Condo & TIC Conversions

TICs (Tenancies In Common) are usually the first step for removing housing from rent control to create owner-occupied housing for the profit of real estate investors. TICs are joint ownership of a building where each owner has a side agreement to only occupy a single unit although the owners have joint liability and usually a shared mortgage. However, the preferred form of owner-occupied housing is a condo with separate titles instead of a TIC, and a conversion to condo has strong protections for tenants for certain types of evictions (such as owner move-in, Ellis Act, temporary capital improvement evictions, and demolition). Buyouts, which are used to get around the protections in evictions, also are highly regulated so the loss of housing for the tenant may be fought by the restrictions in converting to condos as well as the methods below. Come to our drop-in clinic and/or get our handbook to find out more information on fighting conversion to condos.


Tenants-in-Common (TIC) Conversion to Condo Conversion Bypassing Lottery

Real estate industry-friendly courts have fought hard against closing the loopholes in the city’s condo conversion law which allowed an unlimited number of TIC conversions. The San Francisco Tenants Union pushed back and with our efforts, a moratorium limiting conversions to condos was passed effective until at least the year 2024 except for some two-unit buildings. TICs already in existence when this moratorium passed in 2013 are allowed to “bypass” the condo lottery that is usually required and convert to condos before 2024 depending on when they met the owner occupancy requirements. However, tenants in these bypass conversions must be offered a lifetime lease.


Tenants-in-Common (TIC) Tenants Can Be Evicted

If the tenant is in a TIC that is not being converted to a condo, the tenant does not have a right to a lease solely because of living in a TIC and tenants can be evicted if the landlord has an allowable reason under the Rent Ordinance (a conversion to TIC itself is not an allowable reason). However, the eviction or buyout of a tenant may limit the ability to convert to condos as noted above, so the landlord may harass the tenant even though it is illegal. Therefore, it is in the interest of the tenant to fight the conversion to TIC.


State Department of Real Estate Regulates TICs in 5 or More Unit Buildings

The California Department of Real Estate continues to regulate TICs as condominiums but their jurisdiction is limited to subdivisions of 5 or more units. Thus TICs in 5+ unit buildings must go through the state subdivision process before the units can be sold. State regulation does not limit the number of TICs nor give tenants any protections, but it does make converting to TICs considerably more difficult. Tenants living in buildings with 5 or more units, where the landlord is selling the units as TICs, can put an end to the sale by filing a complaint with the California Department of Real Estate. The forms and instructions are available here.


Fight TIC Conversions From Day One!

You cannot be evicted just for a TIC conversion if your unit is covered under the Rent Ordinance. Usually Ellis Act or owner move-ins evictions are used as the just cause for eviction. Landlords will also try to buy tenants out or threaten them out (or usually a combination of both). Remember, you cannot be evicted just because a building is being sold or just been bought.

The best thing to do is not worry about which just cause will eventually be used and fight the conversion. If the landlord can’t sell it, then no one will be evicted by a new owner. Start fighting the day a “for sale” sign goes up. Potential buyers often have not thought through the fact that they will be evicting someone or evicting a family or someone who is senior or disabled. Nor have they usually thought through what it might cost in money and time to evict someone. They’re thinking and hoping that you will move out the moment they buy the building. Educate prospective buyers! Let them know they will be evicting people and what that will mean to those people, as well as what it will mean to the landlord’s pocketbook and time schedule. If you show that you will put up a fight, you can probably convince almost two-thirds of prospective buyers that they don’t want to buy your building, because it looks like a lot of hassle. And maybe you can slow down the process so much that the sale becomes unprofitable. Many tenants have fought their condo conversion evictions this way.


Suggestions for Fighting  a TIC Conversion

Don’t Go Out of Your Way To Cooperate

The realtor will want to be showing your apartment all hours of the day and on short notice to prospective buyers. Remember, the law says the landlord must give you 24 hours written notice before going in your apartment and that such access is during “normal business hours” although that can include weekends for open houses. Don’t feel forced into agreeing to constant open houses or buyers walking in and out at all times with little or no notice.

Be careful, though, that you don’t cross the line and refuse all access, since the law says the landlord has a right to access to show the apartment when it’s up for sale. Just follow the law and allow access with proper notice and at proper times. Also, don’t sign any “estoppel agreements,” “rental questionnaire” or anything else the landlord or realtor wants you to sign unless your rental agreement requires you to sign them. These are for the benefits of the buyer and seller and usually only hurt you. You usually don’t have to sign anything so why make it easy on them? Be creative in how you cooperate. Delay your cleaning for a few days so the place is a mess for their open house; invite friends over for a noisy Super Bowl party!


Put Up Signs

Signs in your window, on your door, and inside your apartment which say things like “Buyers Beware: We Will Fight Our Eviction to the End!,” or “Beware: You Will Be Evicting Children (Seniors/People With Disabilities, etc.) If You Buy This Unit,” or “Buyers: Ask Your Lawyer How Much It Will Cost to Evict Us.” These signs will let potential buyers know they’re in for a fight and can get them thinking. Use their guilt and their self-interest (the money it costs and time it takes for an eviction).


Make Flyers

Small handouts you can give to prospective buyers are very powerful, especially at open houses. Describe yourself and other tenants and tell why you want to remain living there. Humanize the eviction for them and most buyers will back off. Also, if you know the building has defects, a leaky roof or a heating system which never works, etc., let the prospective buyer know about them. Make sure you know for a fact that these defects exist.


Picket Open Houses

If an open house is set up, get your friends and neighbors together and set up a picket line that buyers have to cross. Carry signs and give out the flyers and talk to people one on one. You’ll be surprised at how many potential buyers just turn around and go home.

Updated 11/17.

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