Q: I own a building on the seismic retrofit list. What is the relocation procedure? Can a tenant refuse or delay an order to vacate? If so, what are my options?
A: landlord is entitled to recover possession of a rental unit in order to temporarily remove the unit in order to be able to carry out rehabilitation work, such as seismic retrofit work. The following is a general summary of the procedures to displace a tenant for this purpose:
Notice: The landlord must serve the tenant with a written notice to vacate that complies with all state and local law requirements. The notice must give at least 30 days notice to vacate for tenancies less than a year, and it must give at least 60 days notice to vacate for tenancies a year or more.
Permits: Before the landlord can serve the notice to vacate, the landlord must first have all necessary permits to perform the seismic work.
Uninhabitable: The seismic work to be done must involve work that would make the unit hazardous, unhealthy, and/or uninhabitable while work is in progress.
Temporary: The tenant is required to vacate the unit only for the minimum time required to do the work. So long as the tenant will not be required to vacate for more than 3 months, the landlord can proceed without involving the San Francisco Rent Board.
Rent Board Extension of Time: Prior to serving the notice to vacate, if the landlord knows or should know the seismic work will require the tenant to vacate for more than 3 months, then the landlord must petition the Rent Board for an extension of time beyond 3 months before serving the notice to vacate. If it does not become apparent that the work will take longer than 3 months until after the service of the notice to vacate, then the landlord must immediately petition the Rent Board for an extension of time.
Relocation Payments for Tenant Displacement Exceeding 19 Days: Where the work will take more than 19 days to complete, all tenants, including minor children, who have occupied the unit for at least one year are entitled to the following relocation payments:
$6,281 per tenant with a maximum of $18,843 per unit. Half of this payment is due with the notice to vacate and half when the tenant vacates.
Additional $4,188 per elderly or disabled tenant (no maximum). Half of this payment is due within 15 days the landlord is notified the tenant is qualified, and half is due upon vacating.
Additional $4,188 per household with a minor child. Half of this payment is due with within 15 days the landlord is notified the tenant is qualified, and half is due upon vacating.
Relocation Payments for Tenant Displacement Less than 20 Days: For work that will take less than 20 days to complete, each tenant household is entitled to $341 per day plus actual moving expenses if it is necessary to move the possessions of the tenant household.
If the landlord complies with all of the procedural requirements but the tenant fails to vacate when required to do so, then the landlord may file an unlawful detainer action in court to seek a judgment for possession of the rental unit. Once a judgment is obtained, the sheriff may enforce it and remove the tenant from the unit.
Because navigating through all of the procedural requirements to temporarily displace a tenant in order to do seismic work can be time consuming and expensive, a landlord may consider alternatives, such as attempting to negotiate a buyout. A buyout can be a permanent or a temporary displacement. Either way, the landlord would be required to comply with the Rent Ordinance buyout requirements. These requirements include giving the tenant written notice of intent to negotiate, filing a declaration with the Rent Board, putting any agreement to vacate in writing, and filing that agreement with the Rent Board. If successful, a buyout could be a win-win for the landlord and the tenant.
Whether invoking the right to temporarily displace the tenant or negotiating a buyout, it is advisable to consult with an attorney to help navigate through the complexities of the Rent Ordinance.
Copyright © 2017 by Fried & Williams LLP. All Rights Reserved. The information in this article is general in nature and should not be considered legal advice. For any specific matter, please consult with an attorney.