Landlord-Tenant Law


Eviction is an epidemic that often impacts members of vulnerable communities, particularly in the Bay Area.  Landlords frequently target low-income people, the elderly, the disabled, and families.  Eviction can be a catalyst to many financial woes for a tenant and is one of the major contributors to homelessness.  When a person is faced with losing their home, they deserve to be represented by attorneys who are experts in the law, passionate about tenant rights, easy to understand, and caring.  The attorneys at Tobener Ravenscroft LLP have helped more than 10,000 tenants win disputes against landlords, property managers, and municipalities.  Our knowledge of the intricacies of state and local tenant laws is unmatched.  We litigate aggressively, maximize leverage, and have a 99% success rate.  Most importantly, we understand how stressful it is to be a tenant in the Bay Area, and we are fiercely committed to the protection of and expansion of tenant rights.

What is landlord-tenant law?

Landlord-tenant law refers to the laws that govern the rental of commercial and residential property.  These rules, rights, duties, and remedies can be found primarily in state laws and local ordinances, but for certain disputes such as housing discrimination and disability accommodations, federal law may govern.

In the State of California, state law will be followed unless the tenant lives in a rent-controlled city, in which case the local laws will trump state law.  In rent-controlled cities, the laws protecting the rights of tenants are more expansive than state law.  Local ordinances in these jurisdictions control the amount a tenant’s rent can be raised each year and limit eviction of a tenant to enumerated reasons under the ordinance.

In the Bay Area, the jurisdictions with rent-control ordinances include the City of San Francisco, the City of Berkeley, the City of Alameda, the City of Oakland, the City of East Palo Alto, the City of Fremont, the City of Hayward, the City of Mountain View, the City of Richmond, and the City of San Jose.

Some of the major areas covered by state and/or local landlord-tenant laws include lease contents and disclosures, rent amounts and annual increases, eviction notices and rules, security deposit amounts and return of security deposit, habitability and repairs, tenant’s right to withhold rent, landlord access to the property, prohibitions on retaliation and harassment, and discrimination.

We are tenant attorneys only and never represent landlords.

Our tenant lawyers have seen firsthand the results of landlords attempting to take advantage of tenants in order to maximize their profits.  Landlords operate on the assumption that tenants do not know their rights and do not have the means to protect themselves through legal representation.  The balance of power between landlords and tenants is vastly unequal.  We seek to reduce this inequity by representing tenants only and fighting for a just outcome on their behalf.

There are many attorneys that represent both landlords and tenants.  Tenants should steer clear of these dual-party attorneys.  It is a myth that splitting time representing both landlords and tenants provides attorneys with a strategic advantage.  The truth is that landlord-tenant law can be extremely complex, and a tenant should seek out an attorney that is not only an expert in the law but also a loyal advocate that wholly defends tenant rights.  Representing both sides does not make an attorney an expert in both sides.  The lack of allegiance and focus to a position contributes to the weakness of whatever position that dual-party attorney happens to be representing in the moment.

Our attorneys have decades of experience representing tenants only and have faced just about every landlord-tenant dispute imaginable.  We are activists that are deeply committed to tenants rights and cumulatively devote approximately 500 hours a year volunteering at nonprofits representing tenants.  Tenants deserve to be represented by a firm that spends every day tirelessly advocating for the expansion of tenant rights and defending existing ones.

Our expertise in representing tenants is evident through the just results we obtain for our clients and through the firm’s continual recognition by the legal community.  We have have collected millions of dollars on behalf of our clients.  The firm has won the SF Bay Guardian Business of the Year, and we have been featured in California Lawyer and the Daily Journal, and have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times, Wired, and Reuters.  Joseph Tobener has been named a California Super Lawyer, and of our other attorneys have been named as a Northern California Rising Stars by Super Lawyers, an honor reserved for lawyers who exhibit excellence in practice.

What types of cases does Tobener Ravenscroft LLP represent tenants in?

Our firm is happy to speak with tenants regarding any situation where a landlord is acting contrary to the law.  The cases that we most often assist tenants with are the following:

  • Wrongful evictions,
  • Constructive evictions,
  • Owner Move-In evictions,
  • Ellis Act evictions,
  • Renovation/Capital improvement evictions,
  • Buy-Out offers,
  • Habitability/Repair issues,
  • Landlord harassment,
  • Tenancy discrimination, and
  • Landlord-caused injuries

If you are a tenant with a landlord-tenant dispute, please call Tobener Ravenscroft LLP to speak with a tenant attorney about your options.

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