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When Can Tenants Refuse to Sign a New Lease?

When Can Tenants Refuse to Sign a New Lease?

When Can Tenants Refuse to Sign a New Lease?


When Can Tenants Refuse to Sign a New Lease?

We often get questions at Wolford Wayne about whether tenants must sign a new lease. Depending on the circumstances, a tenant may be obligated to sign a new lease. Understanding your rights and requirements as a tenant is vital to protecting yourself and your tenancy. Keep reading to learn more about your rights regarding a new lease.

You Cannot Refuse to Sign a Lease That Is the Same

While tenants in homes protected by eviction control can’t be evicted just because their lease is up, a landlord can require a tenant to sign a new lease for the same lease term provided that the lease is “materially the same.” Specifically, the San Francisco Rent Ordinance states that refusing to sign a new lease that is “materially the same” as your existing lease is a just cause for eviction. So, you must consider your options carefully if you refuse to sign a new lease. 

If the owner wants you to sign a new lease without making any changes to the terms of the lease, refusing to sign could put you at risk of an eviction. However, if the new lease has new terms, you may be able to refuse. For example, if your original lease was one page and the new one is twenty pages, you probably have a strong case for not signing. 

When The Lease Expired Does Not Matter

Under state law, residential leases convert to a month-to-month agreement at the end of the term. So, at the end of each month, the lease renews for another month as long as you are in the home or unit. 

As a tenant, you have rights whether or not there is a lease agreement. A landlord-tenant relationship exists if you live in the unit or home and pay rent. Even if there is no lease, the tenancy is subject to tenant protection laws.

The Landlord Can’t Make Material Changes to Your Tenancy

If your home is covered under the San Francisco Rent Ordinance, your landlord cannot make significant changes to the terms of your lease. This is true whether or not you ever signed a written lease.

Many renters in the city have an oral, informal agreement with the property owner. If that applies to you, the only agreement you would be required to sign is one stating your monthly rent, when it is due, and any other information specific to your agreement (for example, if a parking space is included in the lease). For many renters, an oral lease can be a benefit over a written lease because it is more lenient. However, if you don’t have a written lease, the risk is that it can be harder to prove what you agreed to, particularly if your landlord is trying to claim that the terms are different!

Will Your Lease Be Affected if Your Landlord is Selling Your Building?

What happens if someone buys your apartment building? Does new ownership affect your lease? The good news for renters is that a change in ownership does not affect your lease. The new landlord must follow the terms of the lease you signed. You are not required to sign another lease. However, be on the lookout for tenant questionnaires/estoppel agreements. Owners will often ask – or even insist – that a tenant fill out one of these forms in anticipation of a sale. Because a signed estoppel form can be binding, we do not recommend filling one out until you’ve spoken to a tenant’s rights attorney or counselor. For more information, check out our article on what to do when your landlord is selling your building.

What If There Is No Written Lease? 

The landlord-tenant relationship starts when you pay rent and move in. So, you still have rights even if there is no written lease. If the landlord wants you to sign an agreement in the future, you are not required to sign a document with different terms than the current ones. 

Need Help? Talk To One of Our Tenant’s Rights Attorneys Today

As mentioned, refusal to sign a lease with the same terms could be just cause for eviction. However, if you are being asked to sign a lease with new terms and are concerned about being evicted, talk to a tenant lawyer at Wolford Wayne. Our lawyers can provide you with detailed legal advice and inform you of your options, so 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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