In general, virtually all San Francisco residential tenants enjoy eviction controls. This means that even though a tenant’s lease has expired, a landlord still may only evict a tenant for one of the sixteen reasons provided for in the San Francisco Rent Ordinance. New property owners in San Francisco, especially from outside the State, are often surprised to learn that they cannot have a tenant leave, simply because the lease has expired. Unless the landlord has one (or more) of the sixteen “fault” or “no fault” grounds for eviction, the tenant cannot be forced to leave against their wishes.
One of the “no fault” grounds in the San Francisco Rent Ordinance is an Owner Move-In eviction (“OMI”). An OMI authorizes an owner to move into a tenant-occupied rental unit and terminate the tenancy of all occupants in possession. However, the Rent Ordinance restricts the right of an owner to do so in several material ways.
COVID-19 No-Fault Eviction Protections
While there is currently no moratorium precluding or limiting in any way a no-fault eviction from taking place in San Francisco due to COVID-19 (as of this post), the landscape of local regulation is continuously changing. Many jurisdictions are strengthening local COVID-19-related eviction controls as state law recedes, and San Francisco may do so as well.
The Owner Move-In and Relative Move-In Eviction
First, an OMI requires that an owner intend to occupy the unit as his or her principal place of residence for at least thirty-six continuous months. Second, the San Francisco Rent Ordinance generally allows only one OMI for the entire property if it is a multi-unit property. Further, if a multi-unit property had a prior OMI, that OMI unit must be the OMI unit for any subsequent OMI. As such, if a buyer is considering purchasing a multi-unit property with the intent of performing an OMI, the buyer should investigate if an OMI occurred at the property before, and if so, consider whether he or she is willing to occupy that OMI unit. Third, the San Francisco Rent Ordinance generally prevents an owner from performing an OMI if any tenant in the unit is “protected”. A “protected” tenant for purposes of an OMI means: (1) the tenant is 60 years of age or older and has lived in the unit for at least 10 years; or (2) the tenant is disabled and has lived in the unit for at least 10 years; or (3) the tenant is catastrophically ill and has lived in the unit for at least 5 years.
In addition to an OMI eviction, an owner may evict tenants in a different unit in the same building where an owner lives, for use of the owner’s grandparents, grandchildren, parents, children, sibling, or spouse. This is called a Relative Move-In eviction (“RMI”). In fact, an owner need not be living in the building at the time a RMI eviction notice is served, as long as the landlord is simultaneously seeking possession pursuant to an OMI. For example, a new owner could purchase a tenant occupied two-unit building, serve one unit with an OMI termination notice, and serve the other unit with a RMI termination notice. However, the relative moving in must have the same good faith and honest intent to occupy the unit for at least thirty-six continuous months at the time the notice is served, just like an owner.
The San Francisco RMI eviction also possesses one additional and significant benefit not shared with an OMI eviction. Where an OMI eviction might otherwise be precluded based on the protected status of a tenant, a RMI eviction could overcome that restriction. An owner can evict a protected tenant for a relative to live at the property as long as the relative moving in is sixty years of age or older. This exception makes sense, as often times owners want to provide a parent with a place to live in the same building as them, but not necessarily in the same unit. RMI evictions provide a way for families to share the benefits of living in the same building along with the privacy and independence associated with separate homes.
The rules and regulations regarding OMI and RMI evictions are complex and always subject to challenge by both tenants and owners. The attorneys at Zacks, Freedman & Patterson can assist you with OMIs, RMIs and all your real estate matters. Contact us at your convenience to request a consultation.
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