Knowing Your Rights as a Renter Can Help to Reduce Headaches, Landlord Woes

Here are some SF rent laws and tips that all students need to know before the renting season begins:

-Be sure to get everything written down in paper. Make photocopies of all checks, leases, or letters. Anytime you notify your landlord of something, follow up with a letter so you have proof of a request.

-Be cautious of the postings on Craigslist. Bring a parent with you when checking out the properties. Ask to speak to the previous renters or neighbors for more insight into the property and landlord.

-If you are already living in an apartment, the annual allowable rent increase amount effective March 1, 2009 through Feb. 28, 2010 is 2.2 percent. Your landlord may not increase rent more than 2.2 percent than what you are currently paying for it.

-There is an entire eviction process. Landlords cannot simply evict you and expect you to leave immediately. You have the right to challenge the eviction in court. If the landlord wins, the sheriff will post the final eviction notice and evict tenants at the end of notice period. Only the sheriff has the right to remove you from your property. If you win, you can continue to stay in your place. Landlords cannot remove any of your belongings, lock you out of the building, or turn off your utilities. This is a violation of the California Civil Code Section 789.3.

-However, if you are being evicted due to no fault of your own (the owner wants to move in or the building is being significantly improved or demolished), Proposition H allows tenants to receive $4500 in relocation fees, plus an additional $3,000 for seniors or disabled tenants or families with children.

-By law, your landlord is obligated to keep your home in habitable condition. Your landlord must provide adequate heat, weatherproofing of the doors, windows, and roofs, reasonable amount of hot and cold running water, housing free of garbage, rats, and other vermin, as well as working plumbing and gas. You should write your landlord a letter immediately requesting any repairs. Failure to act on your landlord’s behalf can result in penalty fees. Landlords cannot raise your rent because they fixed something in your home.

-Landlords must provide you heating. Section 306 of the Housing Code says landlords can be fined up to $1,000 or imprisoned for up to six months if they do not provide you adequate heating.

-Landlords are required to do a pre-move-out inspection with you. Landlords must also give you the opportunity to fix anything that is wrong. The landlord can only hold your security deposit for “reasonable” cleaning charges, unpaid rent, and extreme damage beyond normal wear and tear. Landlords must give you an itemized receipt of all the deductions from your security deposit. Security deposits must be accounted for or returned in 21 days. Your landlord must also pay interest on your security deposit. The 2008-2009 interest rate for your security deposit is 5.25 percent.

-Landlords cannot enter your home without your consent or the court’s approval. Landlords can only enter your home with your consent if they give you written notice 24 hours in advance in only some circumstances like fixing a repair you both agreed on, to show your home to prospective buyers, renters, contractors, repair persons, if you have already moved out, or if they received a court order.

-Proposition M prohibits landlords from harassing you even if you have not paid rent on time. Prop. M also allows tenants to get rent decreases if they are harassed. Landlords are not allowed to harass you physically or verbally nor can they retaliate by raising rent, ignoring requests for repairs, eviction, or withholding your security deposit if you sue them or report them to the SF Rent Board.

-Landlords cannot block you from entering your own home. They cannot lock you out, change your locks, or remove your door or window. If the landlord does this, call the police. The landlord is violating Penal Code 418.

7 thoughts on “Knowing Your Rights as a Renter Can Help to Reduce Headaches, Landlord Woes

  1. What do you do if you were denied to go to court. In florida you must leave money in the courts, but you can request the court decide how much. My motion was ignored. There were several issues including an attempt to pay. (local lawyer like to ask why I wanted to staythere, the reasons were obvious — I couldn’t move YET and they wouldn’t release me from the lease.
    The eviction was done so fast that I had no time to do anything. The money was used to move. They took advantage of the draconian law and of me when I was ill — from stress and later I learned from Mold. Now that I am out of the place they say it is set in stone.
    So now they sue me and I can never rent a decent place here again.
    I was never late in rent in 9 years. This was due to the job ending and unemployment not sending checks for almost three months.
    I assured them I would pay and tried to when checks arrived, but they said it wasn’t enough and bluffed that eviction had started.
    I was too sick to keep struggling.
    I need legal help, can anyone advise.

  2. I just wanted to make this clear that these tips are for the city of San Francisco. Each city and county will have their own laws and ordinances. Please check with your city for their laws.

  3. well all I want to say is that there is some landlords out there that harrassed me and my boyfriend and are trying to evicted us for somethings that what we didn’t even do.and saying bad things about us because we are aborigenal.I think that is I would like some comments on that. and tell me what I can do about that.thanks and have a great day.

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  5. Hello there! This article could not be written any better! Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept preaching about this. I most certainly will send this information to him. Pretty sure he’s going to have a very good read. Many thanks for sharing!

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