Tenant Troubles: How Much Do I Have To Help The Realtor Who Wants To Evict Me?

What are my rights in regard to Open Houses/viewings of my apartment when my building is for sale?

My situation:

I live in a 4-unit rent controlled building (built in 1906). The owners of our building recently died and the trustees of the estate came by with a realtor to assess the building.

I overheard the realtor telling the trustees that they should encourage a buyer to “Ellis us all.” Of course I did my homework and researched Ellis Act, and I know that it’s not as easy as she told them. However, it really upset me that she would say it like that, and encourage them to tell a buyer to do that.

Initially, I was helpful to them but now, without being hostile or breaking any laws, I have no desire to help them sell this building and I have no desire to accommodate this awful realtor. I don’t intend on being hostile but I do want to make things difficult for her because why shouldn’t I?

What are my rights in regard to her Open Houses that she will no doubt plan? Do I have any rights in limiting the viewings that she will schedule? I don’t want to let strangers into my home 24/7 and I also have a dog that will attack strangers/run out if I’m not home so I do need to plan in advance.

Do I have any rights in limiting views of Open Houses? Or do I have to just allow strangers to trample through my home with a disrespectful realtor?

Tenant Troubles Archives

Dave’s here to answer your questions every Wednesday, so send them to him at tenant@sfappeal.com. Here’s what to make sure to include in your letter.

Real estate agents–irrefutable proof that the United States is not a meritocracy. Between the lies, the drivel and the nonsensical notion that real estate agents are professionals, many of these guys make lawyers look good. On top of it all, despite the fact that it may benefit them, most realtors don’t know jack shit about the law. When it comes to legal analytical skills, or the ability to read, I think there is an IQ requirement to be licensed as a realtor–82 or lower.

Last year, after I had negotiated a postponement of an inspection with a seller’s agent to accommodate my disabled client, the buyer’s agent had the temerity to call me and say, “He (my client) is no more disabled than you or me.” I don’t think she expected my response: “What the fuck did you just say to me?” Needless to say, this moron’s advice to her client cost the buyer thousands of dollars in legal fees and tens of thousands of dollars more paid to my client.

As a tenant, you have no duty to help a landlord or his realtor sell a building. You don’t have to be nice to them. You cannot, however, obstruct the sales process.

All leases have an implied covenant of quiet enjoyment. You have the right to to enjoy possession of the premises without unreasonable interference or unjustified entry from the landlord or his agents. The tension between your right to enjoyment of your apartment and the landlord’s right to sell the building can create significant conflict with respect to marketing a building.

First, I recommend that you read and try to understand California Civil Code §1954(a) which states:

A landlord may enter the dwelling unit only in the following cases:
(1) In case of emergency.
(2) To make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations or improvements, supply necessary or agreed services, or exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workers, or contractors or to make an inspection pursuant to subdivision (f) of Section 1950.5.
(3) When the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises.
(4) Pursuant to court order.

Also note that Civil Code §1954(d)(2) provides:

If the purpose of the entry is to exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, the notice may be given orally, in person or by telephone, if the landlord or his or her agent has notified the tenant in writing within 120 days of the oral notice that the property is for sale and that the landlord or agent may contact the tenant orally for the purpose described above. Twenty-four hours is presumed reasonable notice in the absence of evidence to the contrary. The notice shall include the date, approximate time, and purpose of the entry. At the time of entry, the landlord or agent shall leave written evidence of the entry inside the unit.

Second, inform the landlord and the landlord’s agent, in writing, that you have a dog in the unit that could bite a perceived intruder.

Third, within the context that you must be present at any showing because of the dog, try to arrange a schedule with the agent that will comport with yours. Tell her that you are willing to work with her.

If the real estate agent refuses to accommodate you, remind her that her refusal will create liability for the landlord, her client, and point out in writing:

  • You have a right to quiet enjoyment of the premises;
  • She must comply with Civil Code California Civil Code §1954 (Be sure to provide her a copy.);
  • If she continues to enter unreasonably, even if the dog doesn’t bite, you will. That you can file a lawsuit against her and the landlord pursuant to Rent Ordinance §37.10B (landlord harassment) and Civil Code §1940.2 for significant intentional violations of C.C. §1954 that carries a penalty of up to $2,000 per violation; and that you will file a complaint with the San Francisco Association of Realtors and the California Department of Real Estate.

Frankly, I don’t know if complaints filed with the Association of Realtors or the DRE have much weight, but I’ve found that realtors don’t know that either (reading issues) and I have used the threat effectively.

Reread my blog post, Even Dracula Had to Have an Invite Before He Could Enter. In it I recommend that you read The Unnecessary Conflict in Landlord Entries, by J. Wallace Oman, one of the deans of San Francisco tenant lawyers. Mr. Oman’s article provides a complete list of actions a tenant can take to control landlord and agent entries.

the author

Dave Crow is an attorney who specializes in San Francisco landlord tenant law. However, the opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author, do not constitute legal advice, and the information is general in nature. Consult the advice of an attorney for any specific problem. You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Dave Crow or his firm, Crow & Rose unless they have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this site with any information that you believe is highly confidential.

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  • lady

    The way I read it the landlord only has to provide 24-hours’ notice that he will show the apartment. The article doesn’t discuss whether the landlord has the right to demand the tenant leave for the showing or not. Either way, with the dog the landlord will want to work with the tenant, which will probably getting the tenant to take the dog with her and leave during showings.

    Note to tenant: if your dog bites someone, YOU are liable as well (financially), and someone complaining to your renters’ insurance company could result in your insurance demanding that your dog be destroyed or else losing coverage. Presumably a term of your lease also includes a stipulation about your dog and its good behavior, so you could put your tenancy in jeopardy if your dog bites someone. Presumably you don’t want either of those things to happen (putting your dog down, losing your lease), so you should cooperate also.
    Also, just generally, don’t hate on the trustees for wanting to sell the building vacant or for the realtor for suggesting it. Fact is, you don’t own your unit, someone else does. They’re free to do what they want with it and you generally have to accommodate that. That’s the trade-off you’re making buy not owning your own place.

    • Guffie

      the tenant is legally allowed to stay in their unit during any and all showings. so he does not need to leave nor his dog unless he thinks his dog is going to attack. and you are allowed to negotiate with the realtor within reason. if your realtor gives you notice and you can’t make it, you can ask him/her to reschedule with alternative times.

      no one is hating on the trustees. It does suck to have your apartment put up for sale. I feel bad for people this happens to. happened to me years ago and i had to sit there on my couch depressed while a bunch of people trampled through the place i called home talking about my furniture. surreal experience.

    • JNGII

      @Lady, Think about it again the RENT is what pays the BILLS for the OWER!!!!! and if people were smart never sign a year lease!!!! Month to Month only!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • lady

    The way I read it the landlord only has to provide 24-hours’ notice that he will show the apartment. The article doesn’t discuss whether the landlord has the right to demand the tenant leave for the showing or not. Either way, with the dog the landlord will want to work with the tenant, which will probably getting the tenant to take the dog with her and leave during showings.

    Note to tenant: if your dog bites someone, YOU are liable as well (financially), and someone complaining to your renters’ insurance company could result in your insurance demanding that your dog be destroyed or else losing coverage. Presumably a term of your lease also includes a stipulation about your dog and its good behavior, so you could put your tenancy in jeopardy if your dog bites someone. Presumably you don’t want either of those things to happen (putting your dog down, losing your lease), so you should cooperate also.
    Also, just generally, don’t hate on the trustees for wanting to sell the building vacant or for the realtor for suggesting it. Fact is, you don’t own your unit, someone else does. They’re free to do what they want with it and you generally have to accommodate that. That’s the trade-off you’re making buy not owning your own place.

    • Guffie

      the tenant is legally allowed to stay in their unit during any and all showings. so he does not need to leave nor his dog unless he thinks his dog is going to attack. and you are allowed to negotiate with the realtor within reason. if your realtor gives you notice and you can’t make it, you can ask him/her to reschedule with alternative times.

      no one is hating on the trustees. It does suck to have your apartment put up for sale. I feel bad for people this happens to. happened to me years ago and i had to sit there on my couch depressed while a bunch of people trampled through the place i called home talking about my furniture. surreal experience.

    • JNGII

      @Lady, Think about it again the RENT is what pays the BILLS for the OWER!!!!! and if people were smart never sign a year lease!!!! Month to Month only!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • disqus_VcdGYxxfPF

    This exemplifies everything that is wrong with San Francisco rent laws. Someone else owns the property, not you. They are entitled to act as they see fit. If they are looking at an Ellis, you have probably been paying cheap rent at the owner’s expense for years. That’s not fair to the owner. Morally, you shouldn’t be entitled to the space just because you have been living there unless you purchase it. Affordable housing is a society wide burden, not one for the individual building owner.

    They need to follow the laws and give you adequate notice in showing the building. There is very little you can do to prevent an Ellis Act beyond that outside of minor delay tactics.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=755372795 Adam Richmond

      I’m afraid you are dead wrong morally and legally. The building owner rented the apartment out knowing full well the laws of San Francisco. The owners died. I presume their greedy children now own the building. They have done nothing to earn the building but accident of birth.

      One’s home is more important than the temporary interests of the inheritors of the building who obviously want to flip the property. Rental laws in SF give tenants a tiny foothold in security. Landlords complain about tenant rights, but owners are far more dominant in the law. As for paying cheap rent, the original owner should have taken that into consideration as a business person. If they didn’t anticipate that some of their tenants would be living there for a long time, they weren’t very good business people.

      Morally, and socially it is good for society to have a stable population. San Francisco each year becomes harder and harder for working class individuals and families to live in. Indeed our cultural life has huge gaps in it now. The once solidly black Fillmore became parceled up and renamed as part of Pacific Heights, African Americans have been forced out in droves and are threatened with complete dispersal in Bayview.

      Tenancy law has prevented this city from completely overrun by the yuppie onslaught which contributes little positive to the vibrant cultural and social life of SF. The more homogenized the population becomes, the more boring and homogenized the culture becomes.

      • carey

        what a nasty, bitter person you are

        • JNGII

          @Carey,The truth Hurts!!!!!! Over inflated Housing Prices PERIOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • EW77

        also, if your business is renting apartments, then don’t you need renters to make that happen? Not so clear on why so many in the pro-landlord-at-any-cost come across as anti-tenant. Guess who pays the bills?

        • EW77

          or who pays the bills for all those decades when SF real estate isn’t shooting through the roof?

    • Guffie

      paying cheap rent at the owner’s expense for years? really? wow.

    • JNGII

      @Guest,You sound like a Transplant!!!!!! GREEDY,GREEDY,GREEDY!!!!!

  • disqus_VcdGYxxfPF

    This exemplifies everything that is wrong with San Francisco rent laws. Someone else owns the property, not you. They are entitled to act as they see fit. If they are looking at an Ellis, you have probably been paying cheap rent at the owner’s expense for years. That’s not fair to the owner. Morally, you shouldn’t be entitled to the space just because you have been living there unless you purchase it. Affordable housing is a society wide burden, not one for the individual building owner.

    They need to follow the laws and give you adequate notice in showing the building. There is very little you can do to prevent an Ellis Act beyond that outside of minor delay tactics.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=755372795 Adam Richmond

      I’m afraid you are dead wrong morally and legally. The building owner rented the apartment out knowing full well the laws of San Francisco. The owners died. I presume their greedy children now own the building. They have done nothing to earn the building but accident of birth.

      One’s home is more important than the temporary interests of the inheritors of the building who obviously want to flip the property. Rental laws in SF give tenants a tiny foothold in security. Landlords complain about tenant rights, but owners are far more dominant in the law. As for paying cheap rent, the original owner should have taken that into consideration as a business person. If they didn’t anticipate that some of their tenants would be living there for a long time, they weren’t very good business people.

      Morally, and socially it is good for society to have a stable population. San Francisco each year becomes harder and harder for working class individuals and families to live in. Indeed our cultural life has huge gaps in it now. The once solidly black Fillmore became parceled up and renamed as part of Pacific Heights, African Americans have been forced out in droves and are threatened with complete dispersal in Bayview.

      Tenancy law has prevented this city from completely overrun by the yuppie onslaught which contributes little positive to the vibrant cultural and social life of SF. The more homogenized the population becomes, the more boring and homogenized the culture becomes.

      • carey

        what a nasty, bitter person you are

        • JNGII

          @Carey,The truth Hurts!!!!!! Over inflated Housing Prices PERIOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • EW77

        also, if your business is renting apartments, then don’t you need renters to make that happen? Not so clear on why so many in the pro-landlord-at-any-cost come across as anti-tenant. Guess who pays the bills?

        • EW77

          or who pays the bills for all those decades when SF real estate isn’t shooting through the roof?

    • Guffie

      paying cheap rent at the owner’s expense for years? really? wow.

    • JNGII

      @Guest,You sound like a Transplant!!!!!! GREEDY,GREEDY,GREEDY!!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=755372795 Adam Richmond

    One does not have to show your apartment during non-business hours. After my landlord played hardball, I played hardball back. Per my lawyer’s instructions, I denied them the right to show the apartment to prospective buyers on the weekends..

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=755372795 Adam Richmond

    One does not have to show your apartment during non-business hours. After my landlord played hardball, I played hardball back. Per my lawyer’s instructions, I denied them the right to show the apartment to prospective buyers on the weekends..

  • arp

    There is no doubt that there needs to be some sort of housing subsidy in SF. Diversity is why we all choose to live in cities instead of on a farm or in the suburbs.

    However, the way rent control is implemented isn’t fair. It’s not fair for the landlord who owns a pre 79 property, and it’s especially not fair for any new renter or new comer to the city.

    I am all for a housing subsidy for those that are in need, but sadly I’ve seen far too often people who are taking advantage of the situation. People who can afford market rate, but stay in their apt because of rent control. I know of people who own property that they rent out, while living in a rent control flat.

    By all means, let’s have a program for people who truly cannot afford the ridiculous rents in SF, but let’s all share the cost. A tax to property owners, businesses, and a small tax to renters could be set up to cover it.

  • arp

    There is no doubt that there needs to be some sort of housing subsidy in SF. Diversity is why we all choose to live in cities instead of on a farm or in the suburbs.

    However, the way rent control is implemented isn’t fair. It’s not fair for the landlord who owns a pre 79 property, and it’s especially not fair for any new renter or new comer to the city.

    I am all for a housing subsidy for those that are in need, but sadly I’ve seen far too often people who are taking advantage of the situation. People who can afford market rate, but stay in their apt because of rent control. I know of people who own property that they rent out, while living in a rent control flat.

    By all means, let’s have a program for people who truly cannot afford the ridiculous rents in SF, but let’s all share the cost. A tax to property owners, businesses, and a small tax to renters could be set up to cover it.