What the Ellis Act Means to Tenants in San Francisco

lili-popper-29464-300x169The rights of tenants in San Francisco are protected by the San Francisco Rent Ordinance Act and the Rent Board it created. Generally, the Rent Board controls what landlords can charge, how the eviction process works, and how rentals must be re-marketed if an eviction has occurred in the past. However, there is a state law called the Ellis Act that can negatively impact tenants and bypass many of the rights guaranteed by the Rent Board.

What is the Ellis Act?

The Ellis Act is a California law that was passed in 1985 in response to the California Supreme Court case of Nash v. The City of Santa Monica as a way to allow landlords to evict tenants by essentially “going out of business.” Essentially, the Ellis Act is often practically applied when a landlord wants to withdraw all of the units in a multi-family building from the market either to divest themselves of the property or to turn the building into a condominium. At first blush, the Ellis Act seems to give landlords the right to evict tenants for the owner’s profit, which it certainly does, but it also provides a complex process that landlords must follow before they can withdraw a building from the market.

What is the Process Under the Ellis Act?

As previously stated, the Ellis Act applies when a landlord wants to divest a property and evict all of the tenants to this end. However, the Ellis Act prescribes specific steps a landlord must follow in order to make this happen. These include:

  • The landlord must file a Notice of Intent to Withdraw Units from the rental Market with the Rent Board
  • The landlord must terminate all tenancies within the building and cannot target only specific units within the building
  • The landlord must provide at least 120 days notice of eviction and, for tenants who are 62 years of age or older or who are disabled must be provided at least a notice of one year
  • The Notice of Intent to Withdraw and the Eviction notices toll the clock at the same time, meaning that if the two are filed at the same time, the notice starts then but if the landlord fails to file the former for 15 days, the eviction notices then would be 135 days long or, in the case of elderly or disabled tenants, one year and 15 days
  • The landlord must inform tenants of their relocation and reoccupancy rights within 15 days of the Notice of Intent
  • The landlord must record a memorandum with the County Recorder summarizing the Notice of Intent within the pendency of the eviction notices
  • After the notices run their time limit, the building is legally removed from the rental market
  • The Rent Board records the Ellis limitations within 30 days of the withdrawal

If there is a silver lining in the Ellis Act for tenants, it is this: Landlords are required to follow the processes of the law strictly. A skilled and experienced landlord-tenant lawyer knows the reporting and notice requirements of the law and has the ability to ensure that tenants’ rights are protected in this process. Willoughby Brod, LLP has attorneys with years of experience fighting for the rights of tenants. If you are a tenant in San Francisco or Oakland and you are being threatened with eviction contact us today at 800-427-7020 or click here to set up your free case evaluation to ensure your rights are protected.

(image courtesy of Lili Popper)