For over 100 years in California, when tenants fail to timely pay rent or otherwise breach lease obligations, landlords have been entitled to bring legal actions for possession of rental units (an “unlawful detainer”), after first serving tenants with a three-day written notice to cure the default. Shortly after the pandemic, California amended the unlawful detainer statutes, in part requiring a temporary 15-day notice requirement for evictions due to nonpayment of rent. The statutes otherwise maintain specific timelines and comprehensive procedural requirements related to unlawful detainer actions.
On February 1 2022, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved San Francisco Ordinance 18-22 (the “Ordinance”), requiring an additional procedure not contemplated by California’s unlawful detainer statutes. The Ordinance adds Section 37.9(o) to the Rent Ordinance, and provides that a landlord is prohibited from serving a three-day notice under state unlawful detainer law, until the landlord has first served an additional 10-day “warning” notice on defaulting tenants. This warning notice would provide an additional 10 days for the tenant to cure any non-payment of rent, violation of lease terms, or nuisance. It would not apply to situations where the tenant is causing an imminent risk of harm, or for default in rent that came due before March 31, 2022. The Ordinance justifies the need for the additional notice requirement based on the fact that, “since the Rent Ordinance generally does not specify for how long a tenant’s misconduct must continue before it rises to the level of being a just cause. This ambiguity creates confusion, and is particularly harmful to tenants, as some landlords claim that a tenant’s violation instantly creates just cause to evict even if the tenant just made an innocent mistake or is able to correct the issue.” There is no limitation in the law regarding how many times a tenant is entitled to receive such a notice. The Ordinance was approved by Mayor Breed on February 11th, and was set to take effect on April 1, 2022.
On March 21, 2022, Zacks, Freedman & Patterson, on behalf of the San Francisco Apartment Association and the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute, filed a Petition for Writ of Mandate against San Francisco (Case No. CPF-22-517718) challenging the Ordinance. The lawsuit seeks to have the Ordinance overturned based on its conflict with the California unlawful detainer procedure.
On March 23, 2022, plaintiffs sought and obtained an order from the court staying the Ordinance’s new requirement pending resolution of the writ petition. The hearing on the writ petition is currently scheduled on May 17, 2022, before the Honorable Charles F. Haines of the San Francisco Superior Court.