Many people move out due to eviction threats and “advisories” or “warnings” that owner move-in or Ellis Act evictions are forthcoming. In fact, there may be more people displaced this way than due to actual owner move-in and Ellis Act evictions. These threats usually take the form of a letter or phone call telling the tenants that “my mother will probably be moving into your unit next May…” or “I wanted to let you know I will be doing an Ellis Act eviction this summer.” If the threat is in writing, the letter is often made to look like an eviction notice but will specifically state “this is not an eviction notice.” Far too many tenants move out based on these letters or calls and the landlords simply re-rent the units at a much higher rent.
Landlords seek to get tenants out via these threats because doing an actual owner move-in and Ellis Act eviction means that re-rental restrictions apply to the unit and tenants can sue for wrongful eviction if the landlord does not move in or does not take the building off the rental market as required. If landlords can get tenants to move out based on a threat or advisory, they will claim the tenant moved out “voluntarily” and thus they are not bound by the re-rental restrictions.
If You Get An Eviction Threat/Advisory
Do not move out! You do not have an eviction notice. Landlords will claim that they are merely being “nice” trying to give a tenant extra time. Usually they are not trying to be helpful. If a landlord wants to give someone extra time, there is no reason they cannot give a tenant a longer than required eviction notice at the appropriate time. The Tenants Union’s experience is that if a landlord really wants to evict you for an owner move-in or the Ellis Act, they will give you an eviction notice—not one of these threats or advisories. Besides not moving, you should also file a “Report of Alleged Wrongful Eviction” at the San Francisco Rent Board to document that you received such a threat. This will help you later if you do end up moving because the law contains important protections, but require the threat was adequately documented. Filing a Report of Alleged Wrongful Eviction will provide such documentation.
Win a Lawsuit for Wrongful Eviction Based on a Threat
It is presumed that any tenant who vacates a unit within 120 days after a threat left because of that threat. If the landlord fails to use the dwelling unit for the purpose stated in the threat, it is presumed that the threat was in bad faith.
Re-Rental Restrictions of the Just Cause for the Eviction Kick In After a Threat
Any dwelling unit which a tenant vacates because of an eviction threat will be subject to the restrictions within the just cause (for example, owner move-in or the Ellis Act limits the right to re-rent).
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