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Tenants Rights in the Over-Heated SF Housing Market

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As much as Curbed SF cheers on hopeful homebuyers in their quests to own homes, we commiserate with tenants who often get displaced in the process. With the scarcity of housing in general in this city, and the much higher percentage of renters over owners living here, these conflicts are hard to avoid.

San Francisco has some of the toughest tenant protection laws in the country. This installment of Curbed University is aimed at said tenants, but potential buyers interested in purchasing a home that is tenant occupied would do well to take note of this information as well. After all, both parties are about to be (heavily) involved.

"Just" Eviction
In SF, tenants can be evicted for just cause, like not paying rent, breaking the terms of a lease, or doing something illegal like growing cannabis in the closet or fashioning a meth lab in the garage. But if you're a good tenant, following all the rules, your landlord cannot evict you unless he or she has reason to file for a "no fault eviction."

No Fault Eviction
You've been wonderful but your landlord wants you out anyway. This can legally happen if the landlord wants to move in or want to move in a family member, plans to demolish or make capital improvements to the property, or uses the Ellis Act. The Ellis Act is a state law that gives landlords unconditional right to evict tenants and "go out of business," removing all units at that property from the rental market. Ellis is used most often in conjunction with real estate when owners evict tenants from rental units that are being converted to condos. The owner move-in eviction is also common in real estate, as new owners of a home you are living in want to move in—and want you out. In all of these no fault evictions, tenants have the right to relocation benefits. For example, the payment per tenant evicted via Ellis is $5,210 through Feb of 2014 plus an additional $3,493.73 if the tenant is disabled or elderly, but the amounts change frequently and can vary by type of eviction, type of property, and how long you have lived on the property, so check the San Francisco Tenants Union website for the most current relocation compensation information.

All of these evictions can be fought, though in some cases the effort may be more stressful or expensive than it's worth. You should speak to the Tenants Union or a tenant's attorney such as David Crow, who has written for Curbed before on tenant's rights. But know that just because you've been given an eviction notice does not mean you must vacate the property immediately. In fact, the process can be protracted and expensive, and can involve multiple notices, intervention from the sheriff, and even court.

In conclusion?
The overall lesson for tenants to glean from this installment of Curbed U is that you have rights—strong ones—in this city, even if your landlord is evicting you using legal methods. And for potential buyers, learn this: buying a home that is tenant occupied can be very tricky. We advise buying something no one currently lives in, but we know inventory is so low that might not be an option. So, if you've your heart set on a tenant occupied abode, you might want to speak to an attorney before you sign on the dotted line.
· Evictions and the Eviction Process [SF Tenants Union]
· Eviction flow chart [SF Tenants Union]
· Small Claims, Baby Claims, and Why Does My Landlord Hate Me? [CurbedSF]
· All Curbed University coverage [CurbedSF]