Temporarily Relocating Tenants

Posted by  wasserman 

I need to temporarily relocate my tenants to complete repair work in their unit.  What is the proper legal notice I should send?  What if they refuse?

Both state and local law afford property owners the right to enter occupied rental housing to perform necessary or agreed upon repairs.  Residents must accommodate such requests assuming the housing provider is acting in good faith, following proper procedures, and not using the entry to harass the resident.  Sometimes, as this questions highlights, the extent of rehabilitation will render the housing unsafe or uninhabitable during the repair processes.  Consequently, the owner may have to insist upon a temporary relocation.

First and foremost, always try to work with your tenants to arrive at a mutually convenient date and time for the relocation period.  Remember, this housing is their home, and no one ever likes to be displaced from home.  Sure, there are instances that arise which require immediate rectification, but most circumstances permit some flexibility in scheduling.  This point cannot be stressed enough:  Good property management mandates that you make every effort to schedule a temporary move-out with the tenants before issuing an eviction notice.

With regard to proper legal notices, state law requires a sixty-day written notice for tenancies that have existed for a year or more.  For occupancies under a year, a thirty-day notice period will suffice.  Please note that the San Francisco Rent Ordinance has numerous requirements that must be satisfied in such a notice.  Indeed, the notice template used by most practitioners in this town is about fifteen pages in length not including copies of the permits that must be attached.  As the notice requirements are so intricate and complex, anyone contemplating this procedure should definitely consult with a qualified attorney.

A resident’s refusal to comply with the notice to temporarily vacate can be met with an eviction (unlawful detainer) action in superior court.  That being said, there are a multitude of defenses to these proceedings.  For example, a court could rule that the scope of work does not require someone to vacate, and/or that the owner is acting in bad faith by trying to drive someone out temporarily with the hope that they do not return.  Again, this is why working towards a mutually acceptable arrangement is far better than unilaterally serving a formal demand.  In this author’s experience, the vast majority of residents are very cooperative and welcome the opportunity to discuss a temporary relocation schedule.

With regard to relocation payments, there are two rules in place.  For relocations less than twenty days, Civil Code Section 1947.9 governs.  This state law, written by our own CAA, permits San Francisco landlords to pay a daily rate per household for each day of displacement.  At present, the amount is $402.  In lieu of making this payment, the residents may be given comparable substitute housing.  For stays that exceed nineteen days, the Rent Ordinance mandates relocation payments per person, regardless of age.  Currently, those payments are as follows:  $7,421 per tenant, not to exceed $22,262 per household.  However, an additional amount of $4,948 is due for each elderly tenant (defined as 60 years or older) or disabled tenant or a household with a minor child or children.