“Just Cause” Evictions

Evictions For Just Cause
“Rent control” is a form of local price control regulation that limits the size of a rent increase that landlords can impose on their tenants. “Eviction control” is a city regulation that governs the substantive grounds for eviction, for the purpose of policing rent control. (The idea is that, if landlords can simply terminate tenancies, rent control is meaningless.)

Termination notices and notices “to cure or quit” are created and controlled at the state level, but cities with eviction control ordinances can require landlords to include certain additional information in those notices. For instance, San Francisco requires a multi-language form about tenants’ rights and it requires landlords to file eviction notices with the Rent Board. It also prevents a landlord from actually winning an eviction lawsuit, unless their “dominant motive” is one of the enumerated “just causes” for eviction.

Eviction controls do not apply to rental units that are considered “new construction” (i.e., those that are built before the effective date of the Rent Ordinance, or June 13, 1979). Rental units can potentially be deregulated from rent control under Costa-Hawkins but nonetheless subject to eviction control. Specifically, San Francisco will only allow termination of tenancies in covered rental units under the following circumstances:

Fault Based

  1. Non-payment and habitual late payment or bounced checks.
  2. Breach of material lease provision.
  3. Severe, continuing or recurring nuisance.
  4. Tenant’s illegal use (including short-term leasing in violation of the Residential Unit Conversion Ordinance)
  5. Tenant’s refusal to execute a written version of the existing lease.
  6. Tenant’s refusal to allow lawful access to the rental unit.
  7. The tenant holding at the end of the term is a subtenant not approved by the landlord.

Non-Fault Based

  1. Owner or relative move-in eviction.
  2. Termination to facilitate condo-conversion.
  3. Demolition of rental unit.
  4. Temporary capital improvement or rehabilitation eviction.
  5. Substantial rehabilitation for rental units that are at least 50 years old and have either been condemned or do not qualify for certificates of occupancy.
  6. The Ellis Act.
  7. Temporary lead remediation or abatement work.
  8. Demolition pursuant to development agreement with the City.
  9. The expiration of a “Good Samaritan Status” lease agreement with a tenant (following emergency relocation).

Other Bases for Eviction
The Rent Ordinance does not require just cause for termination of tenancies where the tenant is living with the owner in the owner’s property or where the master tenant has disclosed in writing to their subtenant in advance of the commencement of the subtenancy that just cause is not required for the master tenant to terminate the subtenant’s tenancy.

Again, only covered rental units are governed by eviction control. Generally, periodic tenancies in “new construction” units can be terminated without cause, upon 60 days’ notice.

Effect of Evictions on Rent Control
There are several significant differences between fault-based and non-fault evictions. First, fault-based evictions do not require the payment of relocation assistance, and for the most part, they proceed on a “three day notice”. State law provides a statutory “summary proceeding” (called an “unlawful detainer action”), and landlords are entitled to regain possession of their property quickly, when their tenant is not paying or is committing a substantial breach or nuisance.

Second, fault-based evictions do not have any impact on vacancy control. Costa-Hawkins eliminated “strict vacancy control” by allowing landlords to offer rental units at market rate following a vacancy. However, it expressly exempted rental units where the previous tenancy was terminated at the election of the landlord. In San Francisco, most non-fault evictions will subject the next tenancy to the previous, rent-controlled rental rate, for a period of five years. (In other cities like Berkeley, certain non-fault evictions will not result in vacancy decontrol at all.)

Zacks & Freedman, PC Can Help with Your Eviction
Zacks & Freedman, PC is a full-service real estate law firm in San Francisco with extensive experience navigating the San Francisco Rent Ordinance and litigating unlawful detainer/eviction lawsuits. If we can be of assistance with any of your eviction needs, please call 415.956.8100 or email Justin A. Goodman at justin@zfplaw.com to ask about a consultation.