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Things To Know About Tenant Rights In San Francisco

What Rights Do Tenants Have In California?

Have you considered the legal safeguards supporting San Francisco tenants? Understanding your rights as a tenant is crucial. Do you have a comprehensive grasp of the extent of your rights and protections? 

Tenant rights refer to the legal protections of those who lease or rent residential properties. That includes a range of laws that govern landlords and tenants. It also outlines responsibilities, obligations, and recourse available to renters. This article aims to illuminate critical aspects of tenant rights in San Francisco. We hope this empowers you with the  knowledge to ensure a secure and fair housing experience.

Short Summary:

  • Tenant rights are legal protections and entitlements for individuals leasing property, governed by federal, state, and local laws and outlined in lease agreements.
  • Crucial tenant rights include the right to a habitable living space, privacy, protection against discrimination, and clear terms in the lease agreement. The latter covers aspects like rent, rules, and responsibilities.
  • Specific California tenant rights address habitability standards, lead-based paint disclosure, privacy rights, rent control regulations, eviction protections, and security deposit rules.
  • Landlords must have a valid reason or “just cause” for eviction, such as non-payment of rent, violation of rental agreement, or building conversion. The eviction process involves notices, court proceedings, and adherence to fair practices.
  • The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender, familial status, or disability. Victims of discrimination can file complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

What are Tenant Rights?

Tenant rights encompass the legal protections and entitlements granted to individuals or entities (tenants) renting or leasing property from a landlord. These rights find their basis in federal, state, and local laws. They are also further outlined in the lease or rental agreement between the tenant and the landlord.

These legal safeguards cover various aspects. They include the right to a habitable living space, privacy, and protection against discrimination. The lease or rental agreement specifies details, such as rent payment terms and maintenance responsibilities. It also outlines procedures for dispute resolution. 

In short, tenant rights serve as a framework to establish a fair and balanced relationship between landlords and tenants.

What Rights Do Tenants Have in California?

Local, state, and federal laws govern tenant rights in San Francisco. Both landlords and tenants must know these regulations to ensure fair and lawful housing practices. Below we list some crucial things about tenant rights:

The Right to a Habitable Home 

Everyone deserves a home that’s safe and suitable to live in. Your state’s housing laws lay out standards for habitability, covering things like:

  • No bugs or rodents running around
  • Electrical systems that work
  • Functional carbon monoxide and smoke detectors
  • A heating system
  • Running water
  • Hot water


Landlords must let you know if there’s lead-based paint in the place according to federal law.

Common Areas

Landlords are also responsible for keeping shared spaces in good shape, such as hallways and lobbies.

Repair and Deduct

If your landlord or property manager refuses to fix something important, you might have another option. It’s called “repair and deduct.” It works by telling your landlord in writing about the problem. Then, you give them a fair amount of time to do something about it.

If they still do not take action, you can pay for the repair yourself in certain states. Then, you can subtract that cost from your next month’s rent.

Before you go this route, it’s wise to get legal advice. You might need to take legal action before using the repair and deduct option in some states that allow this.

Tenant’s Right to Privacy

Landlords cannot barge into your rented place whenever they want. You have the right to some privacy and peace while living there. If the landlord needs to get in, they should give you a heads-up, usually at least a day in advance. They can come in for things like:

  • fixing stuff
  • showing the place to someone who might move in next 
  • dealing with emergencies like a fire or burst pipes

Landlords can also check out people who want to rent from them. They can look at one’s credit history, rental history, criminal records, and other relevant information. That ensures the new tenant will be a good fit.

Tenants’ Right to Clear Terms of Lease

A lease is like a formal agreement between you and the landlord. It spells out what both of you must do. Even though you can discuss some things, most landlords use their leases. So, you need to read it carefully.

In the lease, you should find:

  • How much rent do you have to pay
  • When rent is due
  • Rules about living there
  • A description of the place you’re renting
  • Where to pay rent
  • If there are any extra fees for paying rent late

The lease should also say how long you can stay there. Some leases last for a set time, while others go month-to-month. If it’s the latter, you must give 30 days’ notice if you want to leave.

There should also be information about lead-based paint if the place was built before 1978. Make sure to check those things!

Rent Control

Rent control means that landlords can usually only raise the rent by a certain percentage each year. For instance, from 2023 to February 29, 2024, the allowed increase is 3.6%.

  • For some units, figuring out if they fall under rent control can be tricky. Talk to a Rent Board counselor first if you are unsure about your place. 
  • A landlord might be allowed to increase the rent by more than the usual percentage. However, they have to follow the rent increase law.
  • Even if a place doesn’t have strict rent control, it might still be covered by the California Tenant Protection Act (AB 1482).

Right to Advance Notice of Eviction

Lease agreements are like promises. Landlords can’t kick you out without a good reason. Eviction protection protects all tenants.

Eviction Protection

Eviction protection means a landlord needs a valid reason or just cause” to kick out tenants.

Here are some examples of “just cause”:

  • The tenant doesn’t pay rent or is consistently late.
  • The tenant violates the rental agreement or uses the place for illegal activities.
  • The tenant disrupts others’ comfort, safety, or enjoyment of the building.
  • The landlord wants to move into the unit or have an immediate family member move in.
  • The landlord plans to convert the unit into a condo and sell it.
  • The landlord intends to do construction that would make the unit unlivable (but the tenant must be allowed to move back in once the work ends).
  • The landlord is using the state Ellis Act to take all rental units in a building off the market.

If a landlord wants you out, they cannot just change the locks or toss your stuff. They have to follow the eviction process in your area.

The Eviction Process

When your landlord wants you out, they have to start by giving you an eviction notice. This notice should give you ample time to fix the problem or leave. For instance, if you’re behind on rent, you might be able to sort things out by paying what you owe, including any late fees.

If you don’t take care of it, the landlord can take the case to court. They can bring it in a housing or small claims court to get an official order for eviction. You might have to cover their lawyer’s fees if they win.

Landlords need to play fair in the eviction process. They can’t kick you out in revenge if you have reported issues to housing authorities.

Right to Return of Security Deposit

Before moving into a new place, landlords often ask for a security deposit. It’s like a safety net for them if you mess up the place or cannot pay rent.

Most states have rules about security deposits. They cover things like:

  • The maximum amount the landlord can ask for
  • Whether the landlord has to put the money in an account that earns interest
  • How the landlord can use the deposit
  • The time frame for the landlord to give it back

Tell your landlord where to send your security deposit when your lease ends. It’s a good idea to send this notice by certified mail to have proof.

If your landlord has to use some of your deposit for fixing damage or cleaning, they should give you a detailed list and return the rest. You can take your landlord to small claims court if they don’t return within the set time. 

The Right to Freedom from Discrimination

Federal law protects people looking for a place to live from unfair treatment. That includes landlords and property managers who cannot discriminate against you based on certain things. The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to treat someone differently because of:

  • Their race
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Age
  • Sexual orientation and gender
  • Familial status (like having kids or being pregnant)
  • Disability

Here are some examples of housing discrimination:

  • Ads for rentals that show a preference or limitation
  • Being told a place is unavailable when it is vacant
  • Using different standards for different applicants
  • A landlord saying no to renting to you without a good reason
  • Treating some tenants worse, like asking for a much bigger deposit
  • Getting kicked out for a discriminatory reason

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ensures the proper enforcement of the Fair Housing Act. You should file a complaint to them if you have been treated unfairly.

Being aware of these rights and responsibilities is crucial. Communication can resolve disputes often, with legal action as a last resort to enforce or defend one’s rights.

Discover The Things You Need To Know About Tenant Rights in San Francisco

Are you facing uncertainties about your tenant rights in San Francisco? Are you also worried about a dispute with your landlord or your lease’s terms? Do you need help navigating an eviction notice?

Our landlord-tenant attorneys at Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C., are dedicated to navigating tenant rights on your behalf. We have the skills to advocate for your rights. We can help deal with unfair rent increases, maintenance issues, or an impending eviction. 

Our commitment is to empower you with knowledge and provide legal representation. We will ensure the best possible outcome for your landlord-tenant case in San Francisco. 

Ready to safeguard your San Francisco tenant rights? Contact our legal team at Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C. today for personalized and comprehensive legal assistance. Your peace of mind is just a call away.

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