*COVID-19 Resources

This information is intended for general information only and is not considered legal advice. Rules and regulations in this time are changing frequently. If you are seeking legal assistance regarding your specific circumstances, please call Legal Aid for information or assistance. 


COVID-19 and Evictions

Protections extended to September 30, 2021.

Tenants who have trouble paying rent due to COVID-19, receive an eviction notice, or receive court paperwork for “unlawful detainer” should immediately seek legal assistance.  How to Contact Legal Aid.

What is the status of residential eviction cases in California? 

Residential eviction cases are being heard by California courts. In most circumstances, a landlord needs a legal reason, also known as “just cause,” to evict you. You cannot be evicted without a court order from a judge. If you receive an eviction notice or court paperwork, do not ignore it! You might lose legal protections if you do. Seek legal help right away.

If the COVID-19 pandemic made it hard for you to pay rent or utility bills, you may be eligible for financial help and to stop an eviction, but only if you take certain steps.

What if I am having trouble paying rent?  

Seek legal help and apply for rental assistance if eligible.

If you have not been able to pay rent for any time since March 1, 2020, your landlord must give you a notice.  If you cannot pay your rent because of COVID-19, you must sign and return a Declaration to your landlord. You must do this within 15 business days. If you do this, your landlord cannot evict you for not paying the rent right now.

For rent owed between September 2020 and September 2021, you must pay at least 25% of your total rent by September 30, 2021 or apply and receive 100% rental assistance.

If you can’t pay 25% of your September 2020 – September 2021 rent by September 30, 2021 or apply and receive 100% rental assistance, your landlord can file an eviction case on or after October 1, 2021. If you get court eviction papers, you should seek legal advice.

Additional information about California’s COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act, including more information about how to qualify for rental assistance, can be found by visiting housingiskey.com or by calling 1-833-430-2122.

Tenant protections against COVID-19 evictions and your legal responsibilities vary depending on where you live and are subject to change.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the State of California implemented rules to protect tenants who have been economically impacted by COVID-19. Each rule is different, and most require tenants to act within strict timelines. All the tenant protection rules require tenants to take certain, specific steps to protect their rights — such as writing a letter, submitting a declaration, or responding to court paperwork. These letters and declarations must meet certain legal requirements.

Tenants who have trouble paying rent due to COVID-19, receive an eviction notice, or receive court paperwork for “unlawful detainer” should immediately seek legal assistance. If you get served court papers for an eviction, you must respond to the papers.

Please call us to apply for legal help. 

How to Contact Legal Aid 
Santa Barbara: (805) 963-6754
Lompoc: (805) 736-6582
Santa Maria (805) 922-9909


IRS STIMULUS PAYMENT INFORMATION

The IRS created a portal to help you check on the status of your payment and enter bank information for a faster electronic payment.


COVID-19 RESOURCES FOR HOMEOWNERS

Worried about being able to pay your mortgage? Contact your mortgage servicer (the company you pay your bill to) immediately to let them know that you were impacted by COVID-19 and are having trouble paying your mortgage. Your servicer should then evaluate your options and instruct you on how to apply for relief. Your rights will depend on who owns your mortgage and whether it is guaranteed by the federal government. Please call us so we can help you navigate the process for receiving mortgage relief.

Foreclosure Protections and Mortgage Payment Relief for Homeowners Summary from National Housing Law Project (NHLP) of certain mortgage provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) and related federal actions.

Mortgage Relief Tips from Consumer Reports

Summary of Other Consumer Protection/COVID-19 Issues from National Consumer Law Center

Foreclosure Moratorium Until September 30, 2021

  • Under the comprehensive loss mitigation programs, qualified borrowers with a financial hardship that affects their ability to pay their mortgage may be eligible for temporary forbearance of up to 12 months, whether their hardship was caused by COVID-19 or not. Qualified borrowers can also obtain loan modifications to assist their ability to resume regular monthly payments once their hardship is resolved.
  • In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the federal government and some states, localities, and companies imposed a foreclosure moratorium—a temporary halt in the initiation or continuation of foreclosure procedures—for specific kinds of loans and in many areas. While some of these moratoriums have expired, others are ongoing.

Foreclosure Moratoriums for Federally Backed Mortgage Loans

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden issued 17 executive orders, presidential memoranda, and agency directives. As part of these directives, President Biden asked three federal agencies—the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA)—to extend their existing foreclosure moratoriums for FHA-insured, VA-guaranteed, and USDA mortgage loans through at least March 31, 2021.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, also extended its foreclosure moratorium until February 28, 2021.

Foreclosure Moratorium for FHA-Insured Loans Until September 30, 2021

In response to President Biden’s directive, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which is part of HUD, continued its moratorium for all new foreclosure actions and foreclosure actions currently in process for FHA-insured, single-family loans and home equity conversion mortgages (reverse mortgages). The moratorium, however, doesn’t apply to vacant or abandoned properties. The moratorium also ceases evictions of persons from FHA-insured single-family properties, excluding actions to evict the occupants of legally vacant or abandoned properties.

To find out if you have an FHA-insured loan, you can look for an FHA case number on your mortgage contract. Sometimes, though, loans lose their FHA-insured status. Call your servicer (often your bank or lender) or HUD’s National Servicing Center at 877-622-8525 if you have questions about your loan’s status. You can also check your billing statement to see if you pay a mortgage insurance premium (MIP). MIP is what FHA calls its mortgage insurance. If you’re paying MIP, then you have an FHA-insured loan.

Foreclosure Moratorium for VA-Guaranteed Loans Until September 30, 2021

The foreclosure suspension applies to properties secured by VA-guaranteed mortgages, including those previously secured by VA-guaranteed loans but currently in VA’s real estate owned (REO) portfolio. The moratorium stops the initiation of foreclosures, the completion of foreclosures in process, and evictions. But vacant or abandoned properties aren’t covered.

To find out if you have a VA-guaranteed loan, look at the documents you signed when you took out your mortgage. VA-guaranteed loans contain specific language in the note and mortgage that identifies it as a VA loan. Also, fees paid to the VA will be shown in the closing documents.

Foreclosure Moratorium for USDA loans Until September 30, 2021

The USDA foreclosure suspension applies to Single Family Housing Direct Home Loans and Single Family Guaranteed Home Loans. The moratorium halts the initiation of foreclosures, the completion of foreclosures in process, and evictions of homeowners from properties bought with a USDA direct or guaranteed home loan. Vacant and abandoned properties aren’t included in the moratorium, though.

Borrowers with mortgages directly extended by the USDA’s Rural Housing Service (RHS) should be aware that they have this kind of loan. But homeowners with privately serviced RHS-guaranteed loans might not know about their loan’s status. To find out if you have an RHS-guaranteed loan, ask the servicer or check your closing documents from when you took out the loan. To learn more, go to the USDA Rural Development website.

Foreclosure Moratorium for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Loans Until September 30, 2021

The FHFA suspended foreclosures and REO evictions until February 28, 2021. The foreclosure moratorium applies to Fannie- and Freddie-backed, single-family mortgages. The REO eviction moratorium applies to properties that Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac have acquired through foreclosure or deed in lieu of foreclosure transactions.

To find out if Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac backs your loan, use the Fannie Mae loan lookup tool and Freddie Mac loan lookup tool. You can also ask your servicer if Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac owns or guarantees your loan, or call 800-232-6643 (Fannie Mae) or 800-373-3343 (Freddie Mac).

State Foreclosure Suspensions

  • As of September 1, 2020, the California Judicial Council repealed rules that suspended foreclosures and related unlawful detainer actions in California’s courts.

County Foreclosure Postponements

Locally, some places, like individual counties, temporarily suspended sheriff’s sales and evictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak. However, foreclosures have resumed in many areas.

Company Foreclosure Suspensions

Some mortgage companies and banks, like Wells Fargo, Ally, and Flagstar Bank, among others, temporarily suspended residential property foreclosure sales and evictions at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. Many companies have lifted their suspensions, but are still offering assistance to struggling homeowners. Call your mortgage company to find out what kind of help is available in your situation.

Getting Foreclosure Relief

Considering a foreclosure moratorium won’t delay the process forever, consider applying for a loss mitigation option, like a forbearance or a loan modification, if you expect your financial hardship to last indefinitely. Homeowners with eligible mortgage loans can get a forbearance of up to 360 days under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Also, under federal law, if you send the servicer a complete loss mitigation application before foreclosure starts, the servicer can’t start the foreclosure unless and until:

  • it tells you that you’re not eligible for any foreclosure alternatives (and any appeal has been exhausted)
  • you turn down all loss mitigation offers, or
  • you don’t meet the terms of a loss mitigation agreement, like if you don’t make the payments on a trial modification.

If you’re already in foreclosure and you send the servicer a complete application after foreclosure starts—but more than 37 days before a foreclosure sale—the servicer can’t ask a court for a foreclosure judgment or order of sale, or conduct a foreclosure sale, until one of the three conditions mentioned above has been satisfied.

Under federal law, the servicer generally doesn’t have to review more than one loss mitigation application from you unless you bring the loan current after applying. But considering what’s happening with the pandemic, even if you already applied, it’s worth contacting the servicer again to find out if additional help has become available. If your loan is owned or insured by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA, or the Rural Housing Service, you can contact that entity too to find out about foreclosure relief.

Getting More Help

A local foreclosure lawyer can advise you about your legal rights under federal law and tell you about any state laws that could protect you in a foreclosure. A HUD-approved housing counselor can provide you with helpful information (at no cost) about ways to avoid a foreclosure.

Also, while this article addresses mortgage foreclosures, if you’re behind in paying your property taxes, certain counties are declaring a moratorium on property tax foreclosures and tax sales. Call your county treasurer’s office or tax collector’s office, or look online, to see if your area has a moratorium.


TIPS TO AVOID COVID-19 SCAMS

Avoid Coronavirus Scams from the CA Reinvestment Coalition
How to Avoid Coronavirus Scams from the FTC
Want to Get Your Coronavirus Relief Check? Scammers do too.


UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS DUE TO COVID-10

How do I obtain unemployment benefits when I lost my job or my hours were cut?

What is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?
This is a benefit for those who may not be eligible for traditional unemployment:

How to File a Claim for Unemployment Benefits in via the State of California:

  • Log in to California’s Benefit Programs Online. (edd.ca.gov/unemployment/UI_Online_File_a_Claim.htm)
  • Select UI Online.
  • Select File a Claim.
  • Read the UI Claim Filing Instructions. Select Next to continue.
  • Give your general information, last employer information, and employment history.
  • Review your information on the Summary page, then select Submit.

UI OnlineSM is the fastest and easiest way to file your Unemployment Insurance claim.
You can file your claim through UI Online seven (7) days a week between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m.

File By-phone:
Representatives are available at the following toll-free numbers, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon except on state holidays.
English 1-800-300-5616
Spanish 1-800-326-8937
Cantonese 1-800-547-3506
Mandarin 1-866-303-0706
Vietnamese 1-800-547-2058
TTY 1-800-815-9387

By Mail or by Fax:
File your UI claim by accessing the paper Unemployment Insurance Application. For faster and secure processing, fax the completed application to the number listed on the form. If you mail your application, use the address on the form and allow additional time for processing.
www.edd.ca.gov/Unemploym…/Forms_and_Publications.htm

How to Obtain more information from Santa Barbara County
Santa Barbara County will not process your claim for Unemployment Benefits, but they have helpful information and resources to help you find employment. The information on the Santa Barbara County website can be found at www.readysbc.org/additional_resources.

What if I cannot work because I am sick with COVID-19 or I am caring for a family member with COVID-19?
People certified by a medical professional as unable to work due to having or being exposed to COVID-19 may be eligible for State Disability Insurance.  

People unable to work because they are caring for an ill or quarantined family member with COVID-19, as certified by a medical professional, may be eligible for Paid Family Leave, which pays up to 6 weeks of benefits.

For more information, visit:
State of California Employment Development Department


FAMILY LAW ISSUES AND COVID-19 (DIVORCE, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE)

When Home isn’t safe … seek help immediately.
IF YOU ARE IN IMMEDIATE DANGER, CALL 9-1-1
YOUR LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT CAN HELP YOU

IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO CALL 911,
REACH OUT TO A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER AND ASK FOR HELP

If you suspect that a family member, friend, or neighbor is being abused, get involved! If you SEE, HEAR, or SENSE that someone you know needs help – do not hesitate to call 911.

Though the courts may be temporarily closed for non- urgent matters due to COVID-19, they are open for emergencies such as dealing with domestic violence. It is hard enough to get out of an abusive home. Now, with shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders, home could become an even more contentious place. If you or someone in your household is being abused, please seek help right away. You are not alone. Reach out to us for help obtaining a restraining order.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline identified these ways in which COVID-19 could uniquely impact intimate partner violence survivors:

  • Abusive partners may withhold necessary items, such as hand sanitizer or disinfectants.
  • Abusive partners may share misinformation about the pandemic to control or frighten survivors, or to prevent them from seeking appropriate medical attention if they have symptoms.
  • Abusive partners may withhold insurance cards, threaten to cancel insurance, or prevent survivors from seeking medical attention if they need it.
  • Programs that serve survivors may be significantly impacted –- shelters may be full or may even stop intakes altogether. Survivors may also fear entering shelter because of being in close quarters with groups of people.
  • Survivors who are older or have chronic heart or lung conditions may be at increased risk in public places where they would typically get support, like shelters, counseling centers, or courthouses.
  • Travel restrictions may impact a survivor’s escape or safety plan – it may not be safe for them to use public transportation or to fly.
  • An abusive partner may feel more justified and escalate their isolation tactics.

If any of these things are happening to you, we are here to help. You do not have to do this alone. If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. If you need legal assistance and you are already working with an attorney, Legal Aid or otherwise, contact them directly. If you need the assistance of an attorney, call us for further instructions.

Domestic Violence / COVID / Court FAQs

Are the family law courts open?

  • Santa Barbara County Courthouses are closed until at least May 23, 2020. In order to protect the public and court staff, at this time no court hearings will be held in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, or Lompoc during the closure period. All hearings/matters set during this time period, will be postponed and you will receive written notification of your new court date at the address the Court has on file.

I heard that some emergency family law matters are being heard. What constitutes an emergency? How do I get emergency orders?

  • Domestic violence situations are generally considered emergencies. However, these will be judged on a case by case basis. If you are already working with an attorney, Legal Aid or otherwise, contact them directly. If you need the assistance of an attorney, call the Legal Aid office closest to you for further instructions. If you qualify for our services, one of the Legal Aid attorneys will contact you. If you are not represented, and you’re seeking emergency orders from the court, you can call: North County phone number: (805) 614-6500 South County phone number: (805) 882-4590. Self-Represented parties may call the Family Law Facilitator’s office at the phone numbers below for help with filling out forms and information on which forms are appropriate: Santa Barbara: 805.882.4660, Santa Maria: 805.614.6442

I already have a temporary restraining order. Can I still get a final order?

  • All in-person hearings are rescheduled. Your temporary order will be continued and extended until the date of your in-person hearing. You should be receiving notice of the new hearing date in the mail. If you are already working with us, call your attorney for further clarification. If you need the assistance of an attorney, call us for further instructions. If you qualify for our services, we can help you.

My restraining order has been violated. What can I do?

  • If you or your children are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. Alternatively you can call the police non-emergency line to report the violation. Most restraining orders require the abuser stay a specific number of yards away from you and/or any other protected parties, your home, vehicle, work, or school. The order typically prohibits the abuser from communicating with you in any way, either directly or indirectly. However, each restraining order is different and may include orders other than the ones listed above. If you have questions about what your specific restraining order prohibits, contact your attorney or call us for further instructions.

If I have a Criminal Protective Order, do I still need a Domestic Violence Restraining Order?

  • It depends. This requires a case by case analysis. If you feel protected and safe with the Criminal Protective Order alone, that is your choice. However, often Criminal Protective Orders do not include the children or other members of your household. Also Criminal Protective Orders are not renewable. If you are already working with an attorney, Legal Aid or otherwise, contact them directly. If you need the assistance of an attorney, call the Legal Aid office closest to you for further instructions. If you qualify for our services, one of the Legal Aid attorneys will contact you.  

I don’t have a restraining order, but I need one. Can I still get one?

  • We can help you file for a restraining order. If you are already working with an attorney, Legal Aid or otherwise, contact them directly. If you need the assistance of an attorney, call us for further instructions. If you qualify for our services, we can help you. If you would prefer to do this on your own, the court encourages you to E-file the documents. If it is impossible to file documents electronically, mail or FAX filing are the alternatives. The Legal Resource Centers are open and available to assist litigants who are self-represented (see our services page).

How do I get a restraining order renewed?

  • Emergency Protective Orders, which are issued by law enforcement, are not renewable. Criminal Protective Orders are not renewable either. However, Domestic Violence Restraining Orders can be renewed. If you need help renewing a Domestic Violence Restraining Order or want to get a Domestic Violence Restraining Order because your Emergency Protective Order or Criminal Protective Order is expiring or expired, call the Legal Aid office closest to you for further instructions. If you qualify for our services, one of the Legal Aid attorneys will contact you.   

Can Legal Aid help me with shelter?

  • Legal Aid does not provide shelter. We are are legal organization. If you are in need of shelter, contact Domestic Violence Solutions, they may be able to help you. Their website is: dvsolutions.org/  Their 24-Hour Crisis & Information Hotline numbers are:
    • Santa Barbara (805) 964-5245
    • Lompoc (805) 736-0965
    • Santa Maria (805) 925-2160 
    • Santa Ynez Valley (805) 686-4390

If my child and/or I must shelter in place, how do I comply with child custody and visitation orders?

  • This is a complicated legal question and requires a case-by-case analysis. If you are already working with an attorney, Legal Aid or otherwise, contact them directly. If you need the assistance of an attorney, call the Legal Aid office closest to you for further instructions. If you qualify for our services, one of the Legal Aid attorneys will contact you. If you wish to handle this on your own, you cannot find an attorney, and/or you do not qualify for Legal Aid’s services, the Santa Barbara Superior Court offers this guidance:
    • Unfortunately, that is a legal question as to whether your situation involves an exception to shelter in place orders issued by the County or State. Since the Court is prohibited from giving legal advice, you may wish to seek legal advice or contact the authority issuing the shelter in place order for guidance.
    • However, the Court always encourages parties to meet and confer in an attempt to resolve areas of potential dispute (if there is no court order restraining contact). The best interests of children should be paramount in this public health crisis and we encourage all to try to reach agreement, if you can, on any modifications of visitation plans needed to ensure the safety of children and their parents in compliance with shelter in place orders.
    • If an agreement is reached, written stipulations can be filed and submitted to the Court for approval.
    • If an agreement cannot be reached, parties may file a Request for Order asking the Court to modify custody and visitation plans. However, no court hearings will be scheduled before April 23, 2020, and the Court expects to extend this date should the COVID-19 situation so require.
    • If you believe you need an emergency hearing in your case, attorneys or self-represented parties may contact the Court and explain the basis for the emergency. The request will be reviewed by a Judge and a determination will be made as to the necessity of a hearing. One judge in Santa Barbara and one judge in Santa Maria have been designated by the Presiding Judge to handle any emergency ex parte requests. These are true EMERGENCY situations ONLY.

The abuser is not adhering to shelter in place/shelter at home orders. I am afraid that the actions of the abuser, such as continuing to go to work, will result in my child and/or me contracting COVID-19. What should I do?

  • This is a complicated legal question and requires a case-by-case analysis. If you are already working with an attorney, Legal Aid or otherwise, contact them directly. If you need the assistance of an attorney, call the Legal Aid office closest to you for further instructions. If you qualify for our services, one of the Legal Aid attorneys will contact you. If you wish to handle this on your own, you cannot find an attorney, and/or you do not qualify for Legal Aid’s services, see the above guidance.

Divorce E-Book Resource – If you are working on divorce proceedings:

Divorce & COVID-19 Keeping it Together and Moving Forward E-Book


    Other COVID-19 Information & Resources

    Guides for Immigrant Californians:

    www.sbcourts.org/gi/notices/FL_Guidelines_C19.pdf
    Santa Barbara County Superior Court Family Law COVID-19 Guidelines

    City of Lompoc
    Lompoc COVID-19 information line Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm – (805) 875-8071)

    United Way of Santa Barbara County COVID-19 Joint Response Grants for Individuals
    United Way of Santa Barbara County will be providing grants to individuals disproportionately impacted by coronavirus and the economic consequences of the pandemic.

    www.unitedwaysb.org/volunteer-income-tax-assistance-vita
    The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is a free tax preparation service for individuals and families in Santa Barbara County. Tax returns are prepared and completed by IRS-certified volunteers each year from February through April throughout Southern Santa Barbara County.

    805undocufund.org/aplicar/
    El 805 UndocuFund es un esfuerzo colectivo entre organizaciones comunitarias en los condados de Ventura y Santa Bárbara para ayudar a las personas y familias inmigrantes indocumentadas locales que han sido impactados económicamente por la pérdida de sus hogaressalarios y /o empleo debido a desastres en nuestra comunidad como incendiosdeslaves,  y el coronavirus, y están excluidas de la asistencia de programas de redes de seguridad financiados por el gobierno federal. 

    93108fund.org/get-help
    The 93108Fund is a resource helping the hourly wage earners of Montecito, CA.

    Foodbank of Santa Barbara County
    Food and nutrition distribution and resources. 

    Schools Address Student Nutrition During Closures (Santa Ynez Valley Star, 03/16/20) 

    Price-Gouging Laws are now in effect throughout Santa Barbara County (Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office, 3/12/20)

    Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – FAQs on laws enforced by the California Labor Commissioner’s Office

    Health Consumer Alliance  – COVID-19 Information 

    Consumer Alert on Price Gouging (CA) (March 4, 2020)

    Santa Barbara County Public Health


    FREE LEGAL VIDEOS REGARDING COVID-19

    The California Lawyers Association has created a variety of videos for the public addressing various legal issues that are coming up in light COVID-19. Many are available in Spanish or have Spanish closed captioning.

    Topics include:

    • employee rights
    • employee benefits
    • employee health and safety issues
    • small business employer issues
    • family issues (child custody, spousal support and domestic violence)
    • residential and commercial real estate issues
    • tele-med changes
    • issues related to the PPP, EIDL and other relief available to small businesses and tax implications for those seeking unemployment insurance or other CARES related benefits.

    View and share here: calawyers.org/covid-19-public-resources/#videos