In cities with eviction-control regulations like San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, owners can attempt to evict a tenant using what is known as an owner move-in eviction.
Owner move-in evictions (OMIs) occur when a landlord evicts a tenant from their rental property for the landlord’s personal use or for a close relative's occupancy. These evictions are legal when done properly and in good faith, but there are situations where landlords claim they intend to move in and instead re-rent the property or leave it vacant. When that happens, tenants may be able to sue their former landlord for evicting them under false pretenses. Fraudulent or bad-faith OMI evictions often happen when a landlord wants to evict a tenant in a rent-controlled unit but doesn’t have a valid cause to do so.
Below is an overview of the guidelines for owner move-in evictions. While tenants may not always be able to prevent an OMI, knowing the rules may help to keep you in your home or to go after your landlord if they commit fraud.
The owner's intention to move into the apartment must be legitimate and not merely a pretext to evict a tenant. This is referred to as being in “good faith.” If a tenant refuses to move out in response to an OMI notice, the landlord will have to file an eviction lawsuit. One of the defenses available to tenants is to show that the landlord was not acting in good faith. However, it can be difficult to prove the absence of good faith. That said, if a tenant moves out and the owner does not move in within ninety (90) days or fails to file the proper paperwork with the San Francisco Rent Board, that may be evidence of bad faith.
The landlord must provide a sixty day written notice to the tenant, informing them of the owner's intention to move in (or have a close relative move in). The notice must follow the law and include details such as the identity and ownership stake of the person who intends to move in (or move their relative in), the move-in date, and the tenant's right to respond. If you receive an OMI Notice and have doubts about whether it is legitimate, take the notice to the Eviction Defense Collaborative to have an attorney review it.
After a tenant receives an OMI eviction notice, the tenant has the choice to move out and keep tabs on the building, or to stay and defend an eviction lawsuit. What makes the most sense for you will depend on the specific facts of your situation and the notice itself.
While all tenants who have resided in their home for at least a year are entitled to relocation payments, certain tenants, such as those who are elderly, disabled, or have minor children may be entitled to additional protections or compensation. Specifically, tenants who are over sixty years old and have lived in their home for more than ten years or tenants who are catastrophically ill and have lived in their place for at least five years are considered “protected tenants” and generally cannot be evicted for an OMI or relative move in eviction. Tenants with minor children cannot be evicted during the school year and are also entitled to additional relocation payments. For more information on relocation payments in OMIs, check out the Rent Board’s website.
Landlords cannot evict a tenant using an OMI if there is a comparable unit available for them to live in.
After evicting a tenant through an owner move-in eviction, the landlord or relative must move in within three months and occupy the unit for at least 36 continuous months. Failure to do so might be evidence of a bad-faith OMI eviction. While you may not be able to stop the OMI request in these situations, you may be eligible to recover damages for the harm you suffered because of the owner's illegal conduct.
Unfortunately, tenants can’t always stop an OMI eviction. However, if you move out and suspect that your landlord never moved into your apartment, you may have grounds to sue your landlord for a wrongful eviction and recover substantial financial damages.
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