Know Your Rights

Oakland Tenants
San Francisco Tenants
Homeowners
Immigrants


Oakland Tenants


Security Deposits

When tenants rent an apartment, they normally give the landlord some money (usually one month's rent) as a security deposit against unpaid rent or damage to the apartment. If you are caught up on rent and leave the unit in as good condition as when you moved in, the deposit must be returned in full within 3 weeks after you move out. You can't use the security deposit as the last month's rent unless your lease specifically allows this, so you should still pay the last month's rent on time. Please provide your landlord with a forwarding address of where he/she can send you the deposit.

Before moving out: If you request it, your landlord must inspect the apartment during your last two weeks there and provide a list of all the damages that he/she plans to charge for. This gives you a chance to do any needed cleaning or repairs before moving out, and avoid deductions from the deposit. You have the right to be present for the inspection. You should request the inspection in writing. Landlords cannot withhold deposit money for any problems that weren't listed in the inspection report (unless they were created after the inspection).

If you have moved out and the security deposit has not been returned within 21 days after your move out date, the landlord must send you either the full security deposit or an itemized list of any deductions that were taken from your deposit (within 21 days). If this time has gone by and you haven't received your deposit, write to the owners asking for your deposit back. Tell them that they are legally required to return your deposit to you. Keep a copy of your letter. If you still haven't heard back after a couple of weeks, or if the landlord has made deductions for something that isn't your fault, you can sue your landlord in Small Claims Court. For help, call the Small Claims Court counseling line at 510.268.7665. Spanish-speaking counselors may be available.

If you have broken your lease by moving out without giving a proper notice: Landlords often keep security deposits if the tenants break their lease or move out without giving 30 days' notice in writing. This is NOT necessarily legal. If you break your lease, but a new tenant moves in the day after you leave, the landlord can't withhold any part of your deposit (you can sue in Small Claims Court if he/she does). If you break the lease and it takes the landlord 2 weeks to find a new tenant, he/she may be able to legally deduct 2 weeks' worth of rent from your deposit. Always notify the landlord as early as possible, in writing, when you want to move out, to avoid this type of situation and losing your deposit money.

 
Evictions

Most Oakland tenants are covered by the Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance (also known as Measure EE) which Oakland voters passed in 2002. This means that you CANNOT be evicted without a just cause reason! Here are the 11 Just Causes for eviction in Oakland:

1. You have not paid your rent.

2. You have continued to violate a provision of the lease after written notice to stop was sent to you.

3. You refuse to sign a new lease that is identical to your old one (when the old one expires.)

4. You have substantially damaged the unit and refuse to stop damaging it or pay for repairs after written notice.

5. You continued to disturb other tenants and neighbors (even ones that live outside the building) after written notice to stop.

6. You use the unit for an illegal purpose (like selling drugs).

7. You won't let the landlord into the apartment, even with a 24 hours' written notice.

8. The owner wants to move back into the unit and you and the landlord have a written agreement, or it states it in your lease, that allows for the landlord to move back in after a stated amount of time.

9.The landlord or landlord's spouse, domestic partner, child, parent or grandparent wish to move in to the unit. The landlord or his or her relative cannot move in if the tenant has lived in the unit 5 years or longer and is:

A.) 60 yrs or older

B.) Disabled, or

C.) Catastrophically ill

unless the landlord or his or her relative is also 60 years or older, disabled, or catastrophically ill and the landlord has no other unit. The landlord may only move back in to a unit once a 36-month period under this just cause reason. The landlord must give appropriate notice to the tenant, including all property owned by the intended occupant, the real property address, if any, on which the intended occupant claims a homeowner's tax exemption and a statement regarding the possibility of the tenant occupying a "replacement unit". Once the unit has been repossesed by the landlord no other unit on the property can be used for the landlord or relative.

10. The landlord wants to remove the building from the rental market under the Ellis Act.

11. The landlord wants to make repairs on the unit that cannot be made with the tenant living there (they have to let you move back in at the same rent when they're done. Restrictions apply for this just cause reason.)

Note: You CANNOT be evicted just because your lease is up or your landlord wants to sell the building!

If a landlord wants to evict you, he has to give you a WRITTEN notice that lists one of the 11 just cause reasons above. If the cause is your fault (like not paying rent or violating your contract in some way) the landlord only needs to give you a 3 days notice. That 3-day notice does not mean you need to move out in three days, although you can move out at your choice. The 3-day notice is the first step in the eviction process.

If you receive an illegal eviction notice (one that lists no cause at all, does not leave you enough time, is not in writing, or makes allegations that aren't true), it is NOT valid and you do NOT have to move! You should call CJJC’s Tenants' Rights Clinic immediately at 510-TENANTS (510-836-2687).

If you are not covered by Oakland's Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance (Measure EE) then a 60 days eviction notice is required if you have lived in the unit for a year, and 30 days notice otherwise.

People who aren't covered by the Just Cause Ordinance: The main exceptions to the Just Cause Ordinance are owner-occupied buildings of 3 units or less and units built after 1983. In these buildings, landlords can take back apartments for any reason or no reason at all at the end of any lease period or any month (if there's no long-term lease). Normally, the landlord must give 60 days' notice (if the tenant has lived in the apartment for at least a year) or 30 days' notice otherwise. However, if the tenant has done something seriously wrong (not paid the rent, used the apartment for an illegal purpose, damaged the apartment, or disturbed the other tenants), the landlord only needs to give a 3-day notice. Either way, the landlord has to notify the tenants in writing.

The eviction process: If the landlord has given you a notice, the time is up, and you have not fixed the problem or left, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit (called an Unlawful Detainer or UD). If you receive a UD, you must find a lawyer IMMEDIATELY - you have only five days to file a response to the lawsuit, and the procedures involved are complicated. The legal eviction process can take anywhere from 3 weeks to a few months.

Eviction lawsuits will appear on your record, even if you win the case, so they can make it harder to rent other apartments in the future. So if you do not have a valid defense against the eviction, you should try to move out before the suit is filed.

It is NEVER legal for landlords to do "self-help" evictions - lock you out, turn off utilities, confiscate possessions, etc. If any of these things happen, you should call the police.
 
Rent Increases

Many Oakland tenants are covered under Oakland's Rent Control Ordinance. This says that landlords can only raise rents once a year, and only by a certain amount (set by the city every year). People who live in single-family homes, units built since 1983, and owner-occupied buildings with 3 or fewer units are NOT covered by rent control. If you live in one of these types of units, your landlord can raise your rent at any time.

In units covered by rent control, the landlord can raise the rent only once per year. This year (2009-2010), the maximum increase is 0.7%. If a landlord does not raise the rent for several years, he can "bank" (add up) the maximum increases for past years and raise the rent by that amount all at once. For more about allowable rent increases or to view allowable increases for years past, click here

If you're not sure if your rent increase is legal, call CJJC’s Housing Committee/Tenants’ Rights Clinic at 510.TENANTS (510.836.2687). If the increase is definitely illegal, you can file a petition at the Rent Board (250 Frank Ogawa Plaza, Suite 5313, 510.238.3721)
 
Repairs

Any time you rent an apartment, your landlord has to provide you with a safe and decent place to live. City and state laws list some things that every apartment needs, but it's mostly common sense - if something looks like it's in serious need of repair, the landlord is probably required to fix it.

Landlords must provide hot and cold running water; working sinks, toilets and showers; unbroken windows that open and close; smoke detectors; a working heater (there has to be enough heat to keep the apartment at 70 degrees, 24 hours a day); and insect and rodent extermination (giving out traps or poison is not enough, especially if the whole building is infested). Pipes must be kept up, and leaks, mold and water damage should be repaired. If there is peeling paint or plaster, it should be replaced. Holes in walls or ceilings should be sealed, especially if bugs are coming in through them. Your landlord must fix appliances like stoves and refrigerators, as long as they came with the apartment.

If you need repairs done, the first step is to request them in writing and keep a copy of the letter. If that doesn't work, try calling the city Code Compliance office (510.238.3381). They will send an inspector out within a couple of days and issue a Notice of Violation to the landlord in a couple of weeks. NOTE: the office is not very efficient or communicative! Make sure you get the inspector's name and phone number and call back to get a copy of the Notice of Violation. If the problem has still not been solved in a few weeks, call the inspector and request a re-inspection. At this point your landlord will start being charged fines.

Withholding rent: tenants often try withholding rent until the landlord makes repairs. Normally, this is a very risky option, because you could be evicted for non-payment of rent. But if the Code Compliance office has issued a Notice of Violation for your unit, and the problem still exists after 35 days, state law says that you do not have to pay rent! (But make sure you talk to a CJJC tenants’ rights counselor or a lawyer before taking this route, and be sure to keep your rent money in the bank instead of spending it.)

Rules

Sometimes landlords try to change the terms of the tenancy at the end of a month or a lease period. For example, they may want you to pay your own utilities, get rid of a pet, take responsibility for more maintenance work in the unit, or sign a year-long lease when you've always rented month-to-month before.

As long as you're covered under the Just Cause Ordinance (see above), the landlord is not allowed to do this. So if a landlord gives you a new lease or rental agreement that is different from the old one, you can refuse to sign it without risking eviction. If you don't sign a new lease, the tenancy becomes month-to-month, and the rules stay the same as under the last lease.

Even if you don't have a written lease or agreement, the landlord still can't change the terms of tenancy. So if your landlord has always paid the water bill, he can't suddenly ask you to pay it, even if he hasn't agreed in writing to pay it.

If you are not covered under the Just Cause Ordinance and rent control, your landlord can make these kinds of changes without your agreement - but only at the end of a lease period or a month (if you don't have a long-term lease).


San Francisco Tenants

For information on tenant rights in San Francisco, please click here. Link to http://hrcsf.org/tenant_info.html


Homeowners

  1. 1. DO NOT PAY FOR HELP! You can find help for FREE. Call us for more information.
    1. 2. Contact your servicer to request a loan remodification
      • Call CJJC to request a sample letter
      • After you send the letter, you will have to call each week until you hear from them
      • Keep copies of everything
  2. 3. Collect all of the paperwork/correspondence that you have on your home and put it in a folder or binder and collect your income/financial statements and put these into a folder – READ all letters in respect to your mortgage
    o Make sure to have copies of paystubs and W2’s (you will need this to prove your finances when remodifying)
    o Document all that you have done up to this point
     How many times have you called your loan servicer?  Have you sent them any letters?  Have you contracted any services/organizations to help you?
    o Clarify where you are in the process:
     Have you defaulted on your loan?  If not, when will you?
     Are you already in foreclosure, for how long?
     Have you received a summons in the mail, or at your door?
     Have you heard from your servicer?
  3. 4. Clarify what you want (CJJC can help you explore your options)
    • Do you want to keep your home, are you willing to fight for it?
    • Do you have a family member or close friend that you trust to purchase your home?
    • Are you willing to be a renter in your home until you are able to afford buying it back at the current market value?
  4. 5. MAKE and KEEP copies of all correspondence!

If you are a homeowner who is in foreclosure or is late on your payments, the following are steps you can take. For more information, call Causa Justa :: Just Cause (CJJC) at 510.763.5877 and talk to Robbie at ext. 309.

  1.  

Immigrants

MY COMMUNITY IS A SANCTUARY!

It is important for our families, friends and co-workers to be informed about and defend our rights.

Don’t let Immigration in without your permission.

To enter a building, home or workplace, Immigration has to have permission from the employer or homeowner, or a warrant signed by a judge, saying specifically what part they want to search and the people they want to question. If you open the door for them and let them come in, you are giving your permission. Be careful!! If they say they have a warrant from a judge, demand to see it.

Don’t open the door to people you don’t know.

A lot of times, Immigration agents don’t wear uniforms, and they can be confused with salespeople or regular people. Remember that Immigration can’t come in your house unless they have a warrant from the court...or if you let them in.

Don’t tell anyone where you are from or whether you have papers. Demand to speak to an attorney.

Immigration can’t try to deport you if they don’t have the necessary information to prove that you don’t have papers. If you tell them where you are from, how you came in, and that you don’t have papers, that’s all the information they need to detain and deport you. Don’t share your immigration status nor the status of others. Don’t be a snitch for Immigration.

It is probable that even if no one says anything, Immigration agents will arrest you or try to intimidate you.

If you don’t give information to Immigration, they have to let you go. Although Immigration will pressure you, resist! Don’t let them defeat you.

If there is a raid, don’t run! Stay calm.

If you run, Immigration has the necessary cause to detain you. Don’t run, walk away in a calm manner and try not to look nervous.

Don’t sign anything until you talk to a lawyer.

If Immigration detains you, they will try to get you to sign your voluntary departure. But if you sign it, you could lose your rights. Demand the right to speak to a lawyer before signing any paper.

Don’t show Immigration false documents.

It is very dangerous to use fake papers. If immigration catches you with them, they can fine, deport and prohibit you from ever getting legal residency.

If the police stops and asks you for your name, give it to them.

You need to give your name to the police if they ask you for it. You have the right to not say anything to Immigration.

If you are detained, ask for your case number and a local hearing.

Once you are detained by Immigration, you should give them your full and true name and ask for your case number. Only with your name and case number can your family or lawyer find you. During the deportation process, demand a court hearing in your city to prevent being taken to another state.

Prepare for a raid with a plan of action.

Tell your friends, family members and co-workers what their rights are during a raid. Try to decide together that if there is a raid, EVERYONE, regardless of their immigration status, will refuse to talk to Immigration and will demand to speak to a lawyer. Have a list of family members and friends for your children in case you are detained. Always keep an original copy of your documents in a safe place and carry a copy.

If there is a raid and you are documented, exercise your rights to remain silent.

If there is a raid and no one says anything, Immigration cannot do its job. This is the best protection that we have as a community.

Be careful with notaries or people who promise you papers.

Know that “notaries” are not lawyers and that some notaries can give you wrong information. Always get a second opinion from a legal organization before you spend a lot of money in a false application.

Be aware of differences between US laws and laws in your country of origin.

There are certain infractions and violations that can put you at risk of being detained by the police or Immigration, such as urinating in public, instigating violence in the home and drinking alcohol in the street.

Stay informed about changes in the law.

Currently, there is no amnesty or other legalization program. It is important to keep documentation that proves your length of stay in the US. You have the right to emergency medical care, education and financial support through your children.

We need to remain united in the struggle for real and just change in immigration laws. Now more than ever, we need to raise our voice for dignity and justice for all.

Immigration KYR Prepared by Deporten a la Migra Coalition in San Francisco. Deporten a la Migra is St. Peter’s Housing Committee, La Raza Centro Legal, Day Labor Program, CARECEN, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Filipino Community Center, POWER, PODER, Young Workers United, and CISPES.

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