My Building’s Being Sold, Do I Have To Get Out?

Dave’s at the SF Appeal to answer your questions every Wednesday, so send them to him at tenant@sfappeal.com, here’s what to make sure to include in your letter.

We have just been notified that our rowhouse in SoMa is being sold by the owner, and is currently on the market.  We have not been given notice to vacate yet, but anticipate that it will be sold pretty quickly.  We are trying to figure out if we would be given relocation benefits, as we have been perfect tenants and would only move due to new owners moving into the unit.  A few facts to consider: the unit is not rent controlled since it is the only unit the landlord owns, it was built around 1907, and our 1 year lease is up July 1st  (then we go month to month).

This is a good time to go over some Rent Ordinance basics. Generally, there are three variables to look at to determine if your tenancy is protected by the Rent Ordinance: Is the building built before 1979? How many units in the building? How long have you lived in the unit? Or course the are a gillion potential exceptions, so read this broadly.

  • If your building was built after 1979, the Rent Ordinance usually does not apply, except in foreclosure evictions. (See Rent Ordinance §37.9D.)
  • If your unit is a single family dwelling (house, condo) it will not be subject to the price control elements of the Rent Ordinance. In other words a landlord of a single family dwelling can increase the rent as much as he desires., unless his dominant motive is to get you out.
  • Single family dwellings built before 1979 are covered by the “just cause” eviction provisions of the Rent Ordinance. A landlord must be able to articulate one of the 15 just cause in Rent Ordinance §37.9 in order to evict you. For example, the sale of a building is not a just cause.
  • If your  tenancy in a single family dwelling began before 1996, the price control provisions of the Ordinance apply. The landlord can only increase the rent each year by the annual allowable increase determined by the Rent Board.
  • If you live in a building with two or more units (illegal units count), built before 1979, your tenancy is subject to both the annual allowable rent increase  and the just cause eviction provisions of the Rent Ordinance.

Of course, the reason I wanted to run through this was your statement: “[T]he unit is not rent controlled since it is the only unit the landlord owns…” It is a common mistake given the complexities of the Rent Ordinance.

You are , indeed, covered by the just cause provisions of the Rent Ordinance. The house was built in 1907. The landlord cannot evict you because the building is for sale. You are likely correct that the only way new owners will evict is through an owner move-in eviction (Rent Ordinance §37.9(a)(8).)

Will you be eligible for relocation payments if you are evicted by new owners? The answer is very likely yes, unless the building is sold and you receive a notice before July 1. On July 1, you will have resided in the unit more than one year. The relocation benefits described in Rent Ordinance §37.9C kick in if the notice is served after the tenants have resided in the unit more than one year.

That may not be the end of the analysis. We’ve noticed a growing trend in which new owners claim that their $1million + purchase has strapped them so much they can’t afford to pay the relocation benefits of say $10, 202.00.  (Whine, cry.) They prefer, instead, to significantly increase the rent on a house or condo (because they can) to drive the tenants out.

If that happens to you, go to the San Francisco Tenants Union to discuss your strategy. You may need a lawyer for this one. Be sure to get the TU approved lawyer list.

Crow & Rose's legal practice emphasizes eviction defense, wrongful eviction and other landlord tenant and real property matters.

Leave a reply

Top