Topic No. 201: Overview of Just Cause Evictions

In order to evict a tenant from a rental unit covered by the Rent Ordinance, a landlord must have a "just cause" reason that is the dominant motive for pursuing the eviction. Note that the mere expiration of a rental agreement or a change in ownership does not constitute "just cause" for eviction.

The 16 just cause reasons for eviction under Ordinance Section 37.9(a) are summarized below:

  1. Non-payment of rent, habitual late payment of rent, or frequent bounced checks;
  1. Failure to cure a substantial breach of a rental agreement or lease;
  1. Nuisance or substantial interference with the comfort, safety, or enjoyment of the landlord or other tenants in the building, the nature of which must be severe, continuing or reoccurring in nature;
  1. Illegal use of a rental unit, not including (a) the mere occupancy of an unwarranted rental unit or (b) a single violation of San Francisco’s short-term rental law (Chapter 41A) that is cured by the tenant within 30 days of written notice by the landlord;
  1. The tenant has refused, after written request by the landlord, to execute a written extension or renewal of an expired rental agreement for a further term of like duration and under terms that are materially the same as the previous agreement;
  1. The tenant has refused, after written notice to cease, to allow the landlord access to the rental unit as required by state or local law;
  1. The only tenant residing in the unit at the end of the term of the rental agreement is a subtenant not approved by the landlord. (Note that approval need not be in writing and may be implied from the landlord’s conduct);
  1. Owner-occupancy or, in limited circumstances, occupancy by a member of the landlord's immediate family;
  1. The landlord seeks to recover possession in good faith in order to sell the unit in accordance with a condominium conversion approved under the San Francisco subdivision ordinance;
  1. To demolish or to otherwise permanently remove the rental unit from housing use;
  1. To perform capital improvements or rehabilitation work that will make the unit temporarily uninhabitable while the work is performed – the tenant must be allowed to reoccupy the unit immediately after the work is completed;
  1. To perform substantial rehabilitation of a building that is at least 50 years old and essentially uninhabitable, provided that the cost of the proposed work is at least 75% of the cost of new construction;
  1. To withdraw all rental units in a building from the rental market under the state Ellis Act;
  1. To perform lead remediation/abatement work required by San Francisco Health Code Articles 11 or 26;
  1. To demolish or to otherwise permanently remove the rental unit from housing use in accordance with the terms of a development agreement entered into by the City under Chapter 56 of the San Francisco Administrative Code;
  1. Where the tenant’s “Good Samaritan” occupancy agreement has expired, and the landlord served an eviction notice within 60 days after expiration of the agreement. A “Good Samaritan” tenancy occurs when a tenant is displaced from a rental unit due to an emergency or disaster and the landlord agrees to provide the tenant a temporary replacement unit at a reduced rent;

The landlord also needs a "just cause“ reason to take away or remove access to certain housing services, including but not limited to garage facilities, parking facilities, driveways, storage spaces, and laundry rooms. However, a landlord who has complied with the requirements of Ordinance Section 37.2(r) may temporarily remove certain housing services, including parking and storage spaces, in order to perform mandatory soft-story seismic retrofit work required by the Building Code.  

Some tenancies that are exempt from the rent increase limitations of the Ordinance are still subject to the eviction provisions of the Ordinance, and tenants in these categories can only be evicted for one of the “just cause” reasons listed in the Ordinance. This includes tenancies in newly constructed rental units that first obtained a Certificate of Occupancy after June 13, 1979, tenancies that are eligible for a rent increase under the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, and some tenancies where the rent is regulated by another government agency.

Since evictions are complex proceedings, landlords should proceed with caution and seek the advice of an attorney before asking a tenant to move or attempting an eviction. If a landlord evicts or tries to evict a tenant unlawfully, the landlord may be subject to substantial civil and/or criminal liability. While we cannot provide legal advice or refer you to individual attorneys, staff will be glad to direct you to appropriate resources for advice and assistance. A list of resources is available through the Referral Listing or at our office.

 

February 2020