Tenant Buyouts

Our office helps tenants negotiate buyouts of their tenancies.

A buyout is when a landlord pays a tenant to move out of their rent controlled home. This often happens when a landlord is selling a property, or has just bought a building. Tenants living in rent controlled buildings may be paying rent that is far below market rate. Landlords are limited in how much they can raise a tenant’s rent. This in turn impacts the sale value of a property or the return on investment an owner may get. In other situations a landlord may want to live in their building but prefer a buyout to going through an eviction process.

In cities like San Francisco Oakland and Berkeley a landlord has to have a “just cause” to evict a tenant. If you have rent control your rent may be much lower than what your apartment is worth. Landlords looking to sell their building or looking to get more rent have turned to offering tenants money to move out. Often times this is a bad deal for tenants in the long run no matter how much money your landlord is offering.

Because these negotiations can be complicated our office is here to help steer you through the process.

What Kind of Buyout Can I get?

What your tenancy is “worth” can vary wildly.

How much you can get for a buyout of your apartment can vary wildly from a few thousand dollars well into the six figures. The price you arrive at will ultimately depend on strategy, needs and relative bargaining power. Each situation is different, and we will use our expertise to help guide you through the process.

Your landlord is almost certainly looking at this as a business decision. You should too. While your landlord will eventually recoup whatever costs they incur in a buyout later on – either by charging higher rent to a new tenant, or because they can sell the property at a higher price, the money you get is finite.

Before You Jump at a Buyout Consider These Questions:

Where will you move?

If you’re staying in San Francisco, you can expect your rent to be much higher if you’re moving out of a low-rent apartment. Are you going to just be handing over the money you get in a buyout to another landlord? If you’re moving out of the Bay Area then your money will of course go farther.

What are the risks?

Does your landlord have other ways to force you to move out if you don’t negotiate a deal, such as an owner move in eviction or Ellis Eviction? While threats of these “no fault” evictions are common in buyout negotiations, it can be difficult to know when or if your landlord is bluffing – and in certain circumstances you may never know. However, by evaluating your options and your comfort with risk you may be able to get a better handle on what you are or aren’t comfortable with and whether or not it makes sense to test the waters in negotiating a buyout.

What are you prepared to do if a deal can’t be reached?

What happens if you don’t get the number you feel you deserve? Are you prepared to defend an eviction lawsuit if one is filed or will you likely move out all the same? Are you prepared / happy staying put? An understanding of what you’re prepared to do is crucial going into any negotiation. We can help you come up with the best strategy to fit your needs.

Our office has successfully negotiated buyouts for hundreds of Bay Area tenants. If you are going to negotiate a buyout having an experienced attorney by your side can be extremely helpful. Because our office cares about keeping tenants in their homes, we want to be sure that you consider your options thoroughly before you decide to agree to move out. To set up a free consultation to discuss your buyout options contact us today. ​

San Francisco: Rent Ordinance Guidelines on Buyouts

In March 2015 the San Francisco Rent Ordinance was amended to include a new section, 37.9E governing buyout negotiations. The new law includes the following requirements among others:

  • Landlords must provide tenants with a written disclosure form created by the San Francisco Rent Board before he or she can even talk to you about a buyout.
  • Provides tenants with 45 days to rescind any written buyout agreement
  • Landlords must file and register buyouts with the SF Rent Board. A catalogue of recorded buyouts is available for review at the Rent Board’s offices (25 Van Ness Avenue)
  • As with “no fault evictions” Buyouts can impact a landlord’s ability to convert a building into condos. ​ More information about the requirements of this disclosure can be found on the Rent Board website: here.

UPDATE 4/2020: The laws regarding buyouts were amended. For more information on the latest changes to the law check out our blog, or the SF Rent Board.

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