A Closer Look at Your Eviction and the Ellis Act

You should know your tenant’s rights if you get an Ellis Act eviction.

The landlord has a choice of which “just cause” eviction method to take, and even if he states he wants to move his family into your rent-controlled apartment, you still might get evicted through the use of the Ellis Act.

Here are some of the important details about the Ellis Act that will impact you.

 A public eviction

Artist David Brenkus is being evicted. You might have seen it in the news. The landlords, the Harshawats, say they want to move their parents and their brother in the three unit building near Duboce Park.

The Harshawats are not using an Owner Move-In eviction to get rid of Brenkus, who has lived there for about 35 years. Instead, they are using the Ellis Act to evict him.

A choice of weapons

As I mentioned in a previous blog, using the Owner Move-In eviction has certain restrictions that make it unappealing to landlords. The landlord or certain family members must live in the apartment for 36 months, which is three years.

If they don’t live in it for three years and they put the unit is back on the rental market, it must be offered to the original tenant at the rent they were paying when they were evicted. If it is rented to a new tenant, then it must be offered at the rent the original tenant was paying.

Ellis Act requirements

The San Francisco Tenants Union in their Tenants Rights book offers an excellent chart which contrasts the implications of an eviction under a Owner Move-In and the Ellis Act. For the Ellis Act, there are limitations, but different ones, if the units are returned the rental market. If the units are back within two years, the tenants or the city may sue for damages. If the units are back in the rental market within five years, the units must be re-rented at the old rate. If the units are back in ten years, the evicted tenant has a right of first refusal.

Ellis Act eviction notices

Ellis Act evictions require at least a 120-day notice. Sometimes landlords will give you a “friendly warning,” but as I wrote in an earlier blog, you should disregard these statements.

If you are a senior and you have lived in the unit for one year or more, the landlord has to give you a one-year notice. If you are disabled and have lived in your unit for one year or more, you also qualify for the one-year notice.

Are you sure you are not disabled?

Most of us don’t think of ourselves as disabled. However, regardless of how you usually think of yourself, you need to check out California law.

The California law defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more of a person’s major life activities. The definition also includes a record of having, or being perceived as having, a physical or mental impairment. It specifically does not include current illegal use of or an addiction to a controlled substance.

The law does not take into account whether devices and medication can remove the disability. Therefore, a tenant who is extremely near sighted could qualify as disabled.

Do not automatically assume you are not considered disabled by the law.

Asserting your rights to a longer notice and money

If the landlord is planning on removing the building from the rental market under the Ellis Act, he must file a Notice of Intent to Withdraw Residential Units with the San Francisco Rent Board. If you are senior or disabled, you must assert your tenant’s rights to a one-year notice within 60 days of the landlord’s Notice of Intent to Withdraw.

You should describe your age or disability when you notify your landlord of your right to an additional notice and relocation money. You don’t have to provide supporting evidence unless the landlord disputes your claim.

If the landlord disputes your claim, he must give written notice to you and the Rent Board within 90 days of delivery of the Notice of Intent to Withdraw.

Relocation money

As a tenant you are entitled to relocation money if you must move under the Ellis Act. As of March, 2015, you have a right to a payment of $5,555.21 for each tenant, up to a maximum amount of $16,665.59. This amount will change based on inflation on March 1, 2016.

If you have more than 2 other people in the household, then the $16,665.59 will be divided up among all the tenants. According to the SF Administrative Code, a tenant is “a person entitled by written or oral agreement, sub-tenancy approved by the landlord, or by sufferance to occupy a residential dwelling unit to the exclusion of others.”

If you are a senior or qualify as disabled, you are eligible for additional relocation money. You may receive an additional $3,703.46 per person in additional relocation money without any restrictions on the number of people in the household.

Timing of the relocation payment

At the time of the service of the eviction notice, you will receive half of the relocation payment. The remainder will be paid when you vacate. If you are evicted by the sheriff, you will still receive the remaining half.

If you are a senior or disabled, half of the additional payments must be paid within fifteen days of the landlord receiving written notice from you of your right to additional payments. You will receive the remaining half when you vacate.

If you are unsure what to do

Are you facing an eviction? Unsure of your tenant’s rights? You should consider speaking to an experienced tenant attorney.

Know your rights. Protect yourself.

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Mary Catherine Wiederhold

Real Estate Attorney
1458 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

Mary Catherine Wiederhold
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