Tenants’ Rights in Single Family Homes

Author: Michael S. Dorsi

San Francisco’s Rent Ordinance rules concerning housing do not apply to single family homes, right? Wrong.

San Francisco has both eviction controls and rent controls.  California’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (Civil Code § 1954.50 et seq.) exempts single family homes (and other separately alienable dwellings) from local government’s rules that limit rent increases. The San Francisco Rent Ordinance reflects this rule, exempting single family homes from the limits on rent increases. As a result, landlords renting out single family homes can raise the rent beyond the increases permitted by the San Francisco Rent Ordinance.

However, the San Francisco Rent Ordinance also has specific rules for owner move-in evictions.  Single family homes are governed, generally, by eviction controls.

Single family homes in San Francisco . . .

So what happens if owners say they want to move in (perhaps offering a buyout), the tenants do not agree to move out, then the owners, rather than going through the Rent Ordinance procedures for owner move-in, raise the rent? And raise the rent a lot? Is that an improper circumvention of owner move-in rules, or is it a legally protected rent increase?

These are the facts alleged in Gavrilov et al. v. Chang et al., San Francisco Superior Court case #CGC-17-560967. Based on the briefs and oral argument on January 4, 2018, it seems that the California Court of Appeal has not answered this question. For now, the Superior Court allowed the case to proceed past the initial challenge to the pleadings, indicating that the Gavrilovs presented a valid legal theory.  The Court indicated that it was open to a trial considering whether the landlords’ dueling attempts are at contrasting purposes and could circumvent the eviction control requirements of the Rent Ordinance.  The judge noted that this might be a good case for the Court of Appeals to offer some clarity. Stay tuned…

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