Just Cause Evictions

San Francisco Eviction Control

Most tenancies in San Francisco are governed by the San Francisco Rent Ordinance (Chapter 37 of the Administrative Code). Tenants living in homes protected by the Rent Ordinance are entitled to just cause eviction protections.

Eviction protections under the San Francisco Rent Ordinance apply to:

  • Apartment buildings built before 1979
  • Single family homes built before 1979
  • Condominiums built before 1979
  • Units lacking a certificate of occupancy

To pursue an eviction of a tenant in unit protected by the Rent Ordinance a landlord must have one of 16 reasons or “just causes.”

To bring an eviction a landlord has to provide written notice to the tenant. The type of notice and amount of time for the notice depends on the reason alleged for the eviction.

If a tenant fails or refuses to move out of the unit prior to the termination of the notice period a landlord may file a lawsuit for Unlawful Detainer (eviction) against a tenant and begin eviction proceedings against that tenant.

The 16 Just Causes for Eviction under the San Francisco Rent Ordinance:

  1. Nonpayment of rent, habitual late payment, or frequent bounced checks.
  2. (Material) Lease Violation that has not been corrected after written notice from the landlord.
  3. Nuisance or substantial damage to the unit (waste), or “creating a substantial interference with the comfort, safety, or enjoyment of the landlord or other tenants in the building.“
  4. Illegal Purpose. Where tenant is using or permitting rental unit to be used for an illegal purpose. **Effective November 9, 2015, this just cause may not be used to evict a tenant from an illegal residential unit.
  5. Refusal to Execute Written Extension / Renewal. Where a tenant’s lease term has expired and tenant has refused to execute a written extension / new lease with the same material terms.
  6. Refusal to Provide Landlord Access to the Unit. Where the tenant has, after written notice to cease,refused the landlord access to the unit as required by state or local law.
  7. Holdover of unapproved subtenant. Where a tenant holding possession at the end of an oral or written agreement is an unapproved subtenant.
  8. Owner or Relative Move-in: wherein landlord or their relative (assuming landlord already resides in the building) seeks to recover possession in good faith, without ulterior motive and with honest intent for their own use and enjoyment or that of a relative. Requires landlord/relative to move in within 3 monthsand reside there for a minimum of 36 months. Tenants who have lived in the unit for 1 year or longer are entitled to relocation payments. For more information see link here
  9. In conjunction with sale of a unit where unit is a condo. Seniors and permanently disabled tenants cannot be evicted for condo conversions. Other tenants have a right to a 1-year lease or 120 days with relocation payments.
  10. Demolition or removal of a residential unit from residential use. Requires landlord to obtain permits, requires landlord to pay relocation under Sec. 37.9C of the Rent Ordinance. Very rarely approved / employed.
  11. Capital improvements /Rehab  allows temporary removal of a residential unit from housing use while landlord conducts construction work. Landlord is required to pay relocation payments under 37.9C and/or State law depending on length of displacement.  Tenant has the right to return to the unit once work has been completed at the prior rent, adjusted by the Rent Board’s allowable rent increases such as the annual rent increase.
  12. Substantial Rehabilitation of a building that is essentially uninhabitable with all the necessary permits. The tenant has a right to relocation payments.
  13. Ellis Act evictions. Allows landlord to “get out of the rental business” by removing the entire building from the rental market. Provides that landlord cannot re-rent for five years, and cannot convert units into condos. Evicted tenants entitled to a 120 day notice period, while seniors over the age of 62, and disabled tenants are entitled to a notice period of one year. All tenants who have resided in unit for one year or more are entitled to relocation payments under 37.9C of the Rent Ordinance.
  14. Lead abatement as required by the San Francisco Health Code with temporary removal of the unit from housing use for less than 30 days. Provides for relocation payments pursuant to 37.9C of the Rent Ordinance.
  15. Demolition in conjunction with development agreement.  Done in accordance with the terms of a development agreement entered into by the City under Chapter 56 of the San Francisco Administrative Code.
  16. Good Samaritan Occupancy Status expires, and the landlord serves an eviction notice within 60 days after expiration of the status. (The Good Samaritan Occupancy Status is when a tenant loses their home due to a disaster and the landlord rents another temporary unit to the tenant for low rent.)

I Don’t Live in San Francisco Do I Have Any Protection from Eviction?

Rent control and eviction control rights vary from county to county and city to city. Oakland and Berkeley each have Ordinances similar to San Francisco. The following Bay Area cities have also recent adopted rent ordinances of their own, though the protections they provide vary widely:

  • Alameda (city)
  • Emeryville
  • Mountain View
  • Richmond

Evictions Under State Law (No Just Cause)

For tenants living in parts of the state or in units not covered by eviction control, landlords may be able to evict tenants without just cause. For tenants in a month-to-month tenancy, landlords do not need to have a reason to evict so long as they provide proper notice. The landlord must give you an eviction notice in writing. If your tenancy is longer than one year, you are entitled to 60 days’ notice. If you’ve lived there less than a year, you’re entitled to at least 30 days‘ notice.

California state requirements are the minimum to which landlords are held. Many tenants in California are given additional rights, thanks to more tenant-friendly ordinances in cities such as Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco.

Amid the recent housing crunch, other jurisdictions–including several in Silicon Valley, Marin and Sonoma–are considering new laws to protect tenants.

If you are being threatened with eviction and are unsure of your rights, contact us today.


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