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Be Careful About Asking Tenants to Move Out!

Be Careful About Asking Tenants to Move Out!

I was recently speaking with someone who has a condo in the city that was built in the early part of the last century. Since it was built prior to June of 1979, it comes under the SF Rent Control Ordinance. She told me that she thought that once the lease is up, she can give the tenant 60 days notice to move out. “Hold on there a minute! Do you want to get hit with a wrongful eviction lawsuit?” I inquired. She seemed perplexed. “The tenant has a lease. It is a contract. When the contract is up, can’t I do what I want?” Nooooo! This is San Francisco! 

“A property is subject to the San Francisco Rent Ordinance if a Certificate of Occupancy for the structure was first issued on or before June 13, 1979… Many single-family homes and condominiums are exempt from the rent increase limitations of the San Francisco Rent Ordinance, but are still subject to eviction restrictions. [Emphasis Added] If the property is subject to SF Rent Ordinance eviction restrictions, the tenant is entitled to continue renting the unit after expiration of a lease term regardless of any language in the lease agreement stating otherwise. If the landlord does nothing, the tenancy automatically converts to a month-to-month tenancy, and the same terms and conditions of the original lease agreement will apply, subject to the landlord’s right to increase rent in accordance with the limitations set by the Rent Board, as discussed above. If, however, the landlord asks the tenant to renew the lease for another fixed term of the same duration, and the tenant refuses, the landlord may seek to terminate the tenancy on the basis of the tenant’s refusal.” https://g3mh.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/2018-Landlord-Tenant-Issues.pdf  In lawyer parlance, the tenant practically has a life estate in the property (she can live there for her life and when she dies, ownership of the property reverts to the original owner) unless one of the 16 exceptions under the Rent Ordinance apply, like non-payment of rent. https://sfrb.org/section-379-evictions

My east coast friends who read this will be shocked. When I moved to San Francisco, I was quite surprised to learn that owning property here gives you limited rights, particularly when it comes to tenants. With the dearth of housing and how expensive it is, it is understandable that the city has enacted laws to protect tenants. But, for some this may be a little hard to get used to. Before I moved here, I lived in Philadelphia. My landlord gave me 30 days notice to move out of my apartment in the antique district. Although I would have preferred to stay there, I didn’t think much about it and found another place which ended up bring nicer to live. Philadelphia doesn’t have the low rental inventory or excessive prices that San Francisco does.

This blogpost is not legal advice. For anyone who owns a rental unit or plans to put their condo on the rental market, make sure you speak with an experienced San Francisco landlord/tenant attorney. I’d be happy to refer you to one! 

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