Hearings and Mediations
The Rent Board’s primary function is to conduct arbitration hearings and mediations of tenant and landlord petitions regarding the adjustment of rents under the City’s rent control laws. The Rent Board cannot arbitrate matters that are not part of the Rent Ordinance. For example, the Rent Board does not have jurisdiction to adjudicate alleged breaches of a rental agreement, which must be decided in court. The Rent Board also cannot hear cases concerning issues of discrimination or retaliation, as such matters are outside of our jurisdiction. Please contact the San Francisco Human Rights Commission regarding these issues.
Investigation of Wrongful Eviction Complaints
The Rent Board also investigates Reports of Alleged Wrongful Eviction filed by tenants, although the Rent Board’s authority in such matters is limited since only the Court can decide whether an eviction is legal. If the tenant presents evidence of an unlawful eviction to the Rent Board, the matter may be scheduled for an investigatory hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. After the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge will prepare a summary of the evidence for the consideration of the Rent Board Commission. The Commission may decide to hold additional hearings, to commence legal action against the landlord, to make a referral to the District Attorney for criminal prosecution, or to take no further action. The filing of a Report of Alleged Wrongful Eviction with the Rent Board does NOT prevent the landlord from pursuing an eviction through the courts.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Program
Under the ADR Program, San Francisco tenants, landlords, roommates, property managers and neighbors may request that a Rent Board mediator meet with the interested parties to help resolve their housing-related dispute. Mediation is scheduled only if all parties agree to participate. The scope of the ADR Program is not limited to issues involving rent increases or decreased housing services under the Rent Ordinance. Other housing-related conflicts can be addressed.The ADR Request Form can be obtained at our office and is also available in the Forms Center on our website.
The Rent Board provides counseling information on subjects that are covered by the Rent Ordinance. The Rent Board staff cannot give legal advice and they are instructed to let you know when your question is one that should properly be answered by a lawyer. Due to high demand and a limited number of staff, there can sometimes be delays in speaking with a counselor. It is helpful if you have your questions written down before you speak with a counselor. You can speak with a counselor by calling (415) 252-4600 during weekday counseling hours (9:00 a.m. – Noon and 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.). Calls are generally limited to 5 minutes. A counselor is also available at the Rent Board’s office from Monday through Friday, excluding holidays (Please check the homepage for updates regarding our temporary office hours due to COVID-19). Counseling visits at the office are generally limited to 10 minutes. Due to limited staffing, we do not have the capacity to respond to inquiries by email.
The Rent Board cannot refer you to individual attorneys, but staff will be glad to direct you to appropriate resources for advice and assistance. A current referral list is available on our website. Please note that you do not need a lawyer to file a petition at the Rent Board.
The Rent Board has a multilingual staff. In addition to English, counseling is usually available in the following languages: Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin. If you want to speak to someone in one of these languages, call our phone counseling line or visit our office during regular business hours. We also have a telephonic language line interpretation service available in 20 languages for limited English speakers.
If you plan to attend a hearing or mediation at the Rent Board, you are required to provide your own interpreter. The Rent Board staff does not provide translation services at hearings or mediations. However, if you are unable to afford the services of an interpreter, the Rent Board will hire an interpreter for you upon proof of your financial hardship. Hardship applications for interpreter services can be obtained by visiting our office during regular business hours. The Hardship Application for Interpreter form is also available in the Forms Center on our website. Hardship Applications for Interpreter must be filed at least 72 hours before the hearing or mediation.
American sign language interpreters are also available upon 72 hours request.