Making It in the Bay

Stimulus Check Leads to Tenant-Landlord Fight in North Bay

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A Solano County couple unable to pay their full monthly rent during the COVID-19 crisis claims they have been harassed and even threatened by their landlord. The couple said the landlord even pretended to have checked with the IRS to see if they received their stimulus payments.

Meanwhile, housing advocates said the tenants have protections. The advocates said they have been getting lots of complaints from tenants who have lost their income during the COVID-19 crisis that their landlords are still demanding they pay rent.

"We know our responsibilities," tenant Kristina Williams said. "We've always taken care of our responsibilities."

But with her husband out of work and four kids to feed, Williams said paying their full monthly rent has been impossible. They notified their landlord, but said he has been persistent on getting paid.

The Williams family said their landlord sent them a letter he wanted them to sign stating they must pay rent first if they receive checks from unemployment or government assistance.

At one point, the couple said the landlord demanded $500 a week from them.

The tenants then said they received a text from the landlord after he claimed to check the IRS website, which showed a direct deposit has been made to their account. The landlord later backed off and said it was a joke, the couple said.

"Please just stop harassing us," Williams said. "We're doing the best we can."

Housing advocates said landlords must respect tenants who said they cannot afford to pay rent right now because of the COVID-19 crisis. Tenants cannot face eviction and landlords cannot use personal information to get the status of their renters' stimulus checks.

NBC Bay Area reached out to the landlord, who replied "I didn't check their check status in [the] IRS. It's a bluff and I apologized to him already. I am a very good landlord."

The Williams said they are only $400 behind on their rent. They have yet to receive unemployment and are just trying to survive, they said.

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