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Wrongful Eviction FAQs for San Francisco Tenants

Wrongful Eviction FAQs for San Francisco Tenants

Wrongful Eviction FAQs for San Francisco Tenants

15Oct

Wrongful Eviction FAQs for San Francisco Tenants

Being forced to move out of your home unexpectedly can be traumatic and might leave you feeling helpless. But help is available. Local rent ordinances are in place to provide renters with tools to pursue claims for wrongful evictions. Understanding what makes an eviction illegal can be confusing. Below are some of the most common questions our wrongful eviction attorneys receive about San Francisco housing rights.

What Constitutes a Wrongful Eviction in San Francisco?

For a landlord in San Francisco to lawfully evict a tenant, the landlord must have one of sixteen “just causes” as recognized by the law and adhere to detailed eviction procedures. Further, landlords must obtain a court order or a tenant must move out subject to a legal eviction notice in order to evict tenants in most cases.

A wrongful eviction occurs when a landlord evicts a tenant without one of these just causes.

Generally, landlords must allege and show one of sixteen just causes, such as the following to lawfully evict a tenant in San Francisco:

  • Non-payment of rent
  • Unlawful or illegal conduct
  • Substantial destruction of the property
  • Material breach of the lease agreement
  • Owner or Relative Move-in
  • Ellis Act Eviction

Landlords must also provide tenants with a detailed written notice of their intent to evict the tenant, and in certain situations, give tenants the right to resolve (or “cure”) the violation. Tenants should contact an attorney immediately after receiving an eviction notice, as some evictions have shorter notice periods than others. In San Francisco, tenants have a right to free legal counsel, so we recommend that tenants seek assistance from one of the many non-profit organizations that represent tenants such as the Eviction Defense Collaborative, rather than a private attorney in most circumstances.

Can My Landlord Really Evict Me so Their Relative Can Move In?

Unfortunately, in some cases, yes. Relative move-ins, under certain conditions, are considered a just cause for eviction. However, the move must be made in good faith and without an ulterior motive. For example, if the landlord targets the unit with the lowest rent for their relative to live in when nicer units are already available, this may not be considered a good faith move-in.

Tenants who have resided in their home for over a year that are forced to vacate for an owner or relative move-in are likely entitled to relocation payments. It’s also important to note that if the landlord does not continue to meet the requirements for an owner eviction, such as remaining in the unit for a minimum of 36 months, the evicted tenant may have grounds to recover substantial damages in a wrongful eviction lawsuit.

The sad reality is that our firm has seen many landlords use bogus owner or relative move-in evictions as a way to recover possession from long-term tenants. Tenants who are forced out of their homes based on lies or misinformation have rights. That’s why we’re on a mission to provide both education and advocacy for Bay Area renters whose rights are being compromised.

By accepting nearly all cases on a contingency fee basis (meaning we don’t get paid until you do), we make it affordable and realistic for tenants to get the legal help they deserve. We help level the playing field for San Francisco tenants who are wrongfully evicted by providing powerful and effective legal guidance.

What Happens if the Tenant Wins a Wrongful Eviction Case?

Wrongful eviction lawsuits can result in significant damages for tenants but it’s important to note that a wrongful eviction lawsuit is not the same as an eviction lawsuit, and that a wrongful eviction case does not help a renter remain in their home during eviction proceedings. Tenants facing eviction may be able to defend an eviction and remain in their home, but a wrongful eviction lawsuit only occurs after the tenant has already moved out of the rental unit, and only in circumstances where the tenant was forced to move without a just cause for eviction.

Under Cal. Civ. Code § 789.3, landlords who have engaged in unlawful actions against their tenants, including unlawfully locking out claimants, destroying personal property, or forcing tenants out by turning off utilities, must generally pay the tenant a statutory penalty of $100 a day until they remedy the wrong. This may include giving the rightful tenant access to the apartment or negotiating lease buyouts.

Some San Francisco landlords must also pay triple damages to tenants unlawfully forced out of their rentals.  Damages for tenants in a wrongful eviction case may include loss of use (difference between the rent-controlled rent they were paying and market rate, for however long they’d stay), reimbursement of rent, and moving costs. Claimants may also be entitled to punitive damages, compensation for emotional distress, and attorney’s fees in appropriate cases.

Can I Obtain Wrongful Eviction Damages if I had to Leave Due to Poor Living Conditions?

Yes. San Francisco tenants who are forced to move out due to poor living conditions or harassment may have claims for what’s known as constructive eviction.  Constructive eviction is similar to a wrongful eviction in terms of the damages available to a tenant, but where a wrongful eviction involves a landlord actually terminating a tenant’s tenancy, a constructive eviction occurs when a landlord fails to resolve problems – or causes problems – that leaves a tenant with no choice but to move out. Common examples of constructive eviction include:

  • When a landlord does not make critical repairs resulting in uninhabitable living conditions, such as refusing to provide access to potable water, remove lead paint, provide a permanent source of heat, address a mold infestation, or resolve problems with rodents, rats, bedbugs, or other pets.
  • When a landlord is harassing, threatening, or otherwise jeopardizing a tenant’s safety; or
  • When a landlord fails to address noise or nuisance conditions that disrupt a tenant’s ability to use and enjoy their home. This may include failing to address noise issues from neighbors or construction, failing to provide adequate security, or failing to evict another tenant who is jeopardizing a tenant’s ability to remain in their home.

If you have been forced to move or find yourself thinking about moving due to horrible living conditions, the dedicated tenant’s rights lawyers at Wolford Wayne LLP are available to discuss your wrongful eviction claims. Request your consultation by calling (415) 649-6203 or connecting with us online.

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