San Francisco rent ordinances permit landlords to evict tenants only when they have “just cause,” meaning that there is a specific and legally valid reason for doing so. Landlord move-in evictions, also known as owner move-in evictions or OMIs, fall into this category.
OMIs are intended to enable a property owner to remove tenants from a unit so that they or a family member can occupy it. Under San Francisco Administrative Code section 37.9(a)(8), the landlord must not have ulterior motives in recovering the property, such as re-renting it at a higher rate. They are also required to:
- Provide at least sixty days’ notice to the tenant (thirty days if the tenant has lived there for fewer than twelve months);
- Pay the tenant’s relocation expenses (half at the time the Termination of Tenancy Notice is served and the other half on the date the tenancy terminates); and
- Move in within ninety days of eviction.
The landlord may not recover possession if a similar unit that they own becomes vacant and available in the meantime. Should this happen, they must rescind the notice to vacate and dismiss any court action filed to recover possession of the unit. Additionally:
- If another, different style unit becomes available before the tenant leaves, the landlord must offer it to them.
- If the landlord places the unit back on the rental market, the former tenant has the right to re-rent it at the same rate, plus any allowable increase. If refused, the tenant can take legal action against the landlord.
Landlords who perform OMIs pursuant to Section 37.9(a)(8) must complete a statement of occupancy, file it with the Rent Board within ninety days after the date of service, and file an updated statement of occupancy every ninety days thereafter.
Unfortunately, many landlord move-ins in San Francisco are fraudulent. Unscrupulous landlords remove tenants from rent-controlled units under the auspices of an OMI and rent the unit at market rates via short-term rental services (e.g., AirBNB). According to the San Francisco Tenants Union and the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, landlords did not file the necessary paperwork with the rent board in 48% of the OMI cases that came to the attention of the tenants union. An estimated 39% of these tenants had lived in their residences for at least ten years.
Landlords have been known to deceive tenants into moving voluntarily and thereby circumventing the restrictions. They will send the tenant a letter advising them that they or a relative will be taking possession of the unit “in the fall” or “this spring.” Although these are not legal eviction notices, tenants often move out and spare the landlord the effort of complying with the strict OMI guidelines.
Can You Fight an OMI Eviction in San Francisco?
You can challenge an OMI eviction on the grounds that the landlord has ulterior motives, although this can be difficult to prove at the time that notice is given. There are other, more tangible grounds for fighting or at least delaying an OMI:
- If a tenant has lived in the unit for at least twelve months and has minor children, OMI evictions are prohibited during the school year. San Francisco school workers and their families have similar protection.
- Senior or disabled tenants who have been living in their unit for at least ten years (five years for terminally ill tenants) cannot be subjected to an OMI eviction unless the landlord owns only that unit or such tenants occupy every unit in the building and the landlord is evicting for a relative over the age of sixty.
- If the landlord or relative moving in is a corporation or other business entity instead of a natural person, the eviction is illegal.
- If the landlord or a close relative of the landlord does not move into the rental unit within ninety days, the eviction is illegal. This is generally the best evidence that the OMI was fraudulent. Former neighbors can be a great source of information for tenants displaced by OMI evictions.
San Francisco tenants subjected to an illegal OMI eviction may recover three times the actual damages, injunctive relief, emotional distress, and legal costs within five years of the initial occupancy statement filing or three months of the landlord taking possession, whichever is earlier.
Contact a Bay Area Eviction Defense Attorney
If you think your landlord is engaging in a fraudulent landlord-move-in eviction, contact a tenant rights attorney. At Tenant Law Group, we use our knowledge of local rent ordinances to give our clients the aggressive representation needed to protect their rights and prevent wrongful evictions. For more information, contact Tenant Law Group for a complimentary case evaluation today.