San Francisco has a robust rent control ordinance that not only protects certain tenants from unlimited rent increases, but also requires landlords to have a “just cause” reason to pursue evictions and prevents tenants from being harassed by their landlords.
The Rent Ordinance generally limits how much a landlord can increase a tenant’s rent each year. The Rent Ordinance also prevents landlords from evicting or attempting to evict a tenant unless the landlord has an allowable “just cause” reason. Some of these reasons include non-payment of rent, breach of lease and owner or relative move-in, among others.
All rental units in San Francisco are covered by the rent and eviction protections unless specifically exempted by the Ordinance. Rental units that do not have rent or eviction control include those that were constructed before 1979, rooms in hotels or boarding houses (unless the tenant has resided there continuously for 32 days or more) or dormitories related to an institution of higher education, among other exemptions.
The San Francisco Rent Ordinance also prohibits landlords from engaging in tenant harassment. The harassment that is prohibited by the Ordinance includes failing to make repairs, substantially interfering with the tenant’s quiet enjoyment, abusing the right of access into a rental unit, threatening a tenant by word or gesture with physical harm, influencing a tenant to vacate through intimidation or coercion and refusing to accept or acknowledge a tenant’s lawful rent payment, among others.
If a landlord causes a tenant to move out involuntarily without an allowable “just cause” reason, causes a tenant to move out involuntarily due to an increase in the rent in violation of the Rent Ordinance limitations or engages in tenant harassment, the tenant can sue the landlord in court for money damages, including three times the actual damages the tenant suffered, emotional distress, loss of the rent-controlled tenancy and attorneys’ fees, among others.