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Eviction notices in SF drop once again

SF Rent Board says eviction attempts are down for the third year in a row—but not by much

An eviction notice slipped underneath an apartment building door. Photo by Doubletree Studio

With rent prices soaring across the city, San Francisco renters live in fear of possible eviction. But in March, the San Francisco Rent Board reported that for the third year in a row eviction notices filed with the department were in the decline.

According to a memo from Rent Board Director Robert Collins, “During the period from March 1, 2018 through February 28, 2019, a total of 1,592 eviction notices were filed with the Department, [representing] a four percent decrease from last year’s total of 1,657.”

The most common cause for eviction attempts between 2018 and early 2019 was “breach of rental agreement,” which accounted for 468 notices serviced.

(Notably, Stanford research shows that landlords’ claims of lease breaches tend to increase precipitously when rents are on the rise.)

The second most common cause was “committing a nuisance,” with 304 notices served. According to the Rent Board, a “nuisance” means “a substantial interference with the comfort, safety, or enjoyment of the landlord or tenants in the building, [that] the activities are severe, continuing or recurring in nature, and the nature of such nuisance, damage or interference is specifically stated by the landlord in the writing.”

SF-based lawyer James Driscoll notes that “nuisance is broadly defined by most landlords and usually narrowly defined by most tenants.”

Owner or relative move-ins were the third leading cause of eviction notices with 212 citywide. Ellis Act evictions were fourth with 154.

Note that the Rent Board number represents only how many notices were served—i.e. how many landlords attempted to initiate eviction. It does not necessarily correspond to how many evictions took place, nor does it account for how many landlords may attempt to inappropriately evict tenants without proper notice and reporting to the city.

Collins also notes that during the rent year, 349 tenants filed complaints of wrongful eviction, down from last year when the number was 373.