What is the Ellis Act and Am I at Risk of an Ellis Act Eviction?

The Ellis Act is a California law that provides landlords with a legal method removing their properties from the rental market.  It became law in 1985 after the California Supreme Court decision in the case of Nash v. City of Santa Monica, and, because it is a state law, is one of the just causes for eviction in every city in California with eviction control.

To evict tenants under the Ellis Act, a landlord must remove all rental units in a building from the market, i.e., not just one or two.  Bay Area cities with rent ordinances have imposed several requirements on landlords, such as:

  • Relocation of displaced tenants
  • Mandatory notice periods
  • Restrictions on the future use of the property

Although Ellis Act evictions enable landlords to exit the rental business, they have also been used to convert apartments into condominiums and multi-unit buildings into mansion-sized family homes.  Additionally, they have, regretfully, become a de facto means of forcing long-term tenants out of rent-controlled units, reducing the overall stock of rent-controlled units in cities with rent control, such as San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.

How Does an Ellis Act Eviction Work?

If your landlord claims they are taking your building out of the rental market, they must:

  • Inform you of your relocation and reoccupancy rights within fifteen days of filing their Notice of Intent to Withdraw Units from the Rental Market with the Rent Board
  • Give you an eviction notice one hundred twenty days after filing the Notice and pay you half of the appropriate relocation payment. The other half is paid when you leave.

Tenants who are seniors (over the age of 62) or disabled must receive a 1-year notice while other tenants receive a 120-day notice. In San Francisco, the relocation amount is currently $6,985.23 per tenant, with a limit of $20,955.68 per unit.  Seniors and the disabled receive an additional $4,656.81. One-hundred and twenty days (or one year if there are seniors or disabled tenants) after the landlord files a Notice of Intent with the Rent Board, the building is legally off the rental market.

It is important to note that the Notice of Intent to Withdraw and the tenant eviction notices must be filed the same day to have simultaneous countdowns.  If the landlord issues an eviction notice on May 1 but doesn’t file the Notice of Intent until May 15, you legally have 135 days to leave (1 year and 15 days for seniors and the disabled).

You Still Have Rights After Leaving

Under the Ellis Act, you have the right to reoccupy your old rental unit at the same rent if the landlord makes the building available again.  Within thirty days of leaving, you must provide your landlord with your current address and confirm that you wish to return. The Rent Board, which keeps a registry of tenants who wish to reoccupy their former units, will also give you a form to fill out.

Any building removed from the market under the Ellis Act is subject to rent control restrictions if the units are ever re-rented. These rules, which are also binding on new owners, are as follows:

  • For the first two years, there is an absolute prohibition on re-renting any rental unit subject to an Ellis Act eviction;
  • For the third through fifth years, any rental unit subject to an Ellis Act eviction can only be re-rented for whatever the evicted tenant paid, plus any allowable increases under rent control.
  • There is a ten-year period during which the evicted tenants must be offered the re-rented units first.

These restrictions also apply if the building is demolished and units become available in a new building within five years after the old property left the market.

How Landlords Abuse Ellis Act Evictions

Some landlords have used the Ellis Act as a loophole to force long-term tenants out of rent-controlled apartments.  As noted, an Ellis Act eviction places various prohibitions on a landlord’s right to re-rent any unit subject to an Ellis Act eviction.  Once displaced, long term tenants who had enjoyed rent control are likely to find new housing. Notwithstanding the absolute prohibition on re-renting the unit within two years of an Ellis Act eviction, unscrupulous owners may nonetheless ignore this prohibition and the attendant consequences when the potential monetary gains from short-term rental income or rental income at market rates are too high.  Displaced tenants whose rental units are re-rented in violation of the Ellis Act have legal claims against their former landlord and should contact a tenant rights attorney for more information.

If you have received an Ellis Act eviction notice, protect your rights and interests by consulting a tenant rights attorney.  At Tenant Law Group, we are familiar with the notice and relocation payment requirements of Ellis Act evictions, and can advise tenants on both procedural and substantive landlord violations of the Ellis Act.  We can help ensure all tenant rights in an Ellis Act eviction are honored, including the notice and relocation payment requirements. For more information, contact Tenant Law Group for a complimentary case evaluation.

The following two tabs change content below.

Tenant Law Group, PC

Here at Tenant Law Group, we dedicate one hundred percent of our practice to representing Bay Area renters. Whether you have been harassed, endured uninhabitable living conditions, or lost a rent-controlled unit without legal justification, we are here to fight for you, because we know a knowledgeable and aggressive tenant lawyer can mean the difference between having a roof over one’s head and being homeless.

Latest posts by Tenant Law Group, PC (see all)