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.

There are 15 just cause reasons for eviction under Ordinance Section 37.9(a). The most common are:

  • Non-payment of rent or habitual late payment of rent;
  • Breach of a rental agreement or lease;
  • Owner-occupancy or occupancy by a member of the landlord's immediate family;
  • To perform capital improvements which will make the unit temporarily uninhabitable while the work is being done;
  • To perform substantial rehabilitation of a building that is at least 50 years old, provided that the cost of the proposed work is at least 75% of the cost of new construction;
  • To withdraw the rental units from the rental market under the Ellis Act;
  • Creation of a nuisance or substantial interference with the landlord or other tenants in the building; and
  • To demolish or permanently remove a rental unit from housing use.

Some tenancies that are exempt from the rent increase limitations of the Ordinance may still be subject to the eviction controls of the Ordinance, which means that tenants in these categories can only be evicted for a "just cause" reason. This includes tenancies that are eligible for an unlimited rent increase under the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act or Rules and Regulations Section 1.21 because the unit is not the tenant's principal place of residence. The eviction controls also apply to tenants whose rents are regulated by another government agency such as Section 8 vouchers, Section 8 certificate holders and the HOPWA program which provides Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS.

We highly recommend that landlords seek the advice of an attorney experienced in this area of the law before asking a tenant to move or attempting an eviction. If a landlord evicts or tries to evict a tenant unlawfully, the landlord is subject to civil and/or criminal liability. The tenant may bring a civil action for an injunction, as well as actual and treble damages, and attorney fees. The landlord could also be found guilty of a misdemeanor, with a fine of not more than $1,000 and/or imprisonment in the County jail for up to six months.

For more information about evictions, refer to Fact Sheet 4. To receive a copy of Fact Sheet 4, you can fax it to yourself through our Fax Back system by calling (415) 252-4660 or visit our website at Fact Sheet 4 is also available at our office.


February 2008