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Understanding the Eviction Process in San Francisco

Understanding the Eviction Process in San Francisco

Understanding the Eviction Process in San Francisco


Understanding the Eviction Process in San Francisco

Wrongful evictions happen far too often in San Francisco. The sad reality is that many tenants who are forced out of their homes illegally aren’t even aware that their landlord broke the law until it is too late, or they never realize it at all.

Understanding your rights before, during, and after an eviction is incredibly valuable for San Francisco renters. Here, the tenant's rights attorneys at Wolford Wayne LLP touch on some of the most important points to keep in mind regarding the eviction process.

Your Rights Regarding Eviction

California’s Tenant Protection Act of 2019 provides many renters statewide with protection from unfair rent increases and evictions. But many cities, including San Francisco, have had similar protections in place for decades. San Francisco's Rent Ordinance provides most renters with more protections than the state law. These are a few of the key rights you should be aware of:

  • Your landlord must have a "just cause" to evict you. This can include “fault-based” reasons, like not paying your rent, or “no-fault” evictions, like an owner move-in. There are some limited exceptions to this, like for units shared by the renter and their landlord, or tenants not covered by the Rent Ordinance.
  • Even if they have a just cause, your landlord must follow the legal eviction process. Almost all evictions must be done through the courts to be valid. Even if you are behind on your rent, you are still covered by the ordinance’s protections.
  • You may be entitled to relocation payments after a no-fault eviction. If you were forced to leave your rental for an owner move-in or major repair issue, for example, your landlord might be required to provide relocation assistance.

If your landlord forces you to move out without following the legal requirements, you may have grounds for a wrongful eviction lawsuit against them.

San Francisco Eviction Process

The eviction process in San Francisco can be complex and confusing, but it’s important to understand the process.

Step One: Serving an Eviction Notice

If your landlord wants you to leave, they must send a legal, written notice which specifies how long you have to vacate the unit. Depending on the grounds for the notice, your landlord may be required to give you an opportunity to "cure" the breach, such as with non-payment of rent. How long the notice period is will depend on which just cause your landlord is alleging. This could be as little as three days for some at-fault evictions, while for no-fault evictions the period is 60 days (OMI) or 120 days (Ellis). If, after this time period has passed, you are still occupying the unit, your landlord can then file an eviction lawsuit.

Step Two: The Eviction Lawsuit

To remove a tenant after the eviction notice period has passed, a landlord must file an eviction lawsuit, known as a "Complaint for Unlawful Detainer.” Note that if you get served with an eviction lawsuit it is extremely important that you respond. We recommend taking it to a non-profit housing organization such as the Eviction Defense Collaborative immediately because they may be able to offer free legal representation. If you fail to respond to the lawsuit you may lose your right to fight altogether and could end up getting evicted. Local tenant advocates groups can help you file your response (or Answer) and help identify any possible defenses you may have against eviction.

You and your landlord will then have a “Settlement Conference” where you will have an opportunity to try and resolve the dispute. If no agreement is reached, the case will go to trial, and a judge or jury will decide whether or not you can remain in the unit.

Step Three: Sheriff's Notice

While, if you lose your case, you may be able to challenge the decision or buy yourself more time with a stay of eviction, you will likely receive a sheriff's notice posted on your door, which will give you only days to leave. Even at this point, you may be able to ask the court for more time to find a new home. Only the Sheriff can enforce the eviction, and if the landlord locks you out themselves or leaves your belongings in the street, they are likely violating the law.

If You Have Been Wrongfully Evicted, We Can Help

Finding safe, affordable housing in San Francisco is no easy task, which can make it a serious burden to be forced out of your rental unit. At Wolford Wayne LLP, we are dedicated to seeking justice on behalf of wrongfully evicted tenants in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland. If you or someone you know have been forced to leave without a proper eviction notice and/or without a just cause, we may be able to help.

Our office only represents tenants, never landlords, and we accept cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning we don't get paid unless you do. If you’ve been wrongfully evicted, contact our office to learn how we may be able to help.

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For more information or to discuss your legal situation, call us today at (415) 649-6203 for a phone consultation or submit an inquiry below. Please note our firm can only assist tenants residing in San Francisco, Oakland & Berkeley.

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