The Eviction Process

How Do Evictions Work?

In California, before a landlord can recover possession of your unit and/or file a lawsuit they must first provide you with a written notice. Where in California you live makes all the difference in terms of your rights in an eviction, so be sure to consult with an attorney about what rights and defenses you may have to an eviction. There are two basic types of eviction notices: notices that provide an opportunity to cure and those that do not. Some just causes for eviction do not require landlords to provide the opportunity to “cure” the violation.

Receiving an eviction notice doesn’t mean you should vacate.

It’s merely the first step in a process. Often, tenants successfully defend their eviction lawsuits and are able to stay in their homes. In other cases, tenants may be able to negotiate a monetary settlement in exchange for relinquishing their tenancies. To figure out what’s best for your situation, talk to someone who knows the process.

Three Day Notices to Cure or Quit, and Thirty (or Sixty) Day Notices Terminating Tenancy (Notice to Quit).

If you receive a notice that doesn’t have this language on it, that doesn’t specify one of these time frames for vacating, or isn’t a proper written notice served on you and/or posted at your residence, you have not received legal notice of eviction and you can continue your tenancy.

If you receive a 3-Day Notice to Cure or Quit, you have two options: 1. pay the rent you owe, or “cure” the violation of the rental agreement listed on the Notice, or 2. do nothing, and be aware that after three days elapse, your landlord may serve you with an “unlawful detainer” (eviction) lawsuit.

Thirty or Sixty Day Notices Terminating Tenancy most often apply to “no-fault” evictions — for example, in cases of owner move-in evictions or the Ellis Act. Upon receiving this type of notice, tenants should first determine whether they are covered by an eviction protection or “just cause” law (see below). If so, the eviction notice must list a valid reason for eviction. Additionally, the notice may need to be accompanied by 50% of the applicable relocation payments, which are set by statute.

After the time specified on the notice has elapsed, the landlord may file an unlawful detainer action against you in court, then serve you with the summons and complaint. Once you are served, you have only five calendar days — including weekends and holidays — to file a response with the court.

If the tenant fails to file a response within five days, the landlord may request a default judgment against the tenant. If the court grants the default, the sheriff may arrive at the property to enforce the eviction within two to three weeks in San Francisco. (In other jurisdictions, the sheriff’s eviction may occur just five days after the court’s judgment.) Also in San Francisco, but not necessarily in other jurisdictions, the court will often grant a one-week stay of eviction in order to give the tenant time to find alternate housing.

In almost all cases, tenants should file a response immediately, as this will at least buy them more time. Once tenants file a response, the lawsuit will be set in motion: a trial date will be set, the landlord or their attorneys may send you discovery requests (which also need to be answered within a limited time period), and either side may enter motions or demurrers with the court.

Eviction lawsuits proceed on an extremely compressed timetable. Unfortunately, self-represented parties are prone to missteps that may prove costly, and the landlord’s attorneys may capitalize on that. An experienced tenants’ attorney can guide tenants through the process and be a powerful ally in settling the lawsuit. ​

Evictions in San Francisco

The majority of residential tenancies in San Francisco are governed by the San Francisco Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance (Chapter 37 of the Administrative Code).

Eviction protections under the San Francisco Rent Ordinance apply to:

  • Apartment buildings built before 1979
  • Single family homes built before 1979
  • Condominiums built before 1979

Those units protected by the Rent Ordinance require a landlord to have one of 16 reasons or “just causes” to evict a tenant. To initiate an eviction a landlord must provide written notice to the tenant. The type of notice and amount of notice depends on the basis for the eviction. If a tenant fails or refuses to move out of the unit prior to the termination of the notice period a landlord may file a lawsuit for Unlawful Detainer (eviction) against a tenant and begin eviction proceedings against that tenant.

The 16 Just Causes for Eviction under the Ordinance are:

  1. Nonpayment of rent, habitual late payment, or frequent bounced checks.
  2. (Material) Lease Violation that has not been corrected after written notice from the landlord.
  3. Nuisance or substantial damage to the unit (waste), or “creating a substantial interference with the comfort, safety, or enjoyment of the landlord or other tenants in the building.“
  4. Illegal Purpose. Where tenant is using or permitting rental unit to be used for an illegal purpose. **Effective November 9, 2015, this just cause may not be used to evict a tenant from an illegal residential unit.
  5. Refusal to Execute Written Extension / Renewal. Where a tenant’s lease term has expired and tenant has refused to execute a written extension / new lease with the same material terms.
  6. Refusal to Provide Landlord Access to the Unit. Where the tenant has, after written notice to cease,refused the landlord access to the unit as required by state or local law.
  7. Holdover of unapproved subtenant. Where a tenant holding possession at the end of an oral or written agreement is an unapproved subtenant.
  8. Owner or Relative Move-in: wherein landlord or their relative (assuming landlord already resides in the building) seeks to recover possession in good faith, without ulterior motive and with honest intent for their own use and enjoyment or that of a relative. Requires landlord/relative to move in within 3 monthsand reside there for a minimum of 36 months. Tenants who have lived in the unit for 1 year or longer are entitled to relocation payments. For more information see link here
  9. In conjunction with sale of a unit where unit is a condo. Seniors and permanently disabled tenants cannot be evicted for condo conversions. Other tenants have a right to a 1-year lease or 120 days with relocation payments.
  10. Demolition or removal of a residential unit from residential use. Requires landlord to obtain permits, requires landlord to pay relocation under Sec. 37.9C of the Rent Ordinance. Very rarely approved / employed.
  11. Capital improvements /Rehab  allows temporary removal of a residential unit from housing use while landlord conducts construction work. Landlord is required to pay relocation payments under 37.9C and/or State law depending on length of displacement.  Tenant has the right to return to the unit once work has been completed at the prior rent, adjusted by the Rent Board’s allowable rent increases such as the annual rent increase.
  12. Substantial Rehabilitation of a building that is essentially uninhabitable with all the necessary permits. The tenant has a right to relocation payments.
  13. Ellis Act evictions. Allows landlord to “get out of the rental business” by removing the entire building from the rental market. Provides that landlord cannot re-rent for five years, and cannot convert units into condos. Evicted tenants entitled to a 120 day notice period, while seniors over the age of 62, and disabled tenants are entitled to a notice period of one year. All tenants who have resided in unit for one year or more are entitled to relocation payments under 37.9C of the Rent Ordinance.
  14. Lead abatement as required by the San Francisco Health Code with temporary removal of the unit from housing use for less than 30 days. Provides for relocation payments pursuant to 37.9C of the Rent Ordinance.
  15. Demolition in conjunction with development agreement.  Done in accordance with the terms of a development agreement entered into by the City under Chapter 56 of the San Francisco Administrative Code.
  16. Good Samaritan Occupancy Status expires, and the landlord serves an eviction notice within 60 days after expiration of the status. (The Good Samaritan Occupancy Status is when a tenant loses their home due to a disaster and the landlord rents another temporary unit to the tenant for low rent.)

Common Eviction Notices

Before a landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against a tenant they must first abide by the applicable notice requirements. The type and content of the notice requirements depends on the city/county in question. If the tenant does not vacate within the specified notice period a landlord can thereafter file an eviction / unlawful detainer lawsuit. The most common notices are:

  • Three Day Notice to Cure / Quit
  • Three Day Notice to Quit
  • Sixty Day Notice to Quit (Non Rent Control or Owner Move In)
  • One Hundred Twenty Day Notice to Quit (Ellis Act)

Three Day Notice to Pay or Quit

A notice to “pay or quit” relates to non-payment of rent. Once served with such a notice a tenant has exactly three calendar days–that is, 72 hours–to pay the amount of back rent demanded in the notice. Because the notice requirements are strictly construed, failure to pay within this time period – even by a day, could provide sufficient grounds for a landlord to file an eviction lawsuit. Note that a landlord cannot include late fees in a Three Day Pay/Quit Notice.

Three Day Notice to Cure or Quit

A three-day notice to “cure or quit” commonly is served in situations where a landlord believes a tenant to have breached a term of an existing lease agreement. Some common grounds for this type of notice include: subletting in violation of your lease–including renting your apartment on AirBnB; storing personal belongings in common areas; having pets when the lease does not allow for pets; causing excessive noise or otherwise causing or allowing to exist a “nuisance.” In these instances, you must “cure” the purported violation within 72 hours or an owner may proceed with an eviction lawsuit.

Three Day Notice to Quit

In limited cases, a landlord may serve a three-day notice to quit, without the option to pay or cure the alleged violation. This type of notice is  meant to be used for very serious breaches of the lease, such as conducting an illegal business or in situations where there is no way to cure the alleged violation.

Sixty Day Notice to Quit

Under state law a landlord must provide a minimum of sixty days written notice in order to terminate an existing tenancy of one year or longer. In many parts of California there are no eviction control measures, which makes defending an eviction lawsuit very difficult. Where a landlord is not required to provide a reason for an eviction they simply need to be able to show the provided proper notice. In certain circumstances tenants in these situations may have a defense based on retaliation.

In San Francisco a landlord must provide sixty days written notice for any Owner or Relative Move-In Eviction prior to initiating an eviction lawsuit

120 Day Notice to Quit (Ellis Act)

For evictions under the Ellis Act, a landlord is required to provide 120 days written notice prior to filing an eviction lawsuit. Elderly and/or disabled tenants may be entitled to a full year notice, though such tenants must inform their landlord in writing of their entitlement to additional time.
If you have received an eviction notice it is imperative that you speak to someone before the notice period has lapsed to best evaluate your options. To discuss your eviction notice with an experienced tenant attorneycontact us today. 

Evictions Under State Law (No Just Cause)

For tenants living in parts of the state not covered by eviction control landlords may be able to evict tenants without just cause. For tenants in a month-to-month tenancy, landlords do not need to have a reason to evict so long as they provide proper notice. The landlord must give you an eviction notice in writing. If your tenancy is longer than one year, you are entitled to 60 days’ notice. If you’ve lived there less than a year, you’re entitled to at least 30 days‘ notice.

California state requirements are the minimum to which landlords are held. Many tenants in California are given additional rights, thanks to more tenant-friendly ordinances in cities such as Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco.

Amid the recent housing crunch, other jurisdictions–including several in Silicon Valley, Marin and Sonoma–are considering new laws to protect tenants.

If you are being threatened with eviction and are unsure of your rights, contact us today.