San Francisco Residential Lease Agreement

Last Updated: September 25, 2023 by Cameron Smith

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A residential lease agreement in San Francisco is a binding document between a landlord and a tenant. This agreement outlines the terms and conditions surrounding the use of a rental property in exchange for periodic payments.

Residential Lease Agreement Requirements in San Francisco

San Francisco currently has no city-specific residential lease agreement requirements or disclosures. As such, landlords and tenants in San Francisco follow California requirements for lease agreements.

Landlord-Tenant Rights and Regulations in San Francisco

When it comes to landlord-tenant rights, landlords should be aware of the following:

Just Cause Evictions

Under the San Francisco Rent Ordinance, it is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant without a just cause. Similar to state law, this includes both at-fault and no-fault just cause evictions. For all evictions, landlords must provide tenants with a written notice stating the just cause reason for the eviction.

No-Fault Evictions

A no-fault eviction is a term used when the notice to end the tenancy is not based on any fault of the tenant. This type of eviction is typically used in scenarios such as month-to-month tenancies.

Some examples of no-fault evictions include:

  • The landlord, their spouse, or family member decides to occupy the unit (must be in the lease agreement)
  • The landlord decides to withdraw the unit from the market
  • A federal order or local ordinance requires the tenant to vacate the property

At-Fault Evictions

An at-fault eviction is a term used when the notice to end the tenancy is based on the fault of the tenant. For at-fault evictions, landlords must provide written notice of the eviction, as well as an opportunity to cure the violation (if it is curable).

Some examples of at-fault evictions include:

  • Refusing to pay rent
  • Violating the lease agreement
  • Engaging in criminal activity
  • Refusing to allow the landlord to enter the property

Eviction Notice Requirements

For no-fault evictions, landlords must provide tenants with written notice of the right to relocation payments. The landlord must pay each tenant a total of $4,500. Half of this amount should be paid at the time of notice, and the other half after vacating the unit. Additionally, if the property is available to rent or lease within 5 years of the eviction, the landlord must first offer the unit to the displaced tenant. The tenant will then have 30 days to accept or reject the offer.

For at-fault evictions, landlords must provide tenants with a written notice stating that they have 10 days to cure the violation. If the 10-day period has passed, it may result in an eviction.

Rent Control Protection

The San Francisco Rent Ordinance also includes rent control protection for most tenants. Under this ordinance, landlords are restricted by how much they can increase rent in a 12-month period. This percentage changes each year based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Landlords must give tenants a 30-day notice of a rent increase, as well as a 90-day notice for increases greater than 10%. A landlord must be licensed in order to increase rent.

Foreclosure Evictions

San Francisco tenants cannot be evicted due to foreclosure unless the landlord has a just cause for eviction or the tenant’s lease has ended.

Tenant Buyout Agreements

A buyout agreement is when a landlord offers a tenant money to vacate their unit. Unlike just cause evictions, buyout agreements are less regulated. This can often lead to landlords pressuring or even threatening tenants to move out of their property.

San Francisco landlords must include a written disclosure of tenant rights before discussing a buyout agreement. This includes (but is not limited to) the right to decline the agreement or consult an attorney before making a decision.

Non-Tenant Use

As of April 1, 2020, it is illegal for a person to use a rental property for non-tenant purposes—such as turning their unit into a place of business. Exceptions to this law include any Non-Tenant Use agreements made before April 1, 2020, lawful short-term rentals, or certain 501(c)(3) organizations.

Tenant Harassment

Both state and local law make it illegal for a landlord to harass their tenants. Harassment includes (but is not limited to) refusing to make repairs, abusing the landlord’s right to entry, or pressuring a tenant into vacating their rental unit.

Security Deposits

San Francisco landlords are required to pay interest on all security deposits held for a minimum of one year. At the end of the tenancy, the landlord must pay the tenant the accrued interest.

Optional Lease Agreement Disclosures and Addendums in San Francisco

While not mandatory, landlords can add specific disclosures and addendums to their leases. This helps outline the responsibilities of the tenant and can prevent future liability issues.

Asbestos Disclosure

Since California is listed as the #1 state for asbestos-related deaths, landlords should include a disclosure stating if asbestos is present on the property. If asbestos is present, tenants should take precautions to minimize the chance of disturbing the asbestos fibers.

Pet Disclosure

With San Francisco being one of the most dog-friendly cities in the U.S., landlords may want to address the building’s pet policies. This disclosure should include whether or not pets are allowed on the property, the tenant’s responsibility to cover any pet-related damages, and any additional fees or restrictions surrounding pets.

Medical Marijuana Use Disclosure

Medical marijuana use is legal in San Francisco—which is why it’s important to disclose if it will be permitted on the property. California allows landlords to restrict marijuana usage to non-smoking methods only. They should also clarify if there are any designated smoking areas on the premises.

Summary of Required Lease Disclosures for the State of California

  • Methamphetamine and Fentanyl Contamination – Landlords must disclose any known presence of methamphetamine and fentanyl in the rental agreement. For contaminated properties, landlords must include a copy of any contamination-related notices. They must also inform prospective tenants in the rental agreement about ongoing remediation efforts before they sign the lease.
  • Mold – Landlords must disclose any knowledge of mold on the property. This includes 1) any reason to believe there is toxic mold or 2) a high chance of mold forming. This disclosure is mandatory unless the mold was remediated to California safety guidelines.
  • Sex Offender Registry Notice – Prospective tenants and citizens alike have access to information relating to the sex offender registry. This is known as Megan’s Law Disclosure and must be disclosed in every rental agreement.
  • Demolition Permit – If a landlord has intentions to demolish a rental unit or building, or has applied for a demolition permit, they must disclose this in the rental agreement. The disclosure should state the approximate date on which demolition will occur.
  • Military Ordnance – Landlords must provide a military ordnance disclosure for any property that falls within one mile of military training grounds or ordnance storage. This disclosure notifies the tenant that there is a possibility of live munitions near the rental unit.
  • Death in a Rental Unit – Due to statutes on emotional defects in a property, any death that occurred within 3 years of the beginning of the rental agreement must be disclosed in the lease (unless the death was due to HIV or AIDS).
  • Pest Control – If pesticides are administered to a unit in a rental building, all adjacent tenants and anyone who is at risk of secondhand exposure must be given at least 24 hours of notice before the pesticide application is allowed.
  • Shared Utilities Arrangement – When each unit does not have its own utility meter, landlords must disclose this information in the rental agreement. They must also provide a mutual written agreement with the tenant for payment of services.
  • Bed Bugs – Landlords must include a bed bug addendum in their rental agreements. This addendum provides information about preventing infestations and the proper protocol if one arises.
  • Flood Zone – If the landlord has knowledge of the rental property residing in a flood zone, they must disclose this information to the tenant in the rental agreement.
  • Smoking Policy – If a landlord wishes to prohibit smoking tobacco in any part of the rental property, they must disclose specifically where smoking is prohibited.
  • Lead-Based Paint – It is a federal law in the United States that any home built prior to 1978 must disclose the risks posed by lead-based paints.