Although the San Francisco Rent Control Ordinance restricts many of landlord rights in San Francisco – landlords do have rights even in San Francisco. But in order to maintain those rights, landlords need to be proactive. If a landlord does not take action when a tenant does something not allowed by the lease agreement they may lose the right to enforce that lease provision. For example, if the lease prohibits pets and a tenant gets a dog, the landlord needs to notify the tenant in writing that they are in violation of the lease as soon as he/she is made aware of the dog. If you see the dog and don’t do anything about the dog, you are giving passive approval for the tenant to have a dog. And you need to put your objections in writing – telling them they have to do something is not enough. It must be in writing and you must follow through on your demand that they comply with the lease.
Another area important for landlords to be proactive is whenever there is a roommate change. If you rent your 3 bedroom apartment to three individuals and one of those three original tenants moves out you must allow the other two to get a replacement roommate. Stephanie Gordon at Gordon Property Management recommends that landlords treat replacement roommates as unauthorized sub tenants. An unauthorized sub tenant is not entitled to the same rights as the three original tenants who signed the lease under San Francisco’s rent control laws – in particular they are not entitled to the rent controlled rent. Once all three of the original tenants has moved out, the landlord can raise the rent to market rate as long as the replacement roommates have not been acknowledged by the landlord and have been treated as unauthorized sub tenants. This means the landlord should not have the replacement roommate fill out an application or accept a rent check from them. All correspondence to and from the tenants should be between the landlord and the original tenants only.
If a landlord has a tenant who doesn’t pay their rent on time the tenant(s) should be served a Three Day Notice to Pay or Quit. Many landlords can do this themselves, others will need to have an attorney do it for them. If you hope to evict the tenant you should probably have an attorney prepare and serve the notice. At Gordon Property Management we often serve a late notice instead of a formal Three Day as soon as the rent is past due, says Stephanie Gordon. If the tenant is paying close to market rent and we want to keep the tenant, the late notice serves our purpose of notifying the tenant that they are late and notifying them of the late fee due. We save the Three Day for when we are serious about moving forward with an eviction – that way it carries a little more punch. We have a few tenants that are frequently late but the property owner wants to keep them as tenants as long as they are able to pay. In these situations if we served a Three Day every month it wouldn’t mean anything – so we serve a late notice and then if the tenant hasn’t paid by a certain deadline we serve the Three Day.
However you choose to handle the situation do not ignore the situation. Get in touch with the tenant; find out why they are late and when they intend to pay. If they just lost their job and don’t know when they can pay – get in touch with an attorney and begin an eviction. And no matter what – never let a tenant got more than one month behind in the rent.
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