Even though the COVID-19 pandemic began a few years ago, it's still affecting landlords and tenants nationwide. All states in the U.S. started to look for alternatives to ease the financial burden on eligible individuals, and that's where the Emergency Rental Assistance Program came in.

In California, Senate Bill (SB) 91 created the "CA COVID-19 Rent Relief Program," which allocated billions for federal rent assistance. Those who were eligible could receive financial assistance, whether it was for covering rent or utility payments.

These local rental assistance programs did an excellent job of ensuring statewide eviction protections during these hard times, and landlords were also able to secure their profits, which was a win-win situation for both.

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) had different guidelines depending on the state, and California was no exception. If you're interested in the program, you must learn all the details to avoid mistakes with your application.

This guide will walk you through everything you should know about ERAP in California, including the latest updates and how people can check their eligibility.

Disclaimer: At the time of writing this guide, California isn't accepting new applications for ERAP. The state is currently reviewing pending requests. If you already applied, feel free to check the status of your application through the official ERAP portal. Otherwise, we encourage you to check the portal from time to time. The state of ERAP could change according to developments in the economic or political landscape, meaning that the availability of new applications could vary too.

What Is ERAP in California?

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program was created as an answer to the economic uncertainty caused by COVID-19. During these times, many landlords and tenants started to have financial issues, which led to disputes, lawsuits, and other problems between the leasing parties.

Thanks to these local assistance programs, however, tenants who applied through the state's "Housing Is Key" program could get money to pay rent and utilities. Landlords, on the other hand, were able to secure their profits during the pandemic, which helped ease the financial burden on them.

How Does ERAP Work in California?

As mentioned previously, California's ERAP was passed through Senate Bill 91. Initially, those who qualified for rental assistance could receive up to 18 months of rent and utility debt assistance until March 31, 2022.

The payments from the rent relief program would go directly to the landlord or the utility provider on the tenant's behalf.

What's the Difference Between ERAP1 and ERAP2?

There were two Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) programs. The first one was authorized by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, and it gave $25 billion in funding to help eligible households with financial issues.

As the financial pressure from COVID-19 started to grow, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 approved the ERA2 program, which gave even more funding to eligible households.

Both programs had the same goal, which was to provide financial assistance. However, ERAP2 offered more flexibility regarding assistance. Here, states started to consider different rental and housing needs for eligible parties, as well as unemployment rates and other factors.

Thanks to ERAP2, eligible households could also cover the costs of affordable housing and eviction prevention measures.

How Does ERAP Benefit Landlords in California?

Even though the Emergency Rental Assistance Program seems to primarily help tenants, landlords and property managers also get indirect benefits.

Remember that the main issue that came from COVID-19 was financial uncertainty. Tenants didn't have money to cover their rent debt, which led to landlords not receiving money for a considerable amount of time

This led both parties involved in a lease to experience distress. Tenants faced the risk of getting evicted, whereas landlords faced the uncertainty of not knowing where and how to get money to cover their living expenses.

With the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, landlords could get the necessary funding to cover the rental debt from their tenants. Not only does this help ease the financial burden on the landlord's end, but it also prevents them from going through the overwhelming process of evicting the tenant.

What Is the Landlord's Role in ERAP?

Not all states require landlords to participate in the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Usually, only tenants have to file the application and wait until it gets approved or denied.

However, if the landlord actively participates in the application process, both parties could benefit. The landlord can help the tenant go over all the documentation necessary to apply for the program, and, if necessary, provide further evidence or information to support the claims.

These efforts could lead to the application taking less time to get approved, and it could also lower the risk of getting denied. In the end, the involvement of the landlord in the program is beneficial for everyone.

Who Is Eligible for ERAP in California?

Each state has different eligibility requirements for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. In California, the rent relief program is available to:

  • Low-income tenants who were impacted directly or indirectly by COVID-19 and have rent debt.
  • Landlords that have tenants with rent accrued.

Here are the specifics of the requirements:

  • The applicant must prove that one or more members of the household experienced any kind of financial hardship/reduction of income or incurred significant expenses due to COVID-19. It was also valid if the person qualified for unemployment benefits.
  • The applicant must show proof that someone in the household is at risk of facing homelessness or housing instability.
  • The renter should be seeking assistance for debt surrounding their primary residence.
  • The applicant's household income can't be over 80% of the area median income (AMI).

Can Tenants on Government Housing Plans Apply to ERAP in California?

There's no current information about whether tenants on other government housing plans (such as Section 8) can apply for ERAP. This is because the state isn't currently accepting new applications.

Many states, however, used to allow tenants on other housing plans to apply to ERAP. The main requirement was for the applicant to provide information about the rental assistance they were getting during the application process.

How to Apply for ERAP in California

First, you need to check your county's official ERAP portal to see if it has specific requirements. Most of the time, however, the requirements are the same.


Both the landlord and tenant have to gather certain documentation before applying. In the case of the tenant, they have to provide documents like:

  • Copy of the lease
  • Driver's license or any other official ID
  • Proof of income
  • Rent statement
  • Past due utility bill (if applicable)
  • Eviction notice (if applicable)
  • Any other document that shows proof of COVID-19's economic impact on the person

Landlords, on the other hand, can provide the following:

  • Contact information about everyone involved in the lease
  • Property address and information
  • W-9

It's important to verify that all the documents are official and legally valid.


Once both parties are done collecting all the documentation and evidence available, they must head to the official ERAP portal. If the state is accepting new applications, all you need to do is fill out the necessary boxes and send the documents.

Keep in mind that applying for the program doesn't guarantee your approval. Currently, there are thousands of people waiting for their requests to get processed, so it may take a while. Those who are going through critical financial situations could get prioritized.

The state could reach back to the landlord or tenant and ask for further documentation. They may also ask for clarification on certain areas. This is why it's so important for you to pay attention and ensure that your documents are as clear as possible from the moment you send them, as this will help you save time.

What if your application gets denied? The state will give you a 30-day window to appeal the decision.

Receiving the Funds

If your application gets approved, you will get your funds transferred through a third-party processor on the tenant's behalf.

About the Landmark Settlement of June 5, 2023

The state of California, particularly the California Department of Housing & Community Development (HCD), was heavily criticized for its alleged unconstitutional operation of the ERAP (or Housing Is Key Program).

Due to the suspicious handling of the program, plenty of qualified applicants missed out on the financial assistance they were guaranteed. As of today, over 100,000 households have pending applications.

Out of those applications, many of them are in a state of urgency, as landlords are serving eviction notices to their tenants for not paying their rent debt.

However, the HCD was sued back in June 2022 by Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE), the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE Action), and PolicyLink, which were represented by Public Counsel, the Western Center on Law & Poverty, Covington & Burling LLP, and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.

The lawsuit was filed because of alleged systemic failures in California's rent relief program, which led to confusion during the application process. This led to many eligible households getting their assistance wrongfully denied.

Thankfully, the lawsuit ended in a settlement agreement where the HCD promised to take steps toward optimizing the process of the remaining ERAP applications, including:

  • Giving more funding to the Local Partner Network
  • Providing more accessibility to the appeal process
  • Giving a reasonable explanation to renters who got their requests denied and providing them with a fair chance to appeal
  • Giving a fair opportunity to tenants subject to "recapture" of assistance funds to challenge the state's decision
  • Having an audit of past claims to address wrongful assistance denials
  • Providing transparent information regarding who's receiving assistance and who's not. This includes information about the zip code, race, and ethnicity of renters who got their applications denied.

California renters who are still waiting for their pending applications should receive an update within the following months, so they're encouraged to check their email, portal, or postal mail from time to time.

On the other hand, those who get their application denied will have 30 days to appeal the decision. They can contact the Local Partner Network and get in touch with a tenant group, legal service provider, or community organization for further assistance.

More Information About the California's Program

California got over $6 billion from state and federal governments, which helped fund the Housing Is Key program. About half a million households in the state applied to this program.

According to a study made by the National Equity Atlas, the HCD denied almost 30% of requests. About 93% of those denied requests included households with an income below 80% AMI, which was the threshold to be eligible.

This (among other reasons) was what caused so much confusion among applicants. Since most of them didn't receive an explanation of why they were being denied despite being eligible, this caused the entities mentioned above to follow through with the lawsuit. The fact that many people had issues figuring out the appeal process didn't help either.

According to the same study, almost 150,000 applicants were facing eviction when they applied, which added to the general public frustration.

Thanks to the lawsuit settlement, however, it's expected that the remaining applications get processed in a fair and transparent way.

How ERAP Helps Landlords and Tenants Communicate Better

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program offered many benefits beyond giving California renters rental assistance.

Unfortunately for many, the COVID-19 pandemic left them with uncertainty and frustration over their situation, which caused some tension in leasing relationships.

These financial struggles led to several problems between tenants and landlords, particularly communication issues, evictions, and even lawsuits.

Thanks to ERAP, however, everyone involved in a lease was able to find some common ground and collaborate toward a healthier environment. Not having such a big financial pressure on the shoulders made it possible so that everyone could talk things through and solve any potential issues out there.

Struggling to Find Reliable Resources? Visit DoorLoop

DoorLoop aims to make things easier for landlords and property managers all over the country.

If you're struggling to find accurate and updated information about California and its rental market, you can check DoorLoop's resources page to learn what's new.

Learning as much as you can about the market can give you a competitive edge and ensure you have all the necessary tools at your disposal to ensure a healthy and effective leasing relationship with your tenants.

DoorLoop is available at any moment of the day, so feel free to check it out whenever you need it.

Bottom Line - Make the Most Out of Your Rental Experience

Staying updated with ERAP can become complicated quickly, especially considering that each state has different rules.

California is one of the few states that's still processing pending applications. Many states stopped providing financial assistance a while ago. The best way to know the current state of ERAP in California is to check its official portal.

On the other hand, if you're looking for a tool to manage your rental portfolio and stay updated on the latest news about the California rental market, don't hesitate to try out DoorLoop.

DoorLoop is a powerful, all-in-one property management platform that ensures you can communicate with your tenants, manage your properties, collect payments, and much more from within the same app.

If you want to save time and money, DoorLoop will be your best friend throughout any rental process. Request a demo today to discover all its features.

David is the co-founder & CMO of DoorLoop, a best-selling author, legal CLE speaker, and real estate investor. When he's not hanging with his three children, he's writing articles here!