San Francisco Landlord-Tenant and
Real Estate Attorneys

Call Us Today!
(415) 956-6488

Ellis Act in San Francisco

Facing an Ellis Act Eviction in San Francisco: What Are Your Rights?

In the diverse and dynamic city of San Francisco, understanding the legal aspect of housing can be daunting. One aspect of rental laws that may significantly impact tenants is the Ellis Act in San Francisco. For those who are unfamiliar, this state law can alter the stability of a tenant’s housing situation, and could even result in eviction under certain circumstances. And while it may seem complex, having a grasp on how the Ellis Act operates is integral for anyone renting a property in the city.

Whether you’ve heard whispers of the Act in passing or are currently facing an Ellis Act eviction, knowledge is your most potent tool. As tenants, understanding the framework of the Ellis Act in San Francisco can provide you with the necessary insights to navigate any challenges it might present.

Our San Francisco Landlord-Tenant and Real Estate Attorneys at Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C. believe that informed tenants are empowered tenants. That’s why we’re here to guide you through the legal maze of the Ellis Act, so you can feel more secure in your understanding and rights. Take the first step towards empowerment today – call us for a conversation about your housing situation and how the Ellis Act might impact you.

What is the Ellis Act?

The Ellis Act is a California state law passed in 1985, which allows landlords to “go out of business” and remove their properties from the rental market. This might seem straightforward, but it carries considerable implications, especially in a city like San Francisco, where the housing market is fiercely competitive and rental properties are in high demand.

Under the Ellis Act in San Francisco, landlords who wish to remove their rental units from the market can evict their tenants. However, they must evict all the tenants in the entire building, not just a single unit. They are also obligated to give tenants a notice period, typically 120 days. For some tenants—like seniors or those with disabilities—the notice period may extend up to a year.

There are many reasons why a landlord might invoke the Ellis Act. They might wish to convert their property into condos, move in themselves, or sell the building. While the law was designed to offer landlords a fair exit strategy, it’s been a contentious issue in San Francisco, as it sometimes leads to the displacement of long-term tenants.

The effects of the Ellis Act in San Francisco can be far-reaching, making it vital for tenants to fully understand their rights and options under this law. If you’re a tenant facing an Ellis Act eviction or simply looking for guidance, Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C. is here to help. Reach out to us today for a better understanding of your situation.

What is the Procedure that Landlords Must Follow When Invoking the Ellis Act? 

Landlords in San Francisco looking to invoke the Ellis Act must adhere to a clear, legally defined process. This includes:

  1. Filing an Intent to Withdraw: The landlord files this notice with the San Francisco Rent Board, declaring their intention to remove all units in the building from the rental market.
  2. Serving a Notice of Termination: After the Intent to Withdraw is accepted, the landlord provides each tenant with a termination notice. The standard notice period is 120 days, but it extends to one year for tenants who are 62 or older, or disabled and have lived in the unit for at least a year.
  3. Reporting to the Rent Board: Evictions must be reported to the Rent Board within 15 days of serving the termination notice.
  4. Providing Relocation Payments: The landlord is obligated to offer relocation payments to evicted tenants. The amount varies but is established annually by the city.

It’s crucial to understand that these are the general guidelines. The actual procedure may have slight variations depending on the unique circumstances of each case. If you’re a tenant dealing with an Ellis Act eviction or seeking guidance, feel free to reach out to Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C. We’re here to help you navigate this challenging process.

What are the Key Rights of Tenants After Ellis?

Understanding tenant rights under the Ellis Act in San Francisco is crucial in the event of an Ellis eviction. Here are some key rights that tenants possess:

  • Relocation Payments: Landlords are required to provide tenants with relocation payments, the amount of which is set annually by the city. These payments aim to ease the financial burden of finding a new home and relocating, considering moving costs, deposits, and potential rent increases elsewhere. They also offer a certain level of protection and support for tenants during a challenging and often unexpected transition.
  • Right to Return: If the landlord decides to re-rent the units within 5 years of the Ellis eviction, former tenants have a “right to return” and must be offered their old unit back at a rent not exceeding what they previously paid, adjusted for inflation. This offer must be in writing and the tenant has 30 days to accept. This right is significant, as it provides an opportunity for displaced tenants to return to their original homes, fostering stability and continuity. Additionally, it deters landlords from invoking the Ellis Act as a mechanism for circumventing rent control, preserving the balance of rights between tenants and landlords.
  • Extended Stay for Vulnerable Tenants: Elderly tenants (62 and older) and disabled tenants who have lived in their units for at least one year are entitled to one year’s notice before eviction, compared to the standard 120-day notice. This extended notice period recognizes the potential challenges these groups may face when securing new accommodations, providing them with more time to plan and prepare. It’s an important provision of the Ellis Act that further emphasizes the law’s intent to ensure fair treatment for all tenants, particularly those most vulnerable.
  • No Waiver of Rights: Tenants cannot be asked to waive their rights under the Ellis Act. Any such waiver requested or signed is non-binding and legally unenforceable. This provision safeguards tenants from potential pressure or manipulation to forego their rights, ensuring they remain protected under the law. It underscores the commitment to fair and equitable treatment for tenants amidst the complex landscape of housing laws in San Francisco.
  • Damages for Wrongful Eviction: If a landlord fails to follow the correct procedures or re-rents the units within two years without offering them to the displaced tenants first, the tenants can sue for wrongful eviction. This right to legal recourse helps ensure landlords adhere strictly to the correct process, maintaining a balance of rights between landlords and tenants. It further emphasizes the importance of legal representation in navigating such scenarios to ensure tenants are justly compensated for any misconduct.

Knowing your rights as a tenant in the face of an Ellis eviction is a crucial part of ensuring fair treatment. At Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C., we’re committed to making sure tenants know and understand their rights. Reach out to us for more information and guidance about your situation.

What are Possible Defenses to an Ellis Act Eviction?

Facing an Ellis Act eviction can be a stressful situation for tenants, but it’s important to remember that there are potential defenses that can be used to challenge the eviction. Here are a few:

  • Failure to Follow Procedure: Landlords must adhere to a strict process when invoking the Ellis Act. If they fail to follow the correct procedures, such as providing appropriate notice or filing the necessary forms with the Rent Board, the eviction may be challenged.
  • Bad Faith: An eviction can be contested if it’s proven that the landlord is acting in bad faith. For example, if a landlord intends to re-rent the property within a certain time frame, this might be seen as an attempt to circumvent rent control regulations, which is against the spirit of the Ellis Act.
  • Discrimination: If the eviction is motivated by discrimination against the tenant’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or other protected status, this can be used as a defense against eviction.
  • Retaliation: If the eviction can be demonstrated to be a retaliatory action—for instance, in response to a tenant asserting their rights or complaining about the property’s conditions—this could be a valid defense.
  • Habitability: If the landlord has not maintained the unit in a habitable condition, this might serve as a defense against eviction.

If you find yourself in an Ellis Act eviction situation, it’s important to seek legal advice to fully understand your rights and options. At Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C., we can help you navigate these defenses and determine the best course of action for your particular situation. Contact us today to discuss your case.

Navigating the Ellis Act in San Francisco? We’re Here to Help!

Facing an Ellis Act eviction in San Francisco can be challenging, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Whether you’re dealing with habitability issues, housing discrimination, or need assistance with pre-trial mediation, the team at Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C. is here to support you. Contact us today to explore your best options and safeguard your rights.

Share this Post

Related Posts

san francisco real estate attorney

Ask A Real Estate Lawyer




Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, PC
870 Market Street
Suite 500
San Francisco, California 94102
United States


(415) 956-8698

Send Us A Message

Footer Form

Copyright © 2024 Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, PC - All Rights Reserved. | Powered by Advantage Attorney Marketing & Cloud Solutions