How to Survive Renting in San Francisco: Five Rights to Know
3. Security Deposits
One of the biggest pains about moving is having to magically conjure up twice the amount of your monthly rent. Security deposits are annoying and no fun but make sure you know that your security deposit is your money and you have certain rights in regard to it. First of all, your landlord is required to pay interest on your security deposit and pay it back to you every year. Secondly, there is no such thing as a non-refundable security deposit whether it's called a cleaning fee, a painting fee, or whatever. Even if it says it is non-refundable in your lease, landlords cannot keep any portion of your security fee just because they want to. Hooray!
As far as getting your deposit back, protect yourself. Arrange for a moving-in inspection and a moving-out inspection with your landlord. Take pictures and keep receipts for all repairs made. If your landlord claims they need to keep some of your deposit, they must provide receipts and itemized lists of where your money went. Keep in mind that many scum buckets will attempt to keep tenants' deposits because most people won't argue. Don't be that guy. Get your money. More info for you!
Have you guys seen that movie, The Resident? Quick synopsis -- super hot Jeffrey Dean Morgan gets super creepy on Hillary Swank and turns from dream boat to restraining order in less than an hour and a half. It's pretty awful. He literally watches her through holes in the walls.
Hopefully that never happens to you, but if your landlord is being a pain in the ass or just overstepping boundaries in a big way, you have resources. Just because your landlord owns the building where you sleep does not mean they are above the law. Entering your home without consent or prior notice is illegal, as is removing your belongings, locking you out, or making your home uninhabitable by shutting off utilities. Again, get all complaints in writing and start collecting witnesses. If you don't feel safe or don't trust your landlord you can change your locks -- there is no law in California that says your landlord has to have keys to your place. You are not at the mercy of the whims of your landlord -- know where the boundaries are and know that these are the laws. Everybody's gotta follow the rules.
Evicting a tenant is surprisingly difficult in S.F., so if you find yourself getting the boot you may have some options. There are 15 very clear, very simple reasons that a landlord can evict a tenant. The big ones are:
- Frequent late rent or failure to pay rent.
- Tenant has violated the rental agreement or lease and has received written notice.
- Tenant is creating or permitting a nuisance in, or substantial damage to, the unit.
- Tenant is using the unit for an illegal purpose.
- Tenant's prior rental agreement or lease has ended and the tenant refuses to execute a written extension or renewal of the past agreement.
- Tenant has refused the landlord reasonable access to the unit.
- The only person left in the the unit when the rental agreement expires is a subtenant who has not been approved by the landlord.
- The landlord or a close relative of the landlord (if the landlord lives in the building) wants to move in to the unit and will remain a minimum of 36 consecutive months.
And the rest of the reasons involve the landlord wanting to either destroy, remodel, or repair the building. Head back over to the SFTU's site for more detailed descriptions.
Alright folks, the more you know, the more you grow ... poorer than everyone else in the country because you are still paying so goddamn much for rent. But hey, at least the roaches are gone and you're not out on the street!