questions about your rights as a tenant or require legal advice, please contact either:
- EBCLC at 510-548-4040, ext. 629
- EDC at 510-452-4541.
Tips to Avoid Coronavirus and Stimulus Scams
FTC Tips to Avoid Stimulus Scams:
- The government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get this money. No fees. No charges. No nothing.
- The government will not call to ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer.
- This money hasn’t been sent out yet, and reports of people receiving stimulus checks already are not true. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.
- The details of how stimulus money will be given out is not yet decided. Check the FTC website https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/03/checks-government for updated information.
FTC Tips to Avoid Coronavirus Scams:
- Hang up on robocalls.
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits.
- Fact-check information.
- Know who you’re buying from online.
- Don’t respond to texts and emails about checks from the government.
- Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know.
- Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus.
- Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites.
For more information from the FTC: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/coronavirus-scams-what-ftc-doing
Resources for Consumers with Debt Issues
Our Consumer Justice Clinic is open and operating with remote/telephone appointments.
If you are a low-income consumer we may be able to assist you with:
- Information about rights and options for bills and debt you cannot pay.
- Financial assessments to help you develop strategies for prioritizing and resolving debts.
- Defending you from consumer debt-collection activities, including lawsuits.
- Helping you contest wage garnishments, bank levies, and other creditor liens.
- Disputing debts and information on your credit report.
For more information about these and other consumer legal services and eligibility see our Consumer Justice Clinic.
Call us at (510) 548-4040 ext. 388 or complete our online Consumer Justice Clinic Intake Form for information and appointment eligibility.
*Our clinic does not assist with home financing issues. If you have questions or concerns about your mortgage, please contact Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (510) 271-8443 ext. 300 or Bay Area Legal Aid 1-800-551-5554.
Llámenos al (510) 548-4040 ext. 385 o entregue la forma de evaluación web para información y elegibilidad para citas.
*La clínica no avisa en los préstamos de la casa. Si tiene preguntas o problemas con el pago mensual, por favor llama al Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (510) 271-8443 ext. 300 o Bay Area Legal Aid 1-800-551-5554.
Free Credit Reports!
Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are now offering free weekly online reports through April 2021 at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action
The Berkeley Center for Consumer Law & Economic Justice has published a special series on common consumer issues and COVID-19:
April 24, 2020
Issue III: Economic Impact Payments (“Stimulus Checks”) & COVID-19
April 28, 2020
Issue IV: Auto Insurance & COVID-19
May 1, 2020
Issue V: Scams and COVID-19
May 7, 2020
New Relief for Federal Student Loans:
- Loan payments are automatically suspended through September 30, 2020. The suspended payment months will still counts towards Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
- Any wage garnishments, Social Security offsets, and tax refund seizures are suspended.
- All billing and automatic debits will be stopped on April 10, 2020.
For more information see:
Resources for Small Businesses and Nonprofits
Are you a small business or nonprofit? Below are some resources to help you and your employees navigate through these difficult times:
- Small Business Emergency Grant Program The City of Oakland has dedicated $300,000 of emergency aid for low-income business owners impacted by COVID-19.
- Oakland’s Small Business Assistance Center
- Stay up-to-date on the City of Oakland’s Coronoavirus Business and Employee Resources
- Berkeley Relief Fund: The City of Berkeley has approved $3 million for emergency relief grants for small businesses, art-centered nonprofits, and tenants hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Information on the Suspension of Outstanding Debt Collections
Effective as of March 27, 2020, the State of California will temporarily suspend the collection of all debts owed to government agencies until July, 15, 2020 (or a later determined date based on the changing circumstance).
Due to the temporary suspension, we highly encourage individuals to file taxes as soon as possible to ensure their tax return is protected by this temporary policy. To learn more about the policy please see the information below or visit https://www.ftb.ca.gov/about-ftb/newsroom/covid-19/help-with-covid-19.html
For additional legal support regarding outstanding government debt, please call us at 510-548-4040
Relief Funds for Undocumented Workers in California
Legal Aid at Work has compiled a comprehensive list of funding resources for undocumented workers in California. Please click the link below for more information:
* The East Bay Community Law Center provides free legal services to eligible East Bay clients. Specific service criteria vary by subject matter and change over time, so please contact the office with any specific questions.
** EBCLC cannot provide legal information or advice via email. Please contact us during regular intake hours to determine eligibility for services.