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San Francisco Eviction Process

San Francisco Eviction Process

San Francisco Eviction Process in California

The San Francisco eviction process can be challenging for both tenants and their landlords. Eviction is very common, especially in today’s world. In 2020, an estimated 30-40 million tenants in the United States were at risk for eviction due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Even before the repercussions of the pandemic, the number of Americans faced with eviction remains in the millions. Many times, evictions are unavoidable. With this in mind, it is important that both landlords and tenants are properly informed about the eviction process and what all it entails.

At Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C., our San Francisco real estate attorneys have been solving landlord-tenant disputes in the Bay Area for over 30 years. If you are a tenant facing eviction or a landlord needing to evict a renter, here are some of the basics regarding the eviction process in San Francisco that you ought to know.

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What is an Eviction?

When people hear the word “eviction,” they typically associate it with the physical act of removing a tenant from their rental property. This is not completely wrong, as the definition of eviction is essentially the court-ordered removal of an individual from the property where they currently reside. However, this is not all that the eviction process entails.

In reality, it is a lengthy and often complex legal process with many steps and factors. It is much more than just the physical act of expulsion from a property. If you’re dealing with evictions, our San Francisco eviction lawyer can protect your rights and help you understand your legal options.

Call us at 415-562-0504 to get legal help with landlord-tenant disputes today.

How Does Eviction Work?

Eviction laws may vary from state to state. Before evicting a tenant, California law requires a landlord to terminate the tenancy legally. The eviction process begins with issuing an eviction notice, often in the form of a Pay or Quit Notice. If necessary, it then progresses into an Unlawful Detainer (eviction lawsuit). If the judgment is entered in favor of the landlord, it would typically be enforced by the local sheriff’s department.

Many people often assume the struggles with eviction begin and end with the tenant. Although it can be challenging for a tenant, it can also negatively affect the landlord. The process can last for months and can be costly for the landlord, as well. Before an eviction is carried out, it is worth discussing directly between the landlord and tenant rather than having the landlord issue a notice reflexively.

Working to find a solution before taking it straight to court can save a lot of time and money for both parties in the long run. If at all possible, it is usually in the best interest of both tenant and landlord to come to an agreement and find a solution together with the help of a credible San Francisco eviction attorney.

Steps to Eviction in San Francisco

Pay or Quit Notice

A Pay or Quit Notice, sometimes referred to a Pay or Vacate Notice, is the first step of the eviction process. This notice of eviction is issued by landlords when the tenant has unpaid rent. They give the tenant a few days (usually three to five days).

Rather than immediately expelling the tenant, which can only lawfully be accomplished by going to court (please see below), it provides them with specific instructions to adhere to their lease agreement. If they cannot do so within the time limit given in the document, it informs the tenant that the landlord will file a lawsuit to evict the tenant.

In addition, before the notice is sent, landlords should check applicable laws or get in touch with a San Francisco landlord-tenant lawyer to ensure they have the legal grounds for eviction, as well as that they are providing the correct number of days required for notice, and otherwise complying with applicable law.

Both parties involved (renter and owner) must act professionally and comply with federal and state eviction laws. If eviction is awarded to the landlord, any form of harassment toward the tenant is prohibited.

Even if the tenant refuses to voluntarily vacate the property, threats or intimidation to coerce them out is still illegal. Instead, local law enforcement should intervene to remove the occupant from the property formally.

Filing Eviction Forms

If the tenant fails to comply with the lease within the specified number of days, the landlord may file an eviction through the court. To file this form, a Complaint (often for unlawful detainer) and a Summons must be provided.

For tenants served with eviction summons, it is important that you timely comply with the instructions. However, you should also be aware of tenant rights in San Francisco, which protects any unlawful landlord practices. A competent eviction lawyer in San Francisco can help you file eviction forms in compliance with the landlord-tenant state laws.

Wrongful Eviction Petition

A wrongful eviction occurs when a landlord does not follow the applicable landlord and tenant laws regarding the eviction process. It happens if the landlord threatens the health or safety, intimidates the tenant, changes the locks, or performs another act that interferes with the tenant’s right to occupy the property. Even if the tenant owes the landlord money, the landlord can’t simply evict tenants without following the proper eviction procedure.

Each tenant’s specific set of circumstances vary. There’s a limited time when a tenant must respond to the eviction notice. If you believe that your landlord does not have just causes for eviction and may be illegally evicting you, speak with our San Francisco eviction defense attorneys immediately.

Landlords who are unsure of the eviction’s legality should also consult an experienced lawyer. Call us at 415-562-0504 to get legal help with the eviction process in San Francisco.

San Francisco Rent Board

The Rent Board interprets and enforces San Francisco’s Rent Ordinance. It resolves several landlord-tenant disputes through mediation or arbitration. This helps landlords and tenants avoid costly court battles, particularly for more minor issues.

The San Francisco Rent Board will investigate a tenant’s complaint about alleged unjust eviction, or the allegation of wrongful eviction. However, it does not have the power to deem the eviction illegal. Only the courts can make that determination. If the Rent Board receives an eviction notice that isn’t based on a just cause, the Board will advise the landlord of this.


If a person rents a residential unit in San Francisco, they have legal possession until they choose to give up possession or until the court provides the landlord with an order for possession. Both tenant and landlord have the right to bring the eviction case to a jury. If the tenant wins the case, they get to stay. If the tenant loses the case, the sheriff has the right to remove the tenant from the premises.

Court filings of evictions are sealed for 60 days. If the tenant prevails in the trial, the filing will be closed permanently. It’s important to note that tenant screening services may report the eviction even if the tenant wins the case.

Removal of Property

State and city laws determine under what conditions the landlord can remove the tenant’s property. If the tenant abandoned the property or a writ of restitution has been served on the tenant, the landlord will be allowed to remove belongings.

If the tenant is required to vacate the property, there will be instructions provided for how to remove belongings from the house or apartment. By the time the sheriff completes the lockout and removes the tenant from the property, the landlord will have progressed through the unlawful detainer action and received a judgment for possession.

If a tenant leaves personal belongings behind, the landlord must hold onto the items for 15 days. They must also allow the tenant to reclaim their belongings at a mutually convenient time. The landlord can move the items and clean the property. However, the landlord must maintain the safekeeping of the items during this 15-day holding period.

After the time frame has expired, the landlord may follow the proper protocol with legal assistance from an experienced San Francisco eviction attorney.

Call Our Eviction Attorney Today!

The eviction process can be expensive, time-consuming, and altogether challenging for both landlords and their tenants. If both parties want to settle outside of court at any point throughout the eviction process, they may do so.

At Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, we are skilled in solving disputes like eviction before they reach court. We often use aggressive negotiation, mediation, or arbitration methods to achieve optimal results for our clients cost-effectively. However, we will not hesitate to go to court to protect our clients’ rights when necessary.

Call Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C. at 415-562-0504 or fill out our online form below to schedule a consultation about your landlord-tenant matter.

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“The truth is, 99 percent of cases do not go to trial. The two sides eventually come to an agreement and settle. We know this from the thousands of cases we have handled. Therefore, we critically analyze our client’s situation to see if we can help them find an agreement earlier rather than later. The difference will mean enormous savings in time and legal fees.

We will do everything in our power to successfully resolve your landlord-tenant case or real estate dispute in as little time as possible. We have the resources to take on complex real estate cases and the size to keep you from becoming more than just a case file.”

Steven Adair MacDonald
& Partners, P.C.



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