1. YOU CAN ONLY RAISE YOUR RENT BY THE AMOUNT OF THE ALLOWABLE ANNUAL INCREASE
The San Francisco Rent Ordinance places limitations on the amount that you can increase the rent, unless you have a tenant who has lived in a single-family home for less than eight years or is living in a condominium (there is no rent control in single-family residences for tenancies that began before January 1, 1996). These limitations and procedures for raising rents can be found at the San Francisco Rent Board website at www.sfgov.org/site/rentboard_index.asp, as can other valuable landlord information. Note that if you fail to raise the rent during one or more years, you may still recoup the missed increase(s) in later years, but you will not benefit from the compounding effect of keeping up with annual increases.
2. MAKE SURE YOU ONLY USE UP-TO-DATE LEASES AND NOTICES
Although many property owners are quick to run to the stationary store to buy lease agreements and eviction notices, these documents are not sufficient to protect your interests as a landlord in San Francisco. We recommend that you obtain updated lease agreements from either the California Apartment Owners Association or the San Francisco Apartment Owners Association for a small fee. Their leases are updated annually, and are reviewed by San Francisco landlord attorneys who are very familiar with the problems that arise for landlords who use inadequate leases. We recommend that you have a qualified San Francisco attorney who specializes in landlord tenant matters prepare all eviction notices that you use. The San Francisco eviction laws are ever-changing, and the pre-printed forms you find in stores and books can become quickly outdated. The expense of having an attorney draft the notice is easily outweighed by the expense you could incur by serving a bad eviction notice!
3. MAKE SURE YOUR TENANTS HAVE RENTER’S INSURANCE, AND THAT YOU CARRY PROPER COVERAGE FOR YOUR RENTAL UNITS
You are not responsible for damage to your tenants’ personal property unless the damage was caused by your negligence. However, tenants will often attempt to recover money from the landlord for the losses they suffer in burglaries or natural disasters. By placing a provision in your lease agreements requiring tenants to carry renter’s insurance, you provide yourself with an additional buffer, but no guarantee, against their claims. Beware that you are liable for any damages caused to the tenant and/or their property by your negligence or the negligence of your agent. You must make sure that you have the appropriate coverage to shield your personal assets from a lawsuit brought by the tenant for property damage or wrongful eviction. Many landlords assume they have this coverage, but they do not. We advise that you contact your insurance agent now, before a problem arises and they become reluctant to increase your coverage.
4. YOU CANNOT EVICT A TENANT UNLESS ONE OF THE LISTED JUST CAUSE REASONS IS YOU DOMINANT MOTIVE FOR THE EVICTION
As you may know, you cannot evict a tenant you unless one of the 14 just cause reasons listed in the San Francisco Rent Ordinance is your dominant motive for the eviction. (Owners who live in the unit with the tenant are not bound by the just cause requirements of the Rent Ordinance, and can evict the tenant without just cause.) If a just cause reason exists, you must serve you with a legal, written eviction notice before the tenant is required to vacate the unit. Check the Rent Board website for more details on each of the just cause reasons and on the procedure you are required to follow.
5. YOU MUST INFORM THE TENANT OF THEIR RIGHT TO A PRE MOVE-OUT INSPECTION AND THEIR OPPORTUNITY TO REPAIR ANY DAMAGES THAT YOU INTEND TO DEDUCT FROM YOUR SECURITY DEPOSIT WHEN THEY MOVE
As of January 2003, landlords are required to give you the opportunity to have a pre move-out inspection in which you provide the tenant with a list of any and all items that you intend to deduct from the security deposit. You must then afford the tenant an opportunity to repair those items. However, any damages that cannot be seen at the pre move-out inspection (because they are hidden behind or under furniture or because they did not exist at the time of the inspection) can still be deducted from the deposit. NOTE: You have 21 days after the tenant vacates to return any unused portion of the deposit, and as of 2004, you are required to provide the tenant with receipts, invoices or price lists for any labor or materials purchased and deducted from the security deposit.