“My tenant has refused to pay a rent increase. How can I get her to do so?”
The first thing you must do is serve proper written notice of the rent increase. This notice must be given at least 30 days prior to the increase taking effect (The notice period is extended to 60 day’s if the rent increase exceeds 10%). Assuming your tenant is under San Francisco rent control (the unit was built prior to 1979, and she is not a long-term pre-1996 tenant in a single-family home), you are limited to very small annual rent increases. If you have not raised the rent in several years, you can add together all the allowable annual increases into one larger increase, but you will not receive the benefit of compounding that you would have had you instituted the smaller increases annually. You can find a schedule of the annual allowable increases on the San Francisco Rent Board’s website or by calling them for a copy. For units not covered by the rent control limitations, raising the rent is very simple. Upon 30 days written notice, the rent can be raised by any amount, assuming it is not raised exorbitantly in retaliation against the tenant.
If you have given proper written notice as explained above, and the 30 or 60 day notice period has expired, but the tenant still refuses to pay the increase, you can serve the tenant with a 3 Day Pay or Quit notice. Do not accept payment of any amount less than the increased rent from the tenant. If you accept partial payment, most courts would find that you have waived your right to proceed with the 3 Day Notice.
Finally, before serving a 3 Day Notice, make sure the unit is in good condition, and free of any major problems. If there are outstanding habitability issues with the unit of which you have been given notice and reasonable time to repair, the tenant may defeat your 3 Day Notice in an Unlawful Detainer (eviction) action, by successfully claiming that the rental value should be reduced because of such defects.
If you have served a solid legal rent increase notice, and the unit is in good condition, you can confidently proceed with a 3 Day Notice. However, prior to serving any eviction notices, you should make sure to consult a qualified landlord-tenant attorney.
By Sally Morin and James M. Millar of Millar & Associates (415)981-8100.