An eviction is a legal process in which a landlord physically removes a tenant and their belongings from a rental property (e.g., apartments or homes). An eviction is also said to occur when a landlord disturbs a tenant’s enjoyment of the premises by disrupting necessary amenities, such as intentionally shutting off the heat. This second type of eviction is known as a “constructive eviction”.

However, constructive evictions are normally not allowed. Thus, in order for an eviction to be considered valid and lawful, the landlord must act in accordance with the first definition and must comply with the proper legal procedures. For instance, to evict a tenant, the landlord must file eviction documents with their local court and serve the tenant with notice of the action.

The requirements and processes for evicting a tenant can vary widely from state to state. For example, evictions that fall under the Ellis Act can only be filed in the state of California. This is because the Ellis Act is a California state law. 

The Act permits landlords to evict residential tenants if they intend to leave the rental business. The landlord must evict all tenants and notify them in advance. Failure to evict all tenants or provide notice can result in legal consequences.

What If My Landlord Goes Back into the Rental Business?

The Ellis Act provides certain restrictions for landlords who choose to return to the rental business. Some of these restrictions include:

  • If a certain rental unit is empty at the time an eviction occurs, the landlord must wait two years before they are allowed to re-rent that unit.
  • In contrast, if the unit was not empty at the time of an eviction, the landlord cannot re-rent the unit for at least two years. After two years have passed, the landlord may re-rent it, but first they must offer it back to the original tenants at the same rate. 
  • Also, a landlord cannot receive market value for rent from the initial tenants until five years have passed.
  • After an Ellis Act eviction, a landlord must wait ten years if they wish to re-rent a unit without having to abide by any of the above restrictions. 

Although it is primarily up to the evicted tenants to enforce these restrictions, landlords who violate them may be liable for actual and punitive damages, as well as general damages if the tenant pursues an alternative remedy. A tenant may also regain possession of their original unit.

In addition to tenant lawsuits, a local Rent or Housing Board may file a civil action against the landlord for exemplary or punitive damages.  

What Can the Landlord Do with the Property under the Ellis Act?

Both landlords and tenants retain certain rights under the Ellis Act. Some rights that landlords have under the Act include:

  • The right to evict tenants for the purpose of “withdrawing” from the rental business; 
  • The right to re-enter and re-rent their property after a certain amount of time has passed;
  • The right to re-rent without any restrictions 10 years after an Ellis Act eviction occurs; 
  • The right to file an unlawful detainer lawsuit if a tenant refuses to vacate the premises after an eviction notice was received; and/or
  • The right to have the tenant lawfully removed by the local Sheriff if the landlord succeeds on the lawsuit. 

On the other hand, some rights that evicted tenants have under the Act include:

  • The right to receive notice of an impending eviction;
  • The right to receive relocation assistance;
  • Disabled or elderly tenants have the right to request an extension on their move-out date; 
  • The right to re-rent their unit for the same rate after two years;
  • The right to re-rent their unit for the market rate after five years;
  • The right of first refusal or return to their original unit within the 10 year period after an Ellis Act eviction; and/or 
  • The right to retain relief if the landlord violates any sections of the Ellis Act. 

It is important to note, however, that these rights may change based on jurisdiction since each municipality is allowed to implement their own version of a local Ellis Act. Individual city statutes derived from the original Ellis Act will be discussed in further detail below. 

What Qualifies as Proper Notice for an Eviction?

In general, an eviction notice is a written document that informs a tenant that they will have a certain amount of time to vacate the premises. The eviction notice must contain all information mandated by relevant federal and/or state laws, must follow proper procedures for serving the eviction notice, and may have additional requirements based on the reason for the eviction. 

For example, an Ellis Act eviction notice must be served 120 days before the tenant is evicted, or one year prior if the tenant is disabled or elderly.

Additionally, laws regarding proper eviction notices can be violated by a major or minor act. For instance, if a landlord supplies no notice to the tenant being evicted, then this would be considered a major violation. A minor violation, however, can be something as simple as a typing error or missing term, or making a careless mistake like inputting dates that do not correspond to those contained in other relevant eviction documents.

If a landlord fails to follow the proper legal procedures and other requirements for an eviction notice, they can face serious legal consequences, such as having to pay the tenant damages, extending the amount of time the tenant has to resolve the reason for the eviction, and potentially even being charged with a criminal offense.

Is the Ellis Act the Same All Over California?

As briefly mentioned, the general provisions of the Ellis Act may vary by jurisdiction. For instance, the Ellis Act in Los Angeles allows a tenant to re-rent their unit at the same rate for up to five years after an eviction. This is in contrast to the main standard, which is only two years.

As another example, the Santa Monica Ellis Act does allow a landlord to re-rent units, but the landlord must procure a reoccupation permit from the local Rent Board before they can reenter the business. In comparison, the Berkeley Ellis Act only requires that a landlord notifies the city of their intent to re-rent their property.

One final example of a city-specific statute with different conditions is the Ellis Act in San Francisco. In San Francisco, a landlord must pay a relocation fee of $7,230.41 per tenant if they are evicted under the Ellis Act. Also, if the tenant is disabled or elderly (usually around 62 years or older), then the landlord will be required to pay an additional $4,820.26. 

Though this may seem like a lot of money, these numbers look considerably smaller when compared to Santa Monica’s relocation amounts.

While a landlord will only have to pay $1,000 to $2,000 in relocation fees to a household that contains a minor, disabled, or elderly person, the standard amounts for evicting tenants from studios, one-bedrooms, and apartments with two or more bedrooms can range anywhere from $15,000 to over $30,000 in Santa Monica.

Thus, as evidenced by the above examples, it is very important that a tenant or landlord involved in an Ellis Act eviction action check their local statutes for the proper legal requirements.

Do I Need to Hire an Attorney if I Have Issues Involving California Ellis Act Evictions?

Whether you are a landlord or a tenant involved in an eviction action that falls under the provisions of the California Ellis Act, it may be in your best interest to contact a California lawyer who practices in your county to obtain further legal guidance. 

A local real estate lawyer will be able to apprise you of your rights and duties under the Ellis Act, can discuss whether the circumstances will allow or prohibit the eviction from occurring, and can research other relevant state property laws that may help to resolve your matter. 

Also, as discussed above, it is important to remember that certain sections of the Ellis Act may vary by municipality. A lawyer who practices in your jurisdiction will be familiar with the specific conditions of your local Ellis Act and will know how it applies to eviction actions in your area.  

Finally, if you need help filing an eviction action or would like to challenge one, your lawyer can walk you through either process, answer any questions you may have, and can represent you in court on the matter if necessary.