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San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance

1. What is the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance?

2. What does rental control mean in San Francisco?

3. Does my rental unit qualify for rent control under the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance?

4. Will I receive relocation payments if my landlord evicts me for just cause under the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance?

5. Does the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance prohibit landlord harassment?

6. What are my remedies under the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance if my landlord raises my rent?

7. What are my remedies under the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance if my landlord evicts me without just cause?

  1. What is the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance?

Enacted in 1979, the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance added Chapter 37 to the San Francisco Administrative Code and established the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Board, which is the governmental agency that has regulated rent-controlled housing in the city ever since. You can learn more about its goals and the reason for its adoption in San Francisco Administrative Code section 37.1.

  1. What does rental control mean in San Francisco?

Every year on March 1, the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Board publishes the rate of increase in the Consumer Price Index for the geographic region that includes San Francisco. A landlord who has complied with the rent ordinance may increase the rent by no more than 60% of that rate of increase, or 7%, whichever is less.

  1. Does my rental unit qualify for rent control under the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance?

Unless your rental unit is described by one of the exceptions below, you are protected by the rent control limits of the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance. If you can answer “No” to all of the following questions, your rental unit is covered by rent control:

  • Are you a tenant in a hotel, motel, inn, rooming, or boarding house that has lived there for less than thirty-two days?
  • Is your unit owned by a nonprofit co-operative?
  • Is the unit part of housing accommodations at a nonprofit hospital, religious facility, extended care facility, licensed residential care facility for the elderly, or an adult residential facility?
  • Is your unit’s rent regulated by a governmental entity?
  • Is your unit a single family home or can it be sold separately from other units in the building such as in a condominium complex?
  • Was your unit constructed after June 13, 1979?

You may consult Section 37.2(r) for the definition of a covered unit and Section 37.3 for further details about allowable rent increases and exceptions.

  1. Does my landlord need just cause to evict me under the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance?

Yes, landlords must have just cause to evict a tenant from a unit covered by the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance, even if you answered “Yes,” to either of the last two questions in the previous section.

If you answer yes to any of the following questions, your landlord may have Fault Just Cause to evict you:

  • Have you failed to pay the rent after receiving a notice that rent is due?
  • Have you habitually paid rent late?
  • Have you violated a term of your lease that does not involve adding a new occupant?
  • Have you damaged property, caused a nuisance, or interfered with the comfort and ability of the landlord or other tenants to quietly enjoy the building in a way that is either severe or recurring and has been clearly described in a notice demanding you correct the behavior?
  • Have you used your rental unit for an illegal purpose?
  • Have you stayed beyond the term of your rental agreement and refused to renew your rental agreement in writing on terms that are the same as the previous agreement?
  • Have you, after being given a notice to stop doing so, prevented the landlord from accessing your rental unit?
  • Are you a subtenant who was not approved by the landlord and whose master tenant has now left the unit?

If you answer yes to any of the following questions, your landlord may have No Fault Just Cause to evict you:

  • Is your landlord moving into your unit or moving a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, spouse, or sibling into your unit when they live in a unit in the same building or are moving into a unit in the same building?
  • Is your landlord selling the unit for a condominium conversion?
  • Is your landlord demolishing or otherwise removing your unit from the rental market?
  • Is your landlord planning to perform capital improvements or rehabilitation work that would make it unhealthy or unsafe to continue living there?
    • If you are required to move out while this work is done, you have the right to return once it is completed.
  • Is your landlord planning to perform substantial rehabilitation on your rental unit?
  • Is your landlord planning to perform lead remediation on your unit?
    • You would have the right to return upon completion of the work.
  • Is your landlord planning to withdraw your unit from the rental market?

You may find additional details by consulting the eviction protections in San Francisco Administrative Code section 37.9.

  1. Will I receive relocation payments if my landlord evicts me for just cause under the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance?

If you are evicted for a no fault just cause, specifically if the landlord or a relative is moving into the unit, the unit is being demolished or removed from the rental market, the unit must be temporarily vacated to perform capital improvements or rehabilitation, or the unit is being taken off the market to perform substantial rehabilitation, then the occupants are entitled to relocation expenses based on Section 37.9C. The San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Board publishes a new fact sheet every year laying out what each occupant is entitled to receive under this law, the additional amount owed to elderly and disabled occupants, and the household cap on relocation payments. San Francisco Administrative Code section 37.9A covers Ellis Act evictions, while San Francisco Administrative Code section 37.9B covers special rights for tenants forced to move out as a result of an owner move in eviction.

  1. Does the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance prohibit landlord harassment?

The San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance includes a section prohibiting harassment by landlords or anyone under their control. San Francisco Administrative code section 37.10B makes it illegal for a landlord or anyone under the landlord’s authority to do any of the items in the next section in bad faith, allows for a civil suit by the tenant for up to three times damages, subjects the landlord to criminal prosecution, and also requires landlords to pay the tenant’s attorney fees:

  • Interrupt, terminate, or fail to provide housing services promised in a contract or required by law;
  • Fail to provide repairs or maintenance promised by contract or required by law;
  • Fail to complete work once started or fail to follow proper practices to minimize exposure to noise, lead, mold, asbestos, or other building materials harmful to your health;
  • Abuse the landlord’s right of access;
  • Influence or attempt to influence a tenant to give up possession of a rental unit, using fraud, intimidation, or coercion, including raising the rent of a rent-controlled unit above market rate;
  • Accompany an offer of payment to vacate with threats of force or intimidation;
  • Continue to offer offers of payment to vacate when a tenant has stated they no longer wished to receive offers of payment to vacate;
  • Threaten a tenant through words or gestures with harm;
  • Violate anti-discrimination laws;
  • Interfere with a tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment;
  • Refuse to accept a lawful rent payment;
  • Refuse to cash a rent payment for over thirty days;
  • Interfere with a tenant’s right to privacy;
  • Request information that interferes with a tenant’s right to privacy such residence or citizenship status, or social security number; or
  • Engage in “[o]ther repeated acts or omissions of such significance as to substantially interfere with or disturb the comfort, repose, peace or quiet of any person lawfully entitled to occupancy of such dwelling unit and that cause, are likely to cause, or are intended to cause any person lawfully entitled to occupancy of a dwelling unit to vacate such dwelling unit or to surrender or waive any rights in relation to such occupancy.”
  1. What are my remedies under the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance if my landlord raises my rent?

If your landlord raises your rent beyond what is permitted in a twelve-month period, you may file a petition with the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Board. If you and your landlord cannot agree on the appropriate amount, the board will schedule a hearing where you and your landlord may explain the situation to an administrative law judge who will then calculate the appropriate rent amount, with an appropriate temporary adjustment to refund the overpayment.

If your landlord evicts or attempts to evict you, you may pursue legal action. If you are forced to move out of a rent-controlled unit, then you may sue your landlord for what is referred to as rent differential or loss of use damages, among other things. This amount is the difference between the current fair market monthly rental rate for your unit and the monthly rent you were paying at the time of the eviction without just cause multiplied by the number of months you would have stayed in the rental unit if you had not been wrongfully evicted. If you are elderly or have a disability, you may also claim triple the amount in damages if you can show that your landlord acted with intentional disregard of the fact you were disabled or elderly and would suffer from the loss of your home.

If you could claim that the wrongful eviction was a form of tenant harassment that violated Section 37.10B described above, a court could award you with triple the value of your actual expenses as damages and require your landlord to pay your attorney’s fees. Depending on how your landlord attempted to evict you, you may claim that they violated one of the laws listed in our Tenant Harassment page including California Civil Code sections 789.3, 1940.2, or 1942.5.

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