“Just Cause” Eviction and Tenant Rights in the Bay Area

josh-wilburne-501947-unsplash-copy-300x200San Francisco’s Rent Control Ordinance gives tenants certain rights when it comes to eviction. It either prohibits eviction in certain cases or, in others, allows the tenant to recover relocation costs from the landlord. It also created The Rent Control Board to help prevent tenant abuse by landlords. One of the areas of law that the ordinance covers, which is frequently abused by landlords, is called “just cause” evictions.

Rent Control Ordinance

The  San Francisco Rent Control Ordinance regulates how and when landlords can increase rents and pass on their costs to their tenants. It also regulates tenant evictions. It provides restrictions on when landlords may evict tenants.

Just Cause Evictions

The ordinance provides for 16 specific situations in which a landlord may evict tenants under the law that are often termed “just cause” evictions. These reasons include:

  1. Failure to pay rent, habitually paying the rent late, or frequently returned checks
  2. Violation of the terms of the rental agreement or lease (here there are exceptions regarding allowable subletting of the premises)
  3. Allowing a nuisance to exist or by causing substantial damage to the unit or by substantially interfering with the comfort, safety, or enjoyment of the landlord or other tenants in the building (there are exceptions here if there is evidence that the nuisance is being caused by episodes of domestic violence)
  4. Using or permitting the premises to be used for an illegal purpose (which does not include living in an illegal housing unit)
  5. Refusing to renew or extend a written or verbal agreement to let the premises that is substantially the same as that which had previously existed
  6. Refusing to allow the landlord access to the premises after being given written notice
  7. By allowing the only remaining tenant at the end of the term to be an unapproved subtenant
  8. The landlord intends to occupy the unit in good faith for at least 36 (this may also be allowed for members of the landlord’s immediate family)
  9. The unit is being recovered to convert the building into a condo
  10. Demolition or otherwise permanent removal of the unit from the rental market
  11. The unit is being temporarily removed from the market for purposes of capital improvements or rehabilitation and the tenant is not required to be absent for more than three months and in which case the tenant has the right to reoccupy the premises at the same rent
  12. The landlord is carrying out substantial rehabilitation of the premises
  13. The landlord is removing all the units in the building from the rental market provided all of the administrative steps have been taken (this is called an Ellis Act eviction)
  14. The landlord is affecting lead remediation or abatement in the premises
  15. The landlord is either demolishing or otherwise removing the property from the market in accordance with a development agreement with the City
  16. The expiration of the tenant’s Good Samaritan status has expired (which is in reference to relocation caused by natural disaster)

Landlord Abuse of Just Cause Eviction

While the law allows for eviction under the above circumstances, the issue often arises wherein the landlord does not comport with the requirement. For example, if you examine the lead abatement eviction, it is conceivable that an unscrupulous landlord might evict a tenant to get rid of legitimate lead exposure issues and, in reality, never complete (or start, for that matter) the work and rent the unit to another tenant at a higher rate. Another example where conflict often arises is when the landlord evicts the tenant claiming they want to occupy the property and very shortly thereafter, re-rent the premises to someone else at a higher rate. This, of course, violates the law, as the landlord is required to use the premises as a primary residence for at least 36 months. Many of the just cause eviction reasons can be manipulated in much the same fashion.

The Rent Control Ordinance was written to help tenants but, importantly, it gives landlords rights as to when they can legitimately evict tenants. Problems arise, however, when the landlord does not follow either the letter or spirit of the law and they utilize just cause evictions illicitly to obtain an otherwise prohibited eviction. If you are a tenant in the San Francisco area and you are facing a just cause eviction, you owe it to yourself to make sure that your rights are protected. The skilled legal professionals at Willoughby Brod LLP have been protecting tenants for years and holding unscrupulous landlords accountable. Give them a call today at 800-427-7020 or click here to set up your initial consultation and see what they can do for you.

(image courtesy of Josh Wilburne)