Rent control is a housing policy that regulates rent adjustments and evictions by private landlords.

Description

The goal of rent control is to safeguard tenants from excessive rent increases and, at the same time, to assure landlords of fair and adequate rents. In this type of program, the City regulates rent increases and evictions in the private market, but does not provide the housing itself.

San Francisco’s rent control law, Chapter 37 of the Administrative Code, was passed in 1979 and it:

  • Created limits on how much landlords can increase rent for units built before June 13, 1979
  • Established rules for when landlords can lawfully evict
  • Established the Rent Arbitration Board to implement the law

When landlords want to increase rent (beyond the annual allowable increase) they generally must file a petition with the Rent Board. In most cases, landlords must also file notices to evict tenants. Tenants may also file petitions against their landlords. The Rent Board’s primary function is to conduct hearings and mediations of tenant and landlord petitions regarding the adjustment of rents under the City’s rent control laws. The Rent Board also investigates reports of Alleged Wrongful Eviction.

Evictions affects housing affordability in a variety of ways. One way is via the number of rent controlled units available. Evictions can affect the supply of rent controlled units if the goal of the eviction is to convert the unit to an owner occupied unit. Evictions can also result in an increase in the asking rent, as landlords may rent units now vacant due to evictions to new tenants at prevailing market rates. Changes and improvements to units that result in allowable rent increases may affect affordability for current occupants, although in most cases financial hardship provisions protect tenants.

The table below summarizes the reasons for evictions, distinguishes between good faith or “no fault” evictions and “fault” evictions, where the tenant has committed an act that serves as a “just cause” for eviction. The table aslo indicates which eviction reasons impact the supply of rent controlled units.

Reason for eviction Fault or No Fault Supply Impact[1] Citation
Non-payment of Rent Fault   37.9(a)(1)(A)
Habitual Late Payment of Rent or Frequently returned checks Fault   37.9(a)(1)(B-C)
Breach of Lease Agreement Fault   37.9(a)(2)
Nuisance Fault   37.9(a)(3)
Illegal Use of Unit Fault   37.9(a)(4)
Failure to Sign Lease Renewal Fault   37.9(a)(5)
Denial of Access to Unit Fault   37.9(a)(6)
Unapproved Subtenant Fault   37.9(a)(7)
Owner Move In No Fault Yes 37.9(a)(8)
Condo Conversion No Fault Yes 37.9(a)(9)
Demolition No Fault Yes 37.9(a)(10)
Capital Improvement[2] No Fault   37.9(a)(11)
Substantial Rehabilitation No Fault   37.9(a)(12)
Ellis Act Withdrawal No Fault Yes 37.9(a)(13)
Lead Remediation[2] No Fault   37.9(a)(14)
Development Agreement No Fault Depends[3] 37.9(a)(15)
Good Samaritan Tenancy Ends No Fault   37.9(a)(16)
Roommate Living in Same Unit No Fault   37.9(b)
Other      

[1] Some no fault evictions can indicate a change in unit status. For these units, the eviction may result in a loss, either permanently or for a substantial period of time, of the rent controlled unit in the rental market. Some of these units may return to being rentals. If the owners convert back to rentals, the unit still falls under the rent control ordinance.

[2] For both capital improvements and lead remediation, the tenant is temporarily displaced and provided with compensation. Once repairs are complete, the tenant may move back into the unit.

[3] The terms of development agreements are on a case by case basis and the impact on the number of rent control units varies depending on the agreement terms. Terms can include a requirement to replace rent controlled units at a different location or to provide rent controlled units to occupants in place at the time of the agreement.

Data

Organizations

Rent Arbitration Board | The Rent Board implements the rent ordinance and establishes additional rules; arbitrates and mediates disputes between tenants and landlords; investigates complaints of wrongful evictions and provides other services, such as counseling on the details of the law.

Resources