Owner Move In Evictions in the Bay Area: What They Are and How To Protect Tenants' Rights

Certain cities in the San Francisco Bay Area have important tenant protections which require a landlord to have a specific reason – a just cause – to evict a tenant. Cities like San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley have these just-cause-for-eviction laws.

One of the common just causes is known as owner move in eviction. This is where a landlord who is a record owner of the property intends to move into the tenant’s unit and live there as his or her principal place of residence for a period of 36 continuous months.

There is a related just cause called relative move in eviction which allows a close relative of the landlord, typically a spouse, child, sibling, parent, or grandparent, to move into the unit. Like owner move in situations, the relative must intend to make the apartment his or her principal place of residence for 36 continuous months. The cities’ ordinances differ on which relatives qualify for a relative move in eviction. Berkeley and Oakland are more restrictive than San Francisco. In Berkeley, only a landlord’s spouse, child or parent are allowed to move in. In Oakland, only a landlord’s spouse, domestic partner, child, parent or guardian can move in for these purposes. However, San Francisco is much broader and, in addition to the landlord’s spouse, domestic partner, child and parent, the landlord’s grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and the spouses or domestic partners of those relatives all may move into the unit for a relative move in eviction.

Eviction Restrictions Placed on the Landlord

The ordinances restrict how, when and under what circumstances a landlord may evict a tenant for purposes of the owner or a relative moving in. These restrictions and requirements can be important for tenants looking for good ways to defend against an attempted eviction.

Notice Requirements

The landlord must give the tenant proper written notice to evict for an owner or relative move in. The notice must be given 60 days before the tenancy termination date, unless the tenant has lived in the unit for less than one year, in which case 30 days is required.

The landlord must also state in the notice the addresses of any other property that he or she owns, if the landlord will be moving in. In Berekely, the landlord does not have to list any properties in which his or her interest is less than 10%. In San Francisco and Oakland, if the landlord is attempting a relative move in eviction, he or she must also list the addresses of all the properties the relative owns.

The failure of a landlord to provide the proper written notice can make the eviction attempt unlawful and can slow the landlord’s efforts at evicting the tenant.

Percentage Ownership and Record Owner

Other restrictions deal with the landlord’s ownership of the property. The landlord must be a record owner of a certain percentage of the property where he or she, or a relative, intends to move in. In San Francisco, the landlord must own at least 25%; in Oakland, the percentage must be at least 33%; and in Berkeley, the ownership must be at least 50%.

If the landlord does not own the requisite percentage of the property he or she (or his or her qualified relative) is seeking to move into, then the landlord cannot legally evict a tenant for this purpose. Also, if the landlord is not an owner of record, then pursuing such an eviction is not lawful.

Relocation Payments

In San Francisco and Berkeley, tenants who are being evicted for an owner or relative move in may be entitled to relocation payments from their landlords. The San Francisco Rent Board sets the relocation amounts and publishes the current rates on its website. In Berkeley, relocation payments for low income tenants are permitted. Berkeley specifically defines “low income tenant” in its ordinance.  

Disability and Age

San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley all restrict owner and relative move in evictions based on a tenant’s age and disability, generally. Each city has specific requirements about age, length of tenancy and disability, which vary by jurisdiction. In some situations, the tenant’s age or disability can prevent an eviction outright.

Should You Fight an Owner Move In Eviction?

Once a tenant receives a notice to vacate citing an owner or relative move in eviction, he or she has to decide whether or not to fight the eviction. The restrictions outlined above, as well as others, can provide some good grounds to attack the eviction attempt. Sometimes the landlord does not follow all the necessary steps and the attempted eviction can be stopped. However, this can be a mere momentary setback for the landlord because many of the requirements that the landlord has to follow are things that can be remedied relatively easily. This means the landlord could simply try again. The tenant gets a little more time, but does not protect his or her rights in the long run because these types of evictions can be very difficult to halt entirely.

As an alternative, tenants can consider moving out of the property and suing the landlord for wrongful eviction. Following this path can win tenants significant monetary compensation from their landlord. This is a viable option if the landlord was lying about moving himself or his relatives into the unit, or if the landlord moves in but then moves out before 36 months has elapsed.

One of the benefits of moving and suing rather than staying and fighting the eviction is the particular legal question that will win or lose the lawsuit. In owner and relative move in situations, the focus is on the landlord or relative’s intent: he or she must honestly and in good faith intend to move into the unit. If the tenant remains living in the unit, and tries to defend against the eviction, he or she has the very difficult job of attempting to show that the landlord is not being truthful about intending to move in.

Conversely, if the tenant moves and sues the landlord, the onus is on the landlord to actually move into the unit. When that is not done, the tenant has many more ways to find out why and attack the landlord’s intent to move in. The tenant is therefore in a much better position to show that the landlord never honestly and in good faith intended to move into the unit.

While moving and suing does not save the tenant’s current housing, it can provide a powerful way to enforce the tenant’s rights where the tenant might otherwise lose in an eviction lawsuit. Additionally, it helps to enforce tenants’ rights by providing the tenant with monetary compensation for fraudulent owner or relative move in evictions.

If you, your loved ones or friends receive a notice about an owner or relative move in eviction, you should contact experienced tenant attorneys, like those at Humphreys Joiner Law Group, who can provide you with personalized advice and vigorous representation to enforce your rights as tenants.