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What is a “Self-Help” Eviction?

What is a “Self-Help” Eviction?

What is a “Self-Help” Eviction?


What is a “Self-Help” Eviction?

In San Francisco, there are strict rules for how and when a landlord can evict a tenant. Specifically, the San Francisco Rent Ordinance sets out sixteen “just causes” for eviction. Just causes for eviction include failure to pay rent, breach of a material lease term, and creating a “nuisance.” In order to pursue an eviction, a landlord must provide a valid eviction notice and then file an eviction lawsuit.

Unfortunately, despite clearly set out eviction laws, some landlords attempt to evict tenants without going through the legal process. This is known as a “self-help” eviction and it is illegal.

What Exactly is a Self-Help Eviction?

A self-help eviction occurs when a landlord forces a tenant to move out without going through the legal process. A landlord cannot take matters into their own hands to forcibly remove their tenant. Some self-help eviction methods commonly used by landlords include:

  • Changing the locks on the rented property.
  • Forcing a tenant to move without a “just cause” or providing proper written notice.
  • Removing a tenant's belongings from their rental unit.
  • Cutting off utilities such as water, electricity, or gas

While these seem crazy, we have sadly represented tenants who have dealt with these exact situations on numerous occasions.

Can a Tenant Take Legal Action After a Self-Help Eviction?

Yes. It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant through a self-help eviction. This is a form of what is called a “wrongful eviction.” If you have been wrongfully evicted by your landlord, you may be entitled to financial compensation for losing your home. Our team routinely brings lawsuits on behalf of tenants who have been wrongfully forced out of their homes. Tenants who have been wrongfully evicted may be entitled to a variety of damages, including:

  • Rent differential damages based on the loss of your rent-controlled home
  • Emotional distress damages
  • Out-of-pocket expenses such as moving expenses and hotel bills.
  • Punitive damages of up to $100 per day of violation.
  • Attorney fees and costs

If your landlord is attempting to force you to move, but you have not moved yet, it is critical that you speak with a lawyer or other tenant’s rights professional to ensure you have a clear written record of what is happening and to discuss options. We never recommend that tenants move out unless they have no other choice.

What Does a Lawsuit for Wrongful Eviction Look Like?

Our firm represents tenants in these cases on what is called a contingency fee basis. This means we do not get paid unless you do. The first step in evaluating a case is to review the evidence – if your landlord insisted you move out, did they do so in writing? Are there witnesses who can speak to what occurred? If you were locked out, did you file a police report? To be successful we will have to be able to prove that the self-help eviction occurred and show the harm that it has caused you. We will help determine what claims to allege and work with you to formulate a successful strategy. As lawyers, be advised that we cannot guarantee an outcome.

Get in Touch with a San Francisco Wrongful Eviction Attorney Today to Discuss Your Legal Options

If you have been the victim of a self-help eviction in San Francisco, you have the right to seek legal assistance from a wrongful eviction attorney. At Wolford Wayne LLP, we believe that every tenant deserves to be treated with dignity and fairness. Self-help eviction is illegal and unjust, which is why we help tenants fight their landlords in these situations. If you want to learn about your legal options and what you need to do next, contact us today.

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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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