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Under section 37.9(a) of the SF Rent Ordinance, landlords who own rent-controlled apartments must have just cause (see below under "just cause") to evict tenants from those units. Those reasons listed below are the only reasons landlords can evict tenants from rent-controlled apartments in San Francisco.
Eviction is a legal process. It can't be done verbally, only through a written warning notice, then a court summons (Unlawful Detainer). You don't have to leave because your landlord tells you to; she must give you a written notice and follow the legal process. Under CCC 1940.2, it's unlawful for a landlord to threaten a tenant in order to force him to move or to interfere with his quiet enjoyment.
A landlord can NOT demand
rent, collect rent, issue a notice of rent
increase, issue a notice to pay rent or quit, any
of these things--IF THERE IS AN OUTSTANDING N.O.V.
("notice of violation," such as one from the
Department of Building Inspections or the Health
Department) for at least 35 days. We don't
recommend the withholding of rent, but if you
should decide to do it, consult an attorney. We
can provide you with a list.
Other points about evictions: A tenant must be represented by legal counsel in a court-supervised settlement agreement in order to waive any rights under the rent ordinance (37.10A(g)). This applies to all settlement agreements, even in Ellis and OMI evictions.
The grounds cited in an eviction notice
must be adhered to, regardless of any agreement. So if
a landlord OMIs a place, she must still move into that
place despite any agreement (37.10A(f)).
If you owe rent and needs assistance, check out our list of rental assistance programs. Click here.
OWNER MOVE-IN (OMI)
The owner of a unit may recover possession of that unit if she intends to make it her principal place of residence for 36 continuous months (three years). If the owner already resides in the building, or has just bought it and is moving into a unit, she is allowed to exercise this right for any immediate adult family members: Parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings, spouses, and relatives' spouses. If she is just buying the building, she can literally move relatives into every apartment. In any case, the new occupant should move in within three months of the eviction. The landlord must offer the tenant any vacant comparable unit within any property she owns. The unit, however, can be at market rate, not at the old rent. A notice of 60 days is required for an OMI.
Tenants can NOT be evicted through OMI if:
Note: These protections do not apply if the place in question is a single-family home. If the home has an inlaw unit or a garage apartment (or is divided into two or more separate floors), then the protections should apply. Check with our office. 703-8644 Monday through Thursday, 1-5pm, to be sure. The owner only needs at least a 25% recorded interest in the property to evict for OMI. Verbal or oral threats or warnings of an OMI are not an eviction notice. The threats do not have to be filed with the Rent Board, but the subsequent written notice must be filed with the Rent Board within 10 days of serving it to the tenant. Also proof of service must be filed with the Rent Board.
An eviction notice for an OMI
must state the percent interest the owner holds in
the property, the name of the person moving in,
her relationship to the owner, his/her current
address, and the fact that advice is available
from the Rent Board.
OMI OF FAMILY WITH KIDS: A family
with children under 18 who has lived in the unit for
more than a year cannot be evicted during the school
year. The landlord must wait until the school year is
through to do the eviction. That means the eviction
notice (of 30 or 60 days) must be given in enough time
for the eviction to be completed before the school
year begins again. Exceptions include the following:
if there is only one rental unit in the building owned
by the landlord; and if the landlord moving in also
has a minor child (under 18).
RELOCATION MONEY: See chart
below. The landlord must pay a certain amount
to each tenant who has lived in the unit 12
months or more (half at the time of notice,
the remainder upon move-out). See chart below.
Disabled and seniors (over 60) receive an
additional amount. A household with minor
children also receives an additional amount.
The cap for the apartment is now $15,460, but
that does not include the additional money for
seniors, the disabled or minor children.
Unlike previous relocation benefits, it
applies to all housing, even single-family
dwellings and condos. The other difference is
that the amount increases every year, based on
cost of living index. The following OMI
relocation chart also applies to demolition
or permanent removal of unit from housing
(usually illegal units); substantial
rehabilitation; and capital improvement
evictions. The latter two --
substantial rehabilitation and capital
improvement -- are temporary.
If you receive an OMI eviction notice:
payments have changed for Ellis, under a
new law that went into effect June 1, 2014. Under that
law, a tenant with an Ellis notice is to receive the
greater of the following two: the amount on the chart
above or the difference in rent between what s/he is
currently paying and the market value of a comparable
apartment for two years. To calculate this amount, see
Rent Board info
sheet. At this moment, the law is NOT in effect
since it was struck down by the court. The city is
planning to appeal that, but right now it's not in
effect, so tenants should use the chart above for
relocation. The landlord must give half the amount
upfront with the written notice and the other half
when the tenant moves.
If the landlord re-rents the unit within five years, the tenant has the right to move back at the same rent. Tenants should write the landlord within 30 days of moving out, stating their desire to move back if the unit is rented in the future. Include an address where you can be reached.
Under state law,
landlords of SROs can't Ellis them if they
received a permit of occupancy prior to 1/1/90
and have not sent a notice of intent to
withdraw the place from rental prior to
In order to perform capital improvements on the building, landlords can ask tenants to temporarily vacate their units.
LANDLORD CAN'T LOCK
An eviction is a legal process involving court action. Landlords can not evict tenants without going to court, or try to force them out by turning off the utilities or changing the locks. If your landlord attempts any of these tactics to force you out:
California Civil Code 1942.5 says a landlord can not retaliate against tenants by evicting them or raising the rent. If your landlord tries to evict you within six months of an action you have taken to assert your rights, you may have a defense against it. Make sure you keep copies of all actions which might be cause for retaliation, such as Rent Board notices, Building Inspection notices, etc.
In order to evict a tenant, a written notice to vacate must be properly served. First your landlord must try to find you and hand the notice to you. If your landlord can't find you, the notice may be handed to a "person of suitable age [over 18] and discretion" at your home or work. A copy must be mailed to you. If your landlord cannot find a suitable person to leave the notice with, s/he can post it in a conspicuous place on your premises and mail a copy to you.
In units covered by rent control, this
notice must state the grounds for eviction (just
cause, see above), and that advice is available from
the Rent Board. An improper notice can be used to
defeat an eviction, but only if the tenant responds to
the notice. The legal process of eviction begins with
a three, 30 or 60-day notice (some forms of subsidized
housing such as Section 8 will use seven, 10 or 14-day
notices). Ellis evictions require longer notices,
A three-day notice to "cure or quit" can be given to a tenant who has not paid rent on time or who is violating a lease agreement. A three-day notice is a warning that if the rent is not paid within three days you can be taken to court to be evicted. A three-day notice doesn't mean you'll be thrown out of your apartment in three days.
The notice must state the correct amount of rent owed and the name and address of the person to whom the rent should be paid. and the address where you can pay it. Your landlord must accept the rent if you attempt to pay it within the three days. After the three-day period, s/he does NOT have to accept the money.
If, at the end of the three- or 60-day notice period the tenant does not voluntary move out, a landlord must file an Unlawful Detainer to remove the tenant from the rental unit. When the Unlawful Detainer is served, you have five days (weekends count, holidays don't!) to file a response. To file your response, you should get legal assistance from the Eviction Defense Collaborative: 995 Market at 6th, 12th floor, 9:30-11:30 am, 1-3 pm. Click here for their website. If a response is not filed on time, your landlord may obtain a default judgment, which quickens the process.
After you respond, the court will set up a settlement conference, at which time you and your landlord can present your arguments and possibly come to an agreement. You do NOT have to agree to a settlement at this conference--if you do not, the case will go to a jury trial. Only after your landlord wins at trial can the court order you to vacate.
If your landlord wins the court
decision or if you neglect to answer the summons,
the decision must be taken to the Sheriff who will
post a five-day "Notice to Vacate" on your door.
After five days the locks on the doors can be
changed by the Sheriff and only the Sheriff. If
your belongings are not out of the apartment when
the locks are changed, they will be put into
storage and you will be liable for the cost. You
will have 14 days to get them. If you don't, the
landlord can sell or destroy them. Once you
receive the Sheriff's notice, you can file a
motion in court asking for another week. You can
do this twice. You will have to be able to pay a
week's rent in cash or money order. The court
hears those petitions on Tuesday, the day before
the Sheriff comes. Eviction Defense Collaborative
can help you prepare the papers for court. Below,
see info on contacting them.
IN CASE OF FIREHere's a quick guide to the rights of a tenant is displaced by fire:
You have the right to return to your place when repairs are done
Your landlord must notify you when your apartment is ready. You must give your landlord your address and contact info so that he can let you know when the place is repaired.
Once the place is repaired and the landlord offers it back, the tenant must let the landlord know within 30 days whether she will return and reoccupy it.
If the fire was caused by neglect on the part of the landlord (in not repairing the wiring, for example), then you may have a claim against him in court. You should file a claim with the landlord’s insurance company although a landlord has no obligation to cover a tenant’s losses unless it can be proven that the landlord was negligent. You should also obtain all police and fire department reports as evidence.
If you cannot live in your place after the fire (this will be in the fire department report), then you do NOT have to pay rent until it is repaired. Once repaired, the rent remains the same unless the landlord petitions the Rent Board for a capital-improvement passthrough.
If the landlord does not offer the place back to the displaced tenant and instead rents to someone else, the displaced person can file for wrongful eviction.
Note: Under a new amendment to the rent ordinance, a “Good Samaritan” landlord can rent to a tenant displaced by fire or public health/safety issue at the same rent the tenant was paying in the apartment from which he was forced to move, but only for an agreed upon period, not to exceed a year. A one-year extension can be granted to that agreement. After that period, the landlord can raise the rent up to market. and evict, if the tenant doesn't leave and the landlord wants him to. A city official (such as a fire or DBI inspector) must verify that the tenant was displaced. The Rent Board is still working out the details on this amendment, so stay tuned for updates.
For more information, you can call us or stop into our housing rights clinic, Monday-Thursday, 1-5pm, 415-703-8644.
Some Quick Tips
Eviction is a legal process and a landlord or master tenant who is trying to evict you must follow every step exactly as outlined by law.
Eviction can never be done verbally. A landlord or master tenant must always present a tenant with the appropriate papers.
Tenants under rent control have just cause eviction protection, which means a landlord, manager or master tenant can only evict them for one of the causes spelled out by the rent ordinance. See the complete list in the column to the left.
If someone does not pay rent, a landlord must first give them a three-day notice to allow them 72 hours (three days) to come up with the money. If they do not pay during that time, the landlord must next serve them with court papers called an "Unlawful Detainer." He cannot throw their things on the street and/or change the locks. He must go through the entire eviction process.
If you've received an Unlawful Detainer (the court papers), you should NOT come to our office, but instead you should go to the Eviction Defense Collaborative, 995 Market/6th, 12th floor. Their hours are Monday through Friday, 9:30 - 11:30 AM, and 1 - 3 PM (except for the first Friday of the month).
In certain types of evictions relocation money is required to be paid to the tenant by the landlord. See relocation charts in the left column. Notice that it only applies to these certain evictions, NOT all evictions.
A landlord cannot do an owner move-in on a family with kids during the school year. He must wait until after the year is over and then serve notice before the new year begins.
Only the sheriff (not the landlord, police or anyone else) can remove a person from an apartment and only AFTER the court process is completed and the landlord has won.