Do I Have to Leave My San Francisco Home When My Landlord Sells The Building?
With San Francisco’s red hot real estate market continuing to soar during the COVID-19 pandemic, many San Francisco tenants face the uncertainties surrounding a sale of their building. San Francisco tenants are not required to move out, and should not voluntarily move out, where the landlord sells the building. The San Francisco Rent Ordinance protects most San Francisco tenants from evictions based on an ownership transfer. Further, San Francisco tenants protected by rent control are protected from a market rate increase simply because there is a new owner. Whilst one cannot account for the unpredictability of a prospective new landlord, San Francisco law makes certain that San Francisco tenants do not have to move out when their landlord sells the building.
San Francisco Tenants Protected by Just Cause for Eviction Protections
The San Francisco Rent Ordinance’s eviction limitations component requires a landlord to have a just cause to evict a tenant from their rent-controlled home. San Francisco eviction protections cover nearly all homes in San Francisco. Under the San Francisco Rent Ordinance, a landlord may only evict a tenant where:
- The tenant has failed to pay rent;
- The tenant has substantially breached their lease and failed to fix the breach;
- The tenant is creating or allowing a nuisance at the property;
- The tenant is using the rental unit for an illegal purpose;
- The tenant refuses to sign a substantially similar written lease renewal;
- The tenant is refusing to allow the landlord, or his or her agent, to lawfully access the unit;
- The last remaining occupant is an unauthorized subtenant;
- The landlord seeks to evict so that the landlord, or a relative, can move into the rental unit as their principal place of residence;
- The landlord seeks to evict to sell the rental unit in accordance with a condominium conversion;
- The landlord seeks to evict to demolish the rental unit or otherwise remove it from housing use, and has already obtained all of the necessary permits;
- The landlord seeks to evict temporarily to carry out capital improvements or rehabilitation work, and has already obtained all of the necessary permits;
- The landlord seeks to recover possession of the rental unit to carry out a substantial rehabilitation, and has already obtained all of the necessary permits;
- The landlord seeks to evict all of the tenants in the building to withdraw all rental units from the rental market;
- The landlord seeks to evict temporarily to perform lead remediation or abatement work;
- The landlord seeks to evict to demolish or remove the rental unit from housing use in accordance with a development agreement made with the City of San Francisco; or,
- The landlord seeks to evict because the tenant’s Good Samaritan Status has expired.
Landlords may not recover possession unless at least one of the aforementioned just causes for eviction exists and is the landlord’s dominant motive for recovering possession.
Please note that a property owner that lives in the same unit with a tenant may evict without invoking a just cause.
To evict a tenant, the landlord must inform the tenant in writing the just cause for eviction they are exercising. The termination of tenancy notice must also include a document distributed by the San Francisco Rent Board containing information covering the tenant’s rights under the San Francisco Rent Ordinance. Where the tenant speaks Chinese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog, or Russian, the landlord must attach a copy of the Rent Board document in the tenant’s primary language.
The landlord must file a copy of the termination of tenancy notice with the Rent Board within ten days of serving the notice on the tenant.
Selling A Building is Not A Just Cause for Eviction of San Francisco Tenants
As stated above, nearly all homes in San Francisco have just cause for eviction protections. In San Francisco, selling a building is not a just cause for eviction. This means that a landlord may not serve a notice of termination of tenancy related to a transfer of ownership. Any termination of tenancy notice or unlawful detainer (eviction) complaint based on an ownership transfer is invalid. San Francisco tenants do not have to move out simply because the building changes hands.
What Happens When San Francisco Tenants Receive An Unlawful Termination of Tenancy Related to an Ownership Transfer?
Where a landlord – new or prospective – serves an unlawful termination of tenancy notice based on the sale of the building, the notice is invalid, and the San Francisco tenant need not comply. The tenant has several options, including but not limited to:
- Requesting that the Landlord withdrawal the unlawful notice in writing;
- Filing a Report of A Wrongful Eviction petition with the San Francisco Rent Board; or,
- Requesting a mediation with the landlord, including with the San Francisco Rent Board or Community Boards.
Selling A Building Does Not Permit A Market Rate Increase
For San Francisco tenants protected by the San Francisco Rent Ordinance’s rent control component, or California Rent Control’s statewide rent cap, the sale of a building does not permit the landlord or prospective new landlord to serve a market rate increase. For San Francisco tenants protected by rent control, the landlord – new or prospective – must comply with the law and may only increase the rent pursuant to the applicable law.
What Happens When San Francisco Tenants Receive An Unlawful Rent Increase Related to an Ownership Transfer?
Where a landlord – new or prospective – serves an unlawful rent increase related to the sale of a building, the notice is invalid, and the San Francisco tenant need not comply. The tenant has several options in responding to the unlawful rent increase, including but not limited to:
- Requesting that the landlord withdrawal the unlawful notice in writing;
- Requesting a mediation with the landlord, including with the San Francisco Rent Board or Community Boards;
- Filing an Unlawful Rent Increase petition at the San Francisco Rent Board;
- Paying the rent increase under protest, until the matter is resolved at a later time, the Rent Board, or in Court; or,
- Filing a court action to recover the unlawful rent paid and additional damages.
What is the Best Landlord Tenant Law Firm to Handle a Sale of the Building in San Francisco?
Astanehe Law is the best landlord-tenant law firm to handle a sale of building issue in San Francisco. Astanehe Law has dealt with hundreds of landlord-tenant cases in California, including in San Francisco. Astanehe Law has handled sale of building wrongful and constructive eviction claims. The firm only represents California tenants, and never landlords. It is never too early to establish a relationship with an experienced California tenant attorney when your landlord places your apartment building up for sale or closes on a sale. Contact Astanehe Law today to discuss your rights and options as a San Francisco tenant when your landlord puts the building up for sale or sells the building.
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