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Eviction

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.

JUST CAUSES

  1. Non-payment of rent.
  2. Violation of a lawful obligation under the lease, i.e. habitual late payment of rent.
  3. Tenant is creating a nuisance and disturbing other tenants or damaging property.
  4. Landlord or a family member intends to move into the unit (see owner move-in below).
  5. Landlord plans to perform capital improvements which require the tenant to temporarily vacate the unit (see below).
  6. The unit is being used for illegal purposes.
  7. Tenant refuses to renew a rental agreement that is materially the same. (Note that tenants are not obligated to sign an agreement that is materially different than the one they currently have, no matter how old the original agreement is.)
  8. Tenant refuses the landlord access to the rental unit, as required by state or local law.
  9. Landlord seeks to sell the unit in accordance with the condominium conversion rules under the SF Subdivision Ordinance.
  10. Unapproved subtenant is the only remaining tenant.
  11. Landlord plans to take the building off the market for 10 years. (see Ellis Act eviction below)
  12. Landlord seeks to substantially rehabilitate or completely rebuild the unit.
  13. Landlord plans to demolish or remove permanently the unit from the rental market. (This is often used for illegal units.)
  14. Landlord needs to temporarily evict the tenant in order to get rid of lead paint.
  15. The landlord seeks to recover possession in good faith in order to demolish or to otherwise permanently remove the rental unit from housing use in accordance with the terms of a development agreement entered into by the City under Chapter 56 of the San Francisco Administrative Code.
  16. The tenant’s Good Samaritan Status (Section 37.2(a)(1)(D)) has expired, and the landlord exercises the right to recover possession by serving a notice of termination of tenancy under this Section 37.9(a)(16) within 60 days after expiration of the Original and any Extended Good Samaritan Status Period.

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:

  1. They've lived in the unit for 10 years or more and are 60 or older, or they are disabled.
  2. They are catastrophically ill and have lived in the unit for five years or more.

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.


date of service
of notice
relocation
amt.per
 tenant
maximum
relocation
per unit
additional for elderly or
disabled or household w/
minors
3/1/11-2/28/12
$5,101
$15,304
$3,401
3/1/12-2/28/13
$5,153
$15,460
$3,436
3/1/13-2/28/14
$5,207
$15,621
$3,436
3/1/14-2/28/15
5,261
$15,783
$3,508

If you receive an OMI eviction notice:

  1. Check with the Records Office at City Hall to verify that the landlord holds the required interest in the property.
  2. Check with the Assessor's Office (415-554-5525 or drop in at City Hall room 195) to find out where the owner/person who plans to move into your unit lives. Checking on the web may not be enough since records of property transfers do not make it into the online database for a while after they occur. If the owner has another primary residence, especially one that s/he owns, you can argue that s/he doesn't intend to move in.
  3. Check to see if there are any comparable apartments in the building that are vacant or will become vacant before your notice period expires. If a comparable apartment is available, the landlord or family member must offer it to you.
  4. If everything is in order, try to negotiate with your landlord to pay your moving expenses or to give you more time to move. If you can, get legal advice from a lawyer.
  5. Follow up with neighbors to verify that the landlord actually moves into the apartment. If she does not move in, consult an attorney.
  6. Call our counseling line (415)703-8644, Monday through Thursday, 1-5pm for further information or if you have questions.

ELLIS ACT

A landlord may evict all tenants in a building in order to take the building off the rental market. Landlords must file a "Notice of Intent to Withdraw" with the Rent Board within ten days of serving notice to tenants. One-year notices are required for tenants who are 62 years and older or disabled; 120-day notices for all other tenants. Landlords must pay each tenant a certain amount (see chart below) with a household cap for relocation costs. See chart below  for latest relocation benefits. NOTE: The amount changes every year, adjusted for cost of living. Disabled and senior tenants also receive an additional amount above the cap, as do households with children. The chart below gives the yearly increases:


date of filing
of Ellis notice
relocation amt.
per tenant
maximum
relocation
per house
additional
for elderly
or disabled
3/1/11-2/28/12 $5,105.20 $15,315.56 $3,403.45
3/1/12-2/28/13
$5,157.27
$15,471.78
$3,438.17
3/1/13-2/28/14
$5,210.91
$15,632.69
$3,473.93
3/1/14-2/28/15
$5,265.10
$15,795.27
$3,510.06

NOTE: Relocation 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 1/1/04.

CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS

In order to perform capital improvements on the building, landlords can ask tenants to temporarily vacate their units.

  • Landlords must obtain all necessary permits from the Department of Building Inspections before giving the tenant a 60-day notice to vacate. The work should not take longer than 90 days, although landlord can renew the notice for another 90 days, if needed. Landlords must pay the tenant relocation money, just as with OMI and Ellis Act evictions (see the chart under OMI relocation benefits above for actual amount). The tenant must be notified when the unit is ready for re-occupancy IF the tenant lets the landlord know before moving that s/he is interested in re-occupancy.
  • Landlords cannot raise the tenant's rent to pay for capital improvements until the Rent Board conducts a hearing and approves a capital improvement rent increase pass-through.

LANDLORD CAN'T LOCK YOU OUT

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:
  1. Call the police at (415)553-0123. Under Penal Code 418, your landlord is guilty of a misdemeanor. You have the right to regain entry into your apartment.
  2. If your utilities have been turned off, call the utility company and try to have them turned back on.
  3. Keep a log of these incidents. Write a letter to your landlord stating that you are aware of your rights and that you want the situation remedied without further harassment. Keep a copy, as it may be used as evidence in your defense should you ever go to court.
  4. According to California Civil Code 789.3, you can sue your landlord. Contact an attorney.

RETALIATORY EVICTION

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.

EVICTION NOTICE

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, check above.

THREE-DAY NOTICE

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.

COURT PROCESS

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.

LEGAL ASSISTANCE

To respond to an Unlawful Detainer you need to obtain legal assistance. The Eviction Defense Collaborative (EDC) assists tenants in responding to the court papers. Bring your papers to the EDC, 995 Market Street at 6th Street, 12th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94102, 9:30-11:30 am and 1-3 pm. Do not call. Drop in to talk to a counselor during counseling hours. Click here for EDC website.

IN CASE OF FIRE
Here'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.

house

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.