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San Francisco Rental Laws

San Francisco is one of the most thriving cities in the United States, and even the world, which makes it a very sought-after rental market. The city blends local laws, along with state and federal laws in order to provide protections for renters.

The city has taken particular interest in balancing the needs of renters with the extremely high cost of living in the city. There is also a scarce amount of rental properties available, which creates a number of conflicts for renters in the city. Because of the huge demand for rental properties in the city, many landlords treat tenants unjustly, since they have a constant stream of renters, all vying for the same property. Below is a list of some of the most prominent tenant laws affecting residents of San Francisco.

“Just” Eviction Laws and No Fault Evictions

In San Francisco, it is possible for a landlord to evict a tenant for just cause, which is typically something like not paying rent or breaking the law on the premises of the rental property. Unless there is an extreme circumstance, like operating a drug business out of your home, a landlord typically doesn’t have the right to evict you, unless the landlord has the opportunity to file for a no fault eviction. A no fault eviction can occur even if you’ve been a model tenant. A few of the reasons a landlord might enact a no fault eviction could be to move in a family member, or because the landlord themself wants to move in, or in order to demolish or make large-scale improvements to the property, or by invoking the Ellis Act.

The Ellis Act

The Ellis Act is a law that doesn’t just govern renters and landlords in San Francisco—it applies to all renters in the state of California. The Ellis Act grants landlords the right, without conditions, to evict tenants during the process of going out of business. That means the landlord removes all of their units from the rental market.

The Ellis Act is most frequently used by landlords who are planning to convert their rental units into condominiums.

If a tenant is forced to move out as a result of a no fault eviction or the Ellis Act, they are entitled to relocation benefits. This means that tenants are paid as a result of their eviction—in San Francisco, renters who must vacate a property as the result of the Ellis Act are entitled to benefits of $5,210, which is the amount that’s in place until February 2014.

Tenants who are elderly or disabled are also entitled to an additional $3,493.73. These are the baseline amounts, but this can differ based on the type of eviction process used, the type of property, and how long a renter has been a resident of that particular property.

San Francisco is unique from some other U.S. cities because it has an established San Francisco Tenants Union, which helps renters. The San Francisco Tenants Union can provide renters with information about eviction compensation, as well as resources if the tenant plans to fight an eviction.

Even if a tenant in San Francisco is being evicted under the no fault clause or the Ellis Act, there is still the potential to fight the eviction, although that can be a significant expense for the renter in many cases.

Even if a renter in San Francisco is issued an eviction notice, this doesn’t mean that they must immediately vacate the property, and as in many cities and states, the eviction process is a multi-step event, that requires proper protocol.


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