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Rent Laws that Your San Francisco Landlord Doesn’t Want You to Know

Rent Laws that Your San Francisco Landlord Doesn’t Want You to Know

Rent Laws that Your San Francisco Landlord Doesn’t Want You to Know

17May

Rent Laws that Your San Francisco Landlord Doesn’t Want You to Know

San Francisco has its own rent laws in addition to tenant protections under California state law.  At Wolford Wayne LLP, we help tenants in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley who have been wrongfully evicted, and we know that understanding your rights can help avoid an eviction before it happens. Here are just a few of the protections you should know about as a renter that your landlord doesn't want you to know about.

  1. Illegal Units

In San Francisco there are thousands of units that are technically "illegal." An illegal unit is a residential dwelling unit that lacks a “certificate of final completion and occupancy.” For a unit to be approved for residential use it must have a certificate of occupancy, which is issued by the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection. In neighborhoods like the Sunset and the Richmond, many single family homes have an in-law unit downstairs. The vast majority of these were built without permits and are illegal. Tenants have rights even if a unit is illegal, including rent control and eviction protections. Because illegal units fail to satisfy habitability requirements, landlords are actually prohibited from collecting rent for an illegal unit. Further, while local rent control laws state that an apartment is only rent controlled if it is built before 1979, illegal units are actually exempt from this rule. All illegal units are covered by the Rent Ordinance, regardless of when they were built!

  1. Security Deposits

Even though you give your security deposit fund to your landlord, the funds are still considered to be yours. This means that your landlord is actually obligated to pay you interest on those funds if you live in your unit for one year or longer. You should always request this interest when you receive the security deposit back.

  1. View Obstruction

If you live in a rent-controlled unit and the initial rent amount was based partially on a great view of the Bay Area (and your landlord advertised this perk), you have protections if new construction obstructs the view. You might be entitled to a rent reduction in this situation through a decrease in services petition. 

  1. Relocation Assistance

Under the San Francisco Rent Ordinance, your landlord can only evict you if they have one of sixteen "just causes" for eviction. If your landlord evicts you - temporarily - or via a "no fault" eviction such as an Owner Move-in or Ellis Act eviction, they must provide relocation assistance. The amount goes up every year. For 2022 - 2023, tenants who have lived in their apartment for at least one year are entitled to payment of $7,421 per tenant, up to a cap of $22,262. Tenants who are elderly, disabled, or have a child are also entitled to an additional amount. This protection also applies to illegal units. For more information on annual relocation payments check out the Rent Board's website.

  1. Owner Move-In Requirements

If your landlord evicts you and claims that they need to move into the unit, they are required to do so within three months of your moving out and must remain in the unit for at least three years under San Francisco’s rent ordinance. If they leave the unit before three years pass, the landlord must offer you the unit at the same rent rate you previously paid with only increases specifically allowable by law. A landlord further cannot re-rent the unit out to a new tenant at a higher rent for a five year period following your move out. 

  1. Disasters

If you are forced to leave your unit due to a flood, fire, or another type of disaster, your landlord must allow you to move back into your same unit after repairs are complete at the same rent you were previously paying, despite any improvements. 

Note that not every renter is protected by the same rent laws, and you should always be aware of your rights as a tenant. If you have concerns about your landlord’s actions, seek legal help right away. 

Learn More from a San Francisco Tenant Attorney

If you believe your rights as a tenant in San Francisco have been violated, help is available. If you believe you’ve been subjected to wrongful eviction, speak with Wolford Wayne LLP today for an assessment of your situation. Please contact us for more information.

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