Tenant Buy-outs & Cash-for-Keys, Bracamontes & Vlasak
Serving San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, California and surrounding communities
In cities with Rent Ordinances, such as San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, long-term tenants are most at-risk for wrongful evictions by their landlord. Certain landlords will attempt to “buy-out” long-term tenants. These tenancies are particularly valuable because the tenants are usually paying well below fair market rental value. Landlords in cities with Rent Ordinances are sometimes willing to pay these tenants significant amounts of money so they can re-rent the unit for a higher amount.
In other instances, landlords informally contact tenants and claim that they will be performing an owner move-in (“OMI”) eviction because either the landlord or his/her immediate family member will move into the unit. While OMI’s are legal, they cannot be done in retaliation and must be done in good faith. In San Francisco, there can only be one OMI per building – ever. As such, landlords are hesitant to implement an OMI where there is a possibility of negotiating with a tenant for a voluntary move-out.
If you are approached by your landlord concerning a buy-out offer, do not attempt to negotiate the amount by yourself. Most landlords have done this before and attempt to low-ball tenants with unreasonably low offers. Hiring an attorney from Bracamontes & Vlasak, P.C. will give you the leverage you need to maximize your buy-out and help you understand your rights as a tenant.
A "cash-for-keys" arrangement usually arises in the course of a foreclosure, where the bank or real estate agent offers the tenant money to move out. A foreclosure is not grounds for eviction in San Francisco or Oakland. If you are a tenant whose landlord has let the property go into foreclosure, you still have rights.
How much is my tenancy worth? What demand should I make for a buyout of my rent-controlled tenancy in San Francisco?
The value of your tenancy depends on many factors, including its length, the rent-differential (difference between your current rent-controlled rate and market rate for that unit), and whether the landlord can evict you for cause or effectuate a no-fault eviction. Of course, if there's no way the landord can lawfully get you out of the unit, you will have the most bargaining power. Your plans and the landlord's business plans for the building are also important factors to know when determining how much leverage you have - and hence how much money you can demand - for a buyout. As a general rule, you should never accept less than four years of your rent-differential amount for a buyout. Yet each case is different and all factors must be considered.
While negotiating a buyout on your own will prevent you from paying attorney's fees, you may also end up getting substantially less money. We represent tenants on negotiable terms that always benefit the client. Sometimes the client is better off paying an attorney hourly and sometimes on a reduced contingency percentage to negotiate a buyout. Having the right tenant attorney on your side who is willing to go to court for you if necessary and who understands the nuances of the San Francisco Rent Ordinance and California landlord-tenant law will almost always substantially increase your recovery so that you end up ahead even after paying attorney's fees. You will also be spared the time and stress of negotiations, which can often be prolonged and contentious.
At BV Law, we've had cases where we've collected from the landlord 100 times the amount that was initially offered to the tenant for a buyout.
If you face a buy-out offer, a “cash-for-keys” offer, or eviction, it is important that you speak with the right tenant attorney. Contact an experienced eviction defense and tenant buyout lawyer at Bracamontes & Vlasak, P.C. to help secure your rights. For a free consultation on your tenancy, call us at 415-835-6777 or contact us by e-mail.
Important eviction timeline:
- The landlord serves a three-day notice (or a 30-day or 60-day notice);
- After the notice expires, the landlord can file a lawsuit (unlawful detainer);
- After the complaint has been served to the tenant, the tenant has five days to respond in writing to the court. Proper responses include, but are not limited to, demurrer, motion to quash service of summons, motion to strike, or an answer.