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Landlord/Tenant Law

What is Landlord/Tenant law?

Landlord/Tenant law defines the legal relationships between owners of property and their tenants. It involves contracts, the rental agreement, and the rights and duties of each of person involved.

A rental agreement can be written or oral. If the rental period is for a fixed time - longer than one year - it must be in writing. A written agreement should at least:

  • Identify the parties
  • Describe the property being rented
  • The amount of the rent
  • What the rental period is
  • When rent is due
  • Late charges, if any
  • Be dated and signed by all parties

To successfully navigate Landlord/Tenant matters, especially in San Francisco (because of Rent Control), requires a full understanding of the law. There are specific notice requirements and processes for legally evicting tenants.

For landlords, it is important to know these regulations and follow them exactly. For tenants, it is important to know your rights and ensure that your landlord follows the law.

What is rent control?

Certain jurisdictions have passed rent control laws - laws that govern issues such as what rent increases may be made, when they can be made, and how the eviction process must occur. San Francisco & East Palo Alto have strict rent control laws.

What types of buildings are covered by rent control in San Francisco?

Basically, most residential units located in a building where a certificate of occupancy was first issued before 1979 are subject to rent control.

Where can I learn more about the San Francisco Rent Control Ordinance?

The San Francisco Rent Board has copies of the actual ordinance and employees who can assist with questions you might have. The Rent Board is located at 25 Van Ness Avenue [at 1 Market Street], Suite 320, San Francisco, CA.

Under what circumstances may tenants be evicted from a residential unit in San Francisco & East Palo Alto?

Under rent control, evictions are limited. Evictions are allowed for such things as failure to pay rent, habitually paying rent late, nuisance, owner move-in, and/or taking the property out of the rental market.

Under what circumstances may a security deposit not be returned?

No matter what it is called, a tenant deposit may be used to remedy defaults in rent payments, repair of damage to the premises in excess of normal wear and tear, and cleaning upon a tenant vacating the premises.

Must interest on a security deposit be returned?

Many cities do not require interest to be paid on security deposits. San Francisco does. The interest rate landlords pay in San Francisco varies from year to year.

Business Law

The Cohen Law Office works with local businesses in and around the Bay area on a variety of legal issues. These can include:

Business & Commercial Law: Advising and representing businesses.

Business Formation and Dissolution: Corporations, Limited Liability Companies, fictitious name registration, divestitures, and partnerships.

Business Successions: Buy/sell agreements, shareholder agreements.

Contracts: Draft, review, and negotiation.

Real Estate Law: Commercial purchase and sale agreements, leases, advice on real estate matters, and real estate settlements.