Eviction in San Francisco is only allowed under certain circumstances.  The San Francisco Rent Ordinance requires that landlords must have “just cause” to evict a tenant from a unit and there are only 15 “just causes” as defined by the Rent Ordinance.   The most common are:

  • Non-Payment of rent or habitual late payment of rent;
  • Breach of rental agreement or lease;
  • Owner-occupancy or occupancy by a member of the landlord’s immediate family;
  • To withdraw the rental unit from the rental market under the Ellis Act;
  • Creation of a nuisance or substantial interference with the landlord or other tenants in the building; and
  • To demolish or permanently remove a rental unit from housing use.

But even landlords that have “just cause,” for example, a tenant that is making a lot of noise and disturbing other tenants (creating a nuisance), it is both difficult and expensive to win a “just cause” eviction for anything other than non-payment of rent.  Stephanie Gordon at Gordon Property Management recommends San Francisco property owners consult with an attorney that specializes in landlord tenant law in San Francisco if they are going to evict a tenant.  Do not try and do this yourself with a Nolo Press book.

Most tenant evictions in San Francisco are because of non-payment of rent.  If the tenant is not paying rent, or they are late paying the rent, then you can evict them.  As soon as a tenant has missed the due date they should be served a THREE DAY NOTICE TO PAY RENT OR QUIT.  San Francisco has its own Three Day Notice with specific language about the Rent Board so you can’t use any Three Day Notice.   If you are not sure how to prepare this notice or how to serve it then hire an attorney at this stage (if there are any mistakes on the Three Day Notice then you will have to start all over so get an attorney now  – it will be worth it).  After the Three Day has been served and the three days have passed you will need an attorney to prepare and file an Unlawful Detainer.  At this point it is a waiting game – the tenant does or does not file a response; everyone is notified of a court date; about a week before the court date there is a pre-trial conference (cases are often settled at the pre-trial conference) and eventually the landlord either wins or loses their case.

If a tenant is “habitually late” paying rent – defined as late more than three times in a calendar year, then there is also “just cause” for an eviction. But in order to be successful a landlord will have to document the late payments and will have to warn the tenant in writing that they could be evicted for habitual late payments.

If a tenant is making a lot of noise and disturbing other tenants, it could be considered “just cause” for eviction. However, nuisance evictions are much tougher than non-payment of rent evictions to win.  With non-payment of rent, it is a pretty clear cut issue but a nuisance claim requires a subjective judgment.  If the tenant is paying a fraction of fair market rent, it will be difficult to take the rent-controlled unit away from them.  You will need lots of documentation of the nuisance and written warnings to the tenant.  It is helpful to have other building residents that are willing to come forward and testify.   If you have a problem tenant you should consult an attorney – you might not be able to evict the nuisance tenant but you might be able to bring about changes in their behavior by putting them on notice that their behavior is grounds for eviction.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.