From Victorian charms to a booming economy – San Francisco has it all! San Francisco is also one of the most expensive places to live in the country. The average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is currently $2,800. This is a 5% increase compared to last year. But San Francisco also has some of the most protected renters rights in the country.

Under the Rent Ordinance of 1979 and regulations by the San Francisco Rent Board, most renters in San Francisco are well protected from unwarranted evictions or substantial rent hikes.

If you’re a first-time renter looking for a room in San Francisco, you must know the renters’ rights and the up-to-date rental laws in San Francisco. Sounds overwhelming? We’ve got your back! Read on as we have listed the essential tenant rights in San Francisco.

What do you need to know about tenant rights in San Francisco?

Know that most renters residing in buildings predating June 1979 are protected by the Rent Ordinance of 1979. They are safeguarded from substantial rent hikes and evictions.

What is rent control?

The rental laws in San Francisco have a policy limiting the rent amount that a landlord can charge. It also limits the hike in rent that can be increased per year. There are different rent control laws for different cities in the US. Knowing the rent-control law can safeguard you from illegal rent hikes by your landlord.

Raise in the rent

The majority of the renters in San Francisco live in rent-controlled apartments protected by the Rent Ordinance of 1979. If you’re living in one such accommodation, know that your landlord can’t decide to raise the rent substantially. But if you’re living in a newer building, the rental laws in San Francisco won’t protect you. Also, you should know that in a rent-controlled apartment, rent can be raised once every 12 months. The rate is fixed at 2.6%. But if your landlord doesn’t raise the rent during one 12 month period, they can do it later with a larger increase in the hike rate.

Eviction and tenant rights in San Francisco

If your landlord asks you to move out, it doesn’t mean you have to. Alternatively, if you are covered under the San Francisco Rent Ordinance, you can only be evicted for one of the San Francisco Rent Ordinance just causes unless you share the rental unit with your landlord.

If you are covered under California law requiring just cause, you can only be evicted for California just causes.

Additionally, every eviction has to follow a specific legal procedure under the rental laws in San Francisco unless you are a sole lodger living with the owner.

In most cases, a “no-fault: eviction needs the landlord to pay the relocation amount.

According to the Rent Ordinance, if the landlords ask for eviction, they have to move in within three months and live there for at least three years. If they move out before three years, they should give the apartment back to you at the same rental rate.

If your eviction is under Ellis Act, you get the same protection rights for ten years with original rent for the first five years.

Under the rental laws in San Francisco, the same protection right will also apply to new homeowners who may buy the unit you were occupying. Since they are bound too by the Ellis Act, you will get the first preference if the new homeowner decides to move out within ten years and rent out their unit.

Other important rental laws in San Francisco you must know

About the deposit money

The deposit money is still yours, even if it’s with your landlord. This means that the interest it accrues during your tenancy belongs to you. The San Francisco Administrative Code, section 49.2, says that you can claim the interest amount while moving out if you have lived for more than a year.

Waiver in the rent amount

If you rented your apartment for a great view that was advertised, rental laws in San Francisco define it as a ‘perk’. You pay a substantial amount for it in the rent. If any new construction comes up eventually that blocks that view, you can apply to reduce your rent. You’ll need to file a decrease in service petition with the Rent Board for this. However, this does not apply to market-rate tenants.

Residing in an illegal unit

You’re still eligible for tenant rights if your landlord has created the house illegally after 1979, in most cases. That’s because an illegal unit doesn’t have a certificate of occupancy. And without it, landlords can’t claim the unit was created after 1979 and are exempted from Rent Ordinance. This gives eviction protections to renters.

Renters right during a natural calamity

If you need to move out in case of a fire, flood, or any other natural calamity, you can again move back to your unit once it’s repaired. You don’t need to pay additional rent for the repair or any increase the rent board allows, like an annual rent increase.

What to do in case of harassment by your landlord?

Know that your landlord can’t harass you for eviction by shutting off your utilities or locking you out. To protect the renters’ rights, San Francisco voters passed Prop M, which defines and prohibits harassment and gives tenants remedies. These may include a rent decrease at the Rent Board, treble damages/$1,000 for each offense, and criminal penalties.

Remember that law is changed and updated from time to time, and rental laws in San Francisco are no exception. If you’re looking to rent a place in San Francisco, do your homework to understand your tenant rights. Although it will take some time and need your patience, you will be safeguarded if you know the tenant rights in San Francisco. The Tenants Union is a great place to start, and you can find chapter-and-verse citations of the Rent Ordinance on the Rent Board site. If you’re breaking in your lease agreement before moving in, here’s a handy guide to help you navigate the issue.

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