info@sftu.org 415-282-6622

The Eviction Process

Eviction Flow Chart (Shows timeline and steps in the eviction process.)

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 process before you can be forced to move, unless you are a sole lodger living with the owner.

Beware: Most “no fault” evictions require landlords to pay relocation payments 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 payments.

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 Payments?

“No fault” evictions (just causes of Ellis Act, owner move-in, demolition, capital improvement, substantial rehabilitation, sale of unit converted to a condo, lead paint abatement) get relocation payments (click here for Ellis relocation amounts; click here for the amounts for owner move in, demolition, capital improvement, substantial rehabilitation 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 challenges the 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 Except for a Sole Lodger Living With the Owner

When you rent a residential unit, you have legal possession until you either choose to give up possession or the landlord gets a court order for possession except a sole lodger living with the owner may be evicted without going to court. 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 cannot 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 damages as well as 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 usually 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 “fault” evictions (e.g., “pay the rent in 3 days or be evicted”) while 60 or 30 day notices are “no-fault” (“I will be moving into your apartment”); these no-fault notices must be at least 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, if you are covered under rent control, you can only be evicted for one of 16 “just” causes and the eviction notice must state what cause the landlord has.

Eviction threat but no official notice? Find out what to do here.
 

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 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 cannot 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 be filed on this form and it must be typewritten and you must follow certain legal procedures. The Eviction Defense Collaborative, will help you complete the paperwork and file an Answer. You must go there in person.

You can demand a jury trial. If you demand a trial, your landlord will have to present the case before a judge or jury.

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 can prove that the landlord’s mother is not moving in. 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.

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 trial 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 trial, your landlord will present his case to the judge or 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 the judge or jury decides in the landlord’s favor, the judge will send the eviction order to the Sheriff.
 

Credit Reports and Evictions

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 use of credit reports. Be aware, however, that tenant screening services may report the eviction even if the tenant wins the case.
 

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. If you can’t leave within the five days, you can go back to court and request 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. It may be possible to get more than one Stay of Execution. After the Notice to Vacate or Stay of Execution has expired, the Sheriff will remove you and your belongings.
 

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.

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

The SF Tenants Union is supported by your memberships and donations. If you find information on this web site useful, or if you want to support our work, please join or donate. Members get even more information via our Tenants Rights Handbook plus access to phone counseling.
Join or Donate By Credit or Debit Card