Evictions & The Eviction Process


Click Here For Eviction Flow Chart
Shows Timeline and Steps In An Eviction

If your landlord tells you to move, it doesn't mean you have to. In San Francisco, rent controlled tenants (most tenants) can only be evicted for certain "just causes." Plus, here, and everywhere in California, evictions must follow specific legal procedures and a court hearing before you can be forced to move. Beware: most "no fault" evictions require landlords to pay relocation benefits and restrict whether or not a landlord can raise the rent on a new tenant or convert the unit into a condominium. Tenants who move just because the landlord tells them to—without making the landlord actually issue an eviction notice—allow the landlord to evade re-rental and condo conversion restrictions, as well as relocation benefits. Also beware: just because a landlord is selling a property, or just bought it, is not a ground for eviction (even if it's a foreclosure). Thousands of San Franciscans are evicted by greedy landlords seeking to raise rents—if you are facing an unjust eviction, fight back–you can win.

Do Tenants Get Relocation Benefits?
No Fault evictions (just causes of Ellis, Owner Move In, Demolition, Capital Improvements, & Substantial rehabilitation) get relocation benefits (click here for Ellis Relocation amounts; click here for all other amounts)

How Long Does An Eviction Take?
It varies case by case, of course, but from the time most tenants get their first notice to the point when the sheriff comes to evict takes at least a month or two, assuming the tenant responds to all notices. The basic steps of an eviction are: (1) Landlord gives eviction notice, (2) If tenant doesn't move, landlord issues 2nd eviction notice through the court, (3) Tenant gets to challenge eviction in court (4) Court rules for tenant or landlord (5) If landlord wins, sheriff posts final eviction notice and evicts tenants at end of that notice period.

The Eviction Basics

Evictions Are Done Only Through Court
When you rent an apartment, you have legal possession until you either choose to give up possession or the landlord gets a court order for possession. You have the right to bring your case to a jury. If you win, you get to stay. If you lose, only the sheriff has the right to remove you.

You have all these rights even if you are behind in your rent. Your landlord can not put your belongings on the street or lock you out or turn off your utilities. This is a violation of California Civil Code Section 789.3 and the landlord is liable for $100 a day in penalties.

The Eviction Process–Help Is Available
The legal eviction process is long and complicated. Along the way there are many possibilities for negotiations and ways to make the law work in your favor. Talk to the Tenants Union or a tenant attorney and plan your strategy. You will probably need help in dealing with various court forms and procedures.

The First Eviction Notice
An eviction begins with a 3 or 60 day notice (30 days for tenants who have lived in their units less than a year). Generally 3 day notices are given for "curable" evictions (e.g., "pay the rent in 3 days or be evicted") while 60 or 30 day notices are non-curable ("I will be moving into your apartment"); these non-curable notices must be 60 days (unless the tenant has lived there less than a year, then it can be 30 days).

You do not have to leave your home by the end of this notice and your landlord can’t force you out. If you haven’t moved by the end of this period, only then can the landlord can begin the legal eviction process. Talk to the Tenants Union when you get your notice and see if it’s a legal notice and what you should do about it.

In San Francisco, you can only be evicted for one of 15 “just” causes and the eviction notice must state what cause the landlord has. A 3 day notice is used for “correctable” causes and it must give you an alternative to correct the cause or to leave: “Pay the rent in 3 days or move”...”Get rid of the dog in 3 days or move.” A 60 day notice is used for non-correctable evictions: “My mother is moving into your unit ”

The Second Notice—“Unlawful Detainer”
If the tenant doesn't move by the end of the first eviction notice, the landlords goes to court and issues a 2nd eviction notice called an “Unlawful Detainer” Tenants will then receive a “Summons and Complaint For Unlawful Detainer.” YOU MUST RESPOND TO THIS IN FIVE DAYS or you will lose your right to a hearing on your eviction and the eviction will move much quicker. You begin counting the 5 days the day after you receive the Summons; weekends and holidays count as days, but the 5 days can not end on a weekend or holiday. If you do not respond, you will lose automatically.

You respond to the Summons by completing a court form called an “Answer.” Your answer must filed on this form and it must be typewritten and you must follow certain legal procedures. The Eviction Defense Collaborative at 995 Market St, Suite 1200 (Market & 6th Streets), will help you complete the paperwork and file an Answer. You must go there in person (hours are 9:30 AM to 11:30 AM and 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM, Monday through Friday.

The eviction hearing is a "trial" and you can demand a jury trial and, if you do, your landlord will have to sit down with you before a judge and try to reach a compromise settlement.

You may have various legal defenses: Your not paying rent can be justified because you were withholding rent because of uncorrected housing code violations or your lease said nothing about dogs or you know for a fact that the landlord’s mother’s not moving in because she supposedly moved in upstairs last year. Or you may have procedural defenses: Your landlord accepted rent after the 30 day notice expired or the eviction notice was not a legal one.

You may want to talk to a tenant attorney about representing you for your eviction. This will probably cost you money but if you have good legal or procedural defenses and you want to remain in your home permanently, it may be worth it.

If you have demanded a jury, before you go to court for your trial, you will attend a “Settlement Conference.” This is where the judge attempts to have you and your landlord settle the case. Your landlord probably wants to go to court less than you do and tenants can often reach an acceptable settlement at this point. Remember, though, you do not have to settle your case; you have the right to have your day in court.

When you go to court, your landlord will present his case to the jury and then you will present your case. You will be able to bring witnesses and present other evidence, such as reports from the Department of Building Inspection. If the jury decides in your favor, you will get to stay. If they decide in the landlord’s favor, the judge will send the eviction order to the Sheriff.

Note On Whether Evictions Go On Landlord Credit Reports: Court filings of evictions are sealed for 60 days and if the tenant prevails they will be sealed permanently. For evictions which have shown up on your tenant report, see this link to the FTC requirements concerning landlord credit reports .

The Third Notice—The Sheriff's Notice
Once the Sheriff has received the court order, he will come and post a Notice To Vacate on your door. The notice gives you five days to leave and if you do not leave by that time, the sheriff will come and remove you. It’s best to leave by the fifth day and avoid having your belongings put into storage.

If you can’t leave within the five days, you can go back to court and file a “Stay of Execution.” You will need to pay one week’s rent to the court and this will delay the eviction for another week.

How Long Until I’m Evicted?
If you file an Answer to the Summons and Complaint, it will take at least 4-6 weeks from that point before the Sheriff evicts you. Sometimes it can take much longer, especially if you have a good case or if you aggressively defend your eviction on legal and procedural grounds.Click here for an eviction flow chart.

If you do not file an Answer to the Summons and Complaint, the Sheriff could remove you from your home in the next week or two.

For help with some specific evictions, see

Ellis Evictions

Landlord or Relative Move In


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