Ellis Evictions Under the San Francisco Rent Ordinance

The Ellis Act allows a landlord to take a building off the rental market. See Cal. Gov’t Code § 7060. All units in the building are removed from the rental market, even units without tenants. The rental restrictions are on current and all subsequent owners. The landlord must record the restrictions with the Assessor-Recorder.

Ellis Act Rental Restrictions

For ten years after the Ellis, a unit will have rental restrictions.  Id.  The rent restrictions are valid even if the landlord demolishes the building and constructs new units.

Right to Return

Evicted tenants wishing to return to the unit at the original rent must send a request to the landlord within thirty days of displacement and must keep the landlord and Rent Board updated with current contact information. Id. Once the landlord decides to re-let the Ellised unit, the landlord must notify the Rent Board and the tenant.  Id. Even where the tenant did not reserve the right to return within thirty days of displacement, the tenants may still exercise their right to return within thirty days of the notice to re-let filed by the landlord with the Rent Board.

Punitive Damages Against Landlord for Re-Renting Ellis Act Units

Where a landlord re-lets a unit, the displaced tenants can recover damages against the landlord. The amount of damages depends on when the landlord re-rents the unit. The sooner a landlord tries to re-rent, the greater the damages. A landlord who tries to re-let a unit within two years of an Ellis Act eviction is liable for actual and unlimited punitive damages. Conversely, if a landlord re-lets a unit after two years, the punitive damages are limited to six months rent.

Ellis Act Eviction Notice Requirements and Relocation Assistance

If a landlord wishes to remove units from the rental market, the landlord must serve all tenants with a 120-day Notice of Intent to Withdraw from the Rental Market. The notice must also be filed with the San Francisco Rent Board. All tenants are entitled to relocation assistance of roughly $5,000 per tenant – half of which must be paid at the time of the notice and the other half at move-out.

Elderly and Disabled Tenants

Elderly or disabled tenants with at least one year in the building have the right to extend the 120 days to one year. Elderly is defined as sixty-two or older. Disabled is defined by the Fair Employment and Housing Act found at Cal. Gov’t Code § 12926. If a tenant is elderly or disabled, they must give written notice to the owner within sixty (60) days of the Notice of Intent to Withdraw. Elderly and disabled tenants receive additional moving allowance of roughly $3,000, half payable within fifteen days of notification to the landlord and half at move-out. It is important to note that even though one unit has an elderly or disabled tenant, the tenants in the other units can still be moved within 120 days. On a side note, one scenario where a landlord is prevented from withdrawing all units is where one or more tenants have a fixed-term lease that has not yet expired. For example, where a new tenant has four months remaining on a one-year lease, all tenants in the building cannot be evicted for four months.

Eviction Lawsuit

If a tenant is still in a unit after the expiration of the 120 notice, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. The only defense to an Ellis Act eviction is that a landlord failed to follow the procedural safeguards under California law. See Cal. Gov’t Code § 7060.6.