General Information About Evictions In San Francisco


An eviction in San Francisco can take a long time and be very costly. For landlords, making mistakes during the course of the eviction can make it even more costly by forcing the landlord to restart the eviction proceedings or, worse, defend against a wrongful eviction lawsuit brought by the tenant. In order to avoid these types of mistakes, it’s important to hire a local attorney who is experienced in dealing with the San Francisco Rent Ordinance (otherwise known as Chapter 37 of the San Francisco Administrative Code). Chan Legal Group has 35 years of experience practicing real estate law in San Francisco and is well versed on the San Francisco
Rent Ordinance.

The worst thing a landlord can do in San Francisco is to simply declare termination of tenancy and change the locks. Instead, it’s imperative that the landlord move through the official eviction process step by step. There are no shortcuts, unfortunately, but a good attorney can take some of the hassle out of this process.

Rent Control Evictions in San Francisco

In San Francisco, rent controlled tenants are protected by the San Francisco Rent Ordinance and can only be evicted for one of the fifteen enumerated “just causes” (listed below). Of these just causes, some are considered no-fault evictions — like an owner move-in — that may require the tenant be paid relocation expenses (usually around $5,000 per occupant). Other just causes are based upon a tenant’s behavior — for example, if the tenant fails to pay rent, causes a nuisance, or sells illegal narcotics from the unit. The most common ground for eviction that we see every year is nonpayment of rent.

A tenant will often fight tooth and nail to save his rent controlled tenancy, especially with San Francisco market rents being as high as they are now. Tenants often will claim that their landlord’s ulterior motive is to evict them in order to raise the rental rate on the unit. They also tend to deflect the eviction issue by pointing out any code violations and habitability issues as defenses. In a city where many apartment buildings are over 100 years old, it’s important that landlords address habitability issues and code violations proactively. Missing or ignoring habitability issues and code violations can quickly derail an eviction.

Fifteen Just Causes for Eviction in San Francisco

  • Nonpayment of rent, habitual late payments, frequently bouncing rent checks
  • Breach of lease
  • Nuisance
  • Illegal purpose
  • Refusal to sign a lease of similar terms to current agreement
  • Refusal to allow landlord in
  • Unapproved holdover subtenant
  • Owner move-in
  • Condo conversion
  • Demolition/permanent removal of unit or demolition under SFAC Chapter 56
  • Capital improvements
  • Substantial rehabilitation
  • Withdrawal of building (Ellis Act)
  • Lead abatement
  • Expiration of Good-Samaritan status

For a more descriptive definition of each just cause, visit the San Francisco Rent Board website.

Non-Rent Control Evictions in San Francisco

For properties that are not rent controlled (which include most apartment buildings built after 1979, single family houses, condominiums), landlord/tenant issues, including evictions, tend to be much less complicated. However, it is still important to hire an experienced attorney in matters related to these properties, especially eviction proceedings.

The attorneys at Chan Legal Group take a firm and systematic approach to all evictions we are involved in. Using the system of “game theory,” we compare all legal remedies and strive to reach the best economic outcome for our clients.


The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult a San Francisco real estate attorney for advice regarding your own situation.