Tripp Knight…, Home Seller in San Francisco, CA

SF rented house: can I evict from rented single family house if it's gone to month-to-month?

Asked by Tripp Knightly, San Francisco, CA Fri Jul 31, 2009

I've read all I can online about Tenant rights in SF. And yet, despite all that, I've read some conflicting things.

If I rent out my HOUSE w/ a 1 year term which then goes to month-to-month w/option to break by either party w/ 30 days notice, do I really have the right to cancel at that point or does the tenant get to receive relocation allowances?

If I can't, could I raise the rent by 50% (with or without a new one year lease, in part as compensation for the economic cost of retaining the property because of the tenant's lease/stranglehold on the property)?

The reality is that if I someday seek to sell the house, it has to be sold vacant (to maximize sales price) and plus in order to get it sale-ready (staging, repairs, cleaning...) clearly the property should be tenantless. While I know passions run high on both sides on this kind of stuff, I'm really just interested in as cut and dry an answer as possible (knowing none of this is cut and dry ever!

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Fri Aug 14, 2009
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Jeff Woo, Other Pro, San Francisco, CA
Sat Aug 1, 2009
A tenant in a true single family home cannot be evicted unless you have one of the 15 just cause reasons. If you wanted to sell after a year, your only reason for eviction would be the Ellis Act and in that case you would have to pay relocation expenses. Also, your house could not be used as a rental property for the next five years.

As for raising the rent, such a tenancy would come under a state law known as Costa Hawkins, which allows you to raise rent to Market Rent at any time. However, you can't raise the rent beyond Market Rent as a way of forcing the tenant to vacate. That would amount to an unlawful constructive eviction and you could be used for wrongful eviction.

What is Market Rent? Well, ultimately if it was taken far enough, it is the price beyond what a jury in a law suit would find is market. So you want to do some homework so that you can support your opinion as to what market it. Try getting some comparables from craigslist or other "for rent" sources. You want to stay within a range of what other people in your area are asking for rent.

Whether to rent or not when you contemplate selling in the near future is always a difficult decision.

Jeff Woo, Esq.
Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold, LLP
Complex Rental Property Group
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Shaban Shako…, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Sat Aug 1, 2009
I believe you would not be able to evict the tenant in preparation for sale. Eviction requires a valid premise and sale is not one. You could raise the rent but you subject yourself to a constructive eviction suit. Best to talk with a landlord lawyer. Contact me for a referral.
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Jed Lane, Agent, Petaluma, CA
Fri Jul 31, 2009
Single family homes are not covered by rent control. They are covered by eviction control and there are certain criteria that matter.

To avoid a wrongful eviction lawsuit you should make friends at the rent board. They will give you the most up to date infomrtion and can be very helpful if treated correctly. By that I mean with respect. I have stood and listened as they help both tenants and landlord with issues and they are big fans of being right. If you still have questions after getting information from them you really should sit down with an attorney.

Be sure you don't add an in-law or rent out an existing unwarranted space becasue the property will no longer be a sinigle family home. Legal -warranted or not it is then a multi-unit property and subject to rent control and eviction controls.
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