In San Francisco and other Bay Area cities that have rent ordinances one of the "just causes for landlords to evict a tenant is an owner move-in eviction. An owner or relative move-in eviction or "OMI"must be conducted in good faith and can't just be a pretext to force a tenant to move out. However, in some instances landlords do just that. If a landlord evicts a tenant via a landlord move-in eviction and never moves in they may be liable for a wrongful eviction. Our office regularly represents tenants who have been wrongfully evicted via a bogus owner move-in eviction.
Under the San Francisco Rent Ordinance, a landlord can use an owner move-in eviction if they intend, in good faith, to take back possession for their own use. The landlord must then live in the unit for at least thirty-six consecutive months. A landlord can't re-rent the unit to another tenant during that time period and must live there as their primary place of residence. A violation of any of these parts of the law may subject a landlord to liability for a wrongful eviction.
Another rule is that a landlord cannot pursue an owner move-in eviction if a "comparable unit" in the building is available; or if a "comparable unit" becomes available in the building before the owner recovers the other unit. If a comparable unit becomes available before the owner recovers the unit, they must withdraw the eviction notice.
For instance, if you live in a rent-controlled two-bedroom apartment, and there is a similar two-bedroom apartment available in the building your landlord may not be able to force you out with an owner move-in eviction notice. However, factors such as the location of the unit in the building and amenities like outdoor space can be considered in determining if a unit is "comparable."
Likewise, if a landlord owns a property with similar amenities then they may not be able to justify the need to move into your rental unit. The rationale behind this rule is to prevent a landlord from forcing a tenant out unless they have a legitimate reason for doing so.
Because a landlord can't evict a tenant using an owner move-in eviction if a comparable unit is available in your building, it is important to understand the difference between "comparable" and "non-comparable" units.
There is no clear-cut answer when it comes to distinguishing between a comparable and non-comparable unit. However, sometimes it's easier to assess when the number of bedrooms or the square footage is significant. It can be more difficult when units appear to be comparable, but the landlord's specific needs diminish the similarities. For instance, an owner who wants to do a relative move-in for their elderly parent can claim an upper unit is not comparable to a lower unit because the parent has difficulty climbing stairs. The ascertainment of comparability is both subjective and objective, which makes it very difficult to deal with.
The laws governing owner move-in evictions are complex. If you think that you are a victim of wrongful eviction, make sure that you explore your options and protect your rights. Contact us today; we're ready to help.
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