If I buy a home in SF for my own primary residence that is tenant occupied, do I have to pay the tenant to leave?

Asked by Craig Osterberg, Denver, CO Sat Sep 8, 2012

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Peter T. Chin’s answer
Peter T. Chin, , San Francisco County, CA
Wed Sep 12, 2012
Here's a link about a single family house that is "supposedly exempt from rent and eviction controls like the post 1979 buildings".

I know from over 10 years of experience in dealing at San Francisco City Hall and lobbying with all the apartment associations that there is no such thing as exemption from eviction controls in San Francisco.

This link was also referred to by Janan New, executive director of the SF Apartment Assoc.

Cut and paste this link if it does not link you directly or check out SF Chronicle article on Sept 8 or SF Gate article "Landlord-nightmare-in-eviction-attempt.


Peter T. Chin CA DRE 01866332
0 votes
Peter T. Chin, , San Francisco County, CA
Sun Sep 9, 2012
The real question for you is the proper procedure to have the tenant move out....it will cost you something, but no one knows how much until a qualified attorney assesses your particular situation.

This is San Francisco with the most stringent Renter's Rights in the Nation: worse than Berkeley or Santa Monica.

Even if it's a single family home or a building built after 1979, don't make the mistake and think that you are exempt from the eviction controls.

I have dealt with these issues and I will be happy to give you the names of three law firms and three attorneys to deal with this issue; you will choose which attorney you feel is best for you.

Also, I know from experience that there are also practical ways to achieve your ends legally without high attorney fees; but this is another chapter in and of itself.

Take Care,

Peter T. Chin Realtor #01866332 B.A.
former members: SFAA; CAA; NAA; SPOSF
415-863-7500 office
0 votes
Lance King, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Sat Sep 8, 2012
If you are talking about a single family home, it is much easier to get tenants out than other types of properties. For example, unless the laws have recently changed you can do an owner move in on a single family home even if the tenants are protected, something you can't do in other types of property.

The best thing you can do is talk to an expert real estate attorney who specializes in this area of law. We have used most of the ones in the city as we have bought many properties that required buyouts, and there is only one I would use. Drop me a line if you want a referral.

Best Regards,

Lance King/Owner-Managing Broker
DRE# 01384425
0 votes
Matt Ciganek, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Sat Sep 8, 2012
Hi Craig- Yes! That's the answer. (Sort of. Almost definitely because you're going to pay in one way or the other.)

There is no way to have a tenant move out of your purchased property for free if you want them to leave. In some very rare circumstances you might not have to pay them any money directly (Very, very rare) but you will be taking a tremendous risk to force them out right away without the assistance of an attorney if you aren't an attorney yourself who has practiced real estate tenant law in SF for at least five if not ten years. You also might get really lucky and they just happen to move out when the property is sold.

In any realistic circumstance, you will need an attorney to make sure things are done properly and you do not raise an enormous liability as a property owner for removing a tenant who successfully sues you after the fact for improper or illegal evictions. Don't go there!

For many condominiums and single families built after 1979 on the date rent control kicked in, this is a straightforward process and the costs and associated problems are minimal. Anything after that, if not in all circumstances, requires a real estate attorney WHO SPECIALIZES IN SAN FRANCISCO TENANT LAW.

Bottom line: It's going to cost you money in almost any foreseeable circumstance. Whether it's time lost while waiting for the process to occur legally or actual eviction payments. You're going to need assistance from the aforementioned real estate attorney, flexibility and potentially a great deal of patience to see the process through to completion.

There is a good reason why tenant occupied properties sell for less in San Francisco where the market is very active and in general very knowledgeable about the problems that come up.

Contact me if you'd like to know more because this is just scratching the surface! There is tremendous potential value in these properties if you have a good understanding of the situation before you buy. Thanks, Matt

0 votes
Katie Wiging…, Agent, Novato, CA
Sat Sep 8, 2012
The seller could pay too- it depends on so many variables as stated below- I would not commit to anything until you have everything ironed out in advance- and seek legal advise from a San franscico atty. that specializes in real estate.
0 votes
Michael Yaco…, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Sat Sep 8, 2012
Kevin posted a good response. To learn more we suggest checking out the SF rent board site. Here's a link to this topic page:

0 votes
Kevin Ho, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Sat Sep 8, 2012
You'd hope the answer was straight-forward, but because we live in such a special place, there are all kinds of special cases that will change the answer, which is it depends on a building's age (pre-1979?) and legal definition (condo, house, TIC?) and the tenant's characteristics (older, younger, school-aged children, disabled?)

In many cases, if a tenant has been in a location for more than a year, they most likely must be offered certain statutory-defined minimum relocation fees/assistance (about $5400 per tenant, plus certain add-ons for older tenants or extended family members); if there are school children involved, owner-move-in evictions can only take place in the summer. While you can do an owner move-in eviction unless the tenants there qualify for "protected status" in which case you can't.

There are a lot more variations that come into play too. For more contact me or check out Bornstein and Bornstein website or that of the SF Tenant's Union.
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