General Question

mirifique's avatar

Do I have any tenant rights in San Francisco if I do not have a lease?

Asked by mirifique (1511 points ) May 19th, 2012

I don’t have a lease but am paying rent every month. Do I have any rights or defenses per the San Francisco landlord-tenant law against unjust eviction?

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18 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Without a lease, you have no rights.

lillycoyote's avatar

I have to, respectfully, disagree with @gailcalled, Yes, you do have rights as a tenant, of course you do. I’m not sure about California landlord tenant law and some municipalities have their own statutes but if you don’t have a lease you are most likely a month to month tenant. Landlords must still follow the law while you are a tenant and follow proper, legal procedure in any attempt to evict you.

If you are month to month tenant, without a lease, you can be evicted without cause as long as you are given proper notice and everything else is done legally. If you have a lease you can’t be evicted without cause until the term of the lease is over. Additionally, your rights and responsibilities as a tenant are governed by state and local law only, not by the terms of a lease, which would have to be written in accordance with landlord tenant law but might have additional provisions; either requiring something of you or prohibiting something, like having a pet.

Those are the main differences between being a tenant with a lease and one without one, I believe, but I am not a lawyer. And again, California law and any statutes specific to San Francisco would apply.

Here’s a link to the San Francisco Tenants Union

They have a lot of information on their site, resources and contact information and links to other resources. I you are having any issues they may able to help you.

Judi's avatar

Rental agreements don’t have to be in writing to be valid in California. San Francisco is probably
Y one of the most tenant friendly cities in the world.
You have a lot of rights. I am familiar with the California landlord tenant laws but SF has a bunch of extra rules to protect tenants. @lillycoyote ‘s link is probably a great place to start.

—As an aside, you might want to rent Pacidic Heights on Netflix for a little freaky entertainment about how tenant friendly SF’s landlord tenant laws are.

Megan64's avatar

As a San Franciscan, I can agree; the Tenants Union will totally help you out.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t now California law. In FL a residential tenant can be served with 15 days notice to have to vacate the premises. It isn’t seen as an eviction really, but the minimum legal notice required during a month to month situation without a lease.

Did you have a lease andthen expired and you stayed on month to month? If so there may have been a provision in it about changing to month to month and being given a specific time for notice, which might be longer than the law requires.

I agree with those above to make a phone call to someone who should be up on the laws.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

You have occupant rights if you have no lease. Call the board of Realtors or the Tenant Landlord Association there. In California you DO have rights if you actually reside somewhere even if you have no lease. You must be given written notice to be forced to leave. It is 14 or 30 days (you’ll have to check that out). The owner of the property doesn’t have to go through the whole eviction process though. Once they have given you notice and the notice expires, you are a trespasser and the police will remove you. This is my opinion based on my time in California. Check with the police/sheriff/attorney/real estate board/etc. etc. Or, research online for California Landlord/Tenant law—it will be found in the property code.

Judi's avatar

@MollyMcGuire , that’s not quite true. Even after the 30 day notice is up, they still have to get an order from the judge to evict you. once the sheriff has served the eviction papers failure to leave the property would be considered trespassing.

lillycoyote's avatar

@MollyMcGuire, @Judi is correct. I’m not sure about the entire state of California, but at least in San Francisco, according to information provided by the San Francisco Tenants Union, evictions can only be processed through the courts.

From the link above:

Evictions Are Done Only Through Court

When you rent an apartment, you have legal possession until you either choose to give up possession or the landlord gets a court order for possession. 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.

And there are a number of steps that have to occur between the first notice and when the landlord is able to get a court order of possession.

Also, the landlord is required to give 3 days notice for “correctible” causes; if you are behind on your rent, or have a dog, e.g., in violation of your lease, and you are given an opportunity to correct those things and avoid having the landlord begin the eviction process. Other that, the landlord must give 30 days notice if you have lived there less than a year and 60 days notice if you have lived there more than a year.

Bottom line, unless and until the landlord has followed proper legal procedures to evict, through the courts, and gets a court order for possession, the tenant has the right to be in and on the property. The tenant is not trespasser until and unless that happens. At that point the sheriff comes, and then it’s over. You’re out.

JLeslie's avatar

@lillycoyote Are you sure that applies to rental situations without a lease? Your link says the tenant will be given time to correct curable problems, like missing a rental payment, but that would not apply in this situation.

It has to go through the courts if the tenant refuses to leave and the eviction process is necessary. Giving a tenant notice is not the same as evicting, but it can be the first step if the tenant won’t vacate the premises.

Judi's avatar

@JLeslie Yes it does. Lease or no lease, written or verbal. (In California.)

JLeslie's avatar

@Judi What exactly are you referring to? That the tenant has a leg to stand on even once an eviction notice is served? There is nothing to correct in the case of month to month, the landlord has the right to terminate the agreement, doesn’t he? With proper notice in writing?

Judi's avatar

He does, but if the tenant refuses to move, they landlord has to file an unlawful detainer notice with the court and the judge has to issue a writ of eviction before you can force anyone to move. This IS California! It can take another 2–3 months beyond the end of the 30 day notice to get someone out.
A little “trick” I use if someone is really a problem to their neighbors is to issue the 30 day notice just before rent is due. The type of person I usually have to give a 30 day to will get mad and not pay the rent. Then I will issue a 3 Day Pay or Quit. When they don’t pay in 3 days, I will start the legal eviction process on the 4th day so I don’t have to wait 30 days to begin the process and wait for a court date.

JLeslie's avatar

@Judi Wait, you are saying the person renting has a leg to stand on even after the eviction, but then you say you need the eviction to force someone to move. It sounds like you contradicted yourself? I am not using evict and a simple written notice by the landlord synonomously. To me eviction is a legal court order.

lillycoyote's avatar

@JLeslie Yes, it, what constitute lawful eviction here, applies whether or not you have a lease. These are state and municipal statutes. While a lease has to be written in accordance with state and local statutes it is separate agreement. A lease cannot override or conflict with California state laws and San Francisco statutes regarding tenant and landlord rights and responsibilities.

A tenant “doesn’t have a leg to stand on” after fully and completely legal eviction, where all the Is have been dotted and all the Ts crossed, but any tenant certainly has at least a couple of legs to stand on upon and after merely receiving the initial, the first notice of eviction, from the landlord.

If you look at the statutes you will see that @Judi, and I are correct. Under California and San Francisco law, the first notice of eviction that a landlord gives a tenant is just the first step of the eviction process.

This is matter of law.

Judi's avatar

An eviction is not an eviction in California until the Judge signs the writ and the Sheriff comes. Until then the landlord doesn’t have the right to deny the occupant access.

JLeslie's avatar

@Judi Ok, it is the same in FL basically. For whatever reason we were miscommunicating I think. The only difference is eviction, the process, is a little fast in FL, it can happen in a month once the process starts.

@lillycoyote Yes, I just was only using the term “eviction” for the court order, to try an avoid confusion. I usually use the word “notice” when a landlord simply asks a tenant to leave or is terminating a lease. You are using the word eviction for both when a landlord takes the first steps to get rid of a tenant and the final eviction notice by the courts.

Judi's avatar

I have heard that in Texas a landlord can just throw the tenants stuff put in the yard. In California, even after the eviction ther are very restrictive laws about handling abandoned property.

JLeslie's avatar

@Judi I am pretty sure after the eviction everything can be removed from the property by the landlord, and I don’t think there are guidelines for the tenant’s property to be handled with care, although my memory might be wrong there. I would need to look it up, and of course the laws may have changed. I think what happens is the writ is done, and then there is 48 hours notice to the tenant, and then they basically lose all rights to be on the property period. The sheriff at that point can/will come and physically remove them.

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