What are tenants' rights during the pandemic?

Posted at 6:46 PM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-06 22:48:54-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Numerous renters have contacted Team 10, asking what they can do about rent increases during the pandemic.

Laleh, who declined to use her last name, is a personal trainer and said she’s lost all her income during this pandemic.

“Basically, I’ve lost all my clients, and it has been hard the past several weeks,” Laleh said.

To make matters worse, her rent at Wexford Manor in Clairemont was increasing by about $75 starting May 1st. While she said it doesn’t sound like a lot, it is money that could be going to her bills or food.

“It’s just unbelievable that a property manager would raise rent. I would think they would at least be considerate to wait until July, August, until people get back on their feet,” Laleh said. She, like so many others, filled out a Covid hardship form, hoping for relief.

“When you have no income, then what's happening is your paying triage with your bills,” said Christian Curry of the Tenants Legal Center. Curry said landlords and property managers do have the right to raise rent, but there is a limit during a state of emergency.

“If you're landlord is raising your rent by more than 10 percent, they're actually committing a crime right now,” Curry said.

With a temporary halt on evictions and courts closed, Curry said the best option is for tenants and landlords to work together.

“The best thing to do is sit down with your landlord-and say look, if you want to take an all or nothing position, you're going to get nothing,” Curry said. “So let's see what we can do to work out for our mutual benefit. And if you’re a landlord, it’s a lot better to take 80 percent, 60 percent of your rent than to push the issue with a tenant because quite frankly you might not get a court date this year.”

Mark Doering is a landlord, not affiliated with Wexford Manor. He is retired and manages two properties. He wants people to know they are also feeling the pain.

“I need that rent to pay my mortgage,” Doering said. He understands the tenants’ hardships, but he also depends on income from his properties.

“I don’t know when I’m going through the burden of this pandemic, why I have to pick up somebody else’s burden on top of it,” Doering said. “The government is putting their burden on me. If the government wants to make sure that they have a place to live, then the government should pick up the tab. I can’t afford to.”

Wexford Manor’s property manager told Team 10 the letters notifying of May rent increases were sent in February. Wednesday afternoon, he said they are reversing the increase, delaying it for a future date. He adds they have worked with their tenants for any issues they have paying rent.