Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What should I do if I have been wrongfully evicted or harassed out of my apartment?

A: Contact our office or another attorney who specializes in wrongful eviction lawsuits. Do not delay. The statute of limitations for wrongful eviction is one year.

Back to Top

Q: What should I do if I receive a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit.

A: Unless you want move out of your apartment within the 3-day period or get sued, you should pay the full amount demanded in the notice, in the exact manner specified in the notice. Although the law provides in some cases that tenants are entitled to withhold rent, it is usually better to pay the rent and recover overpayments later. That way you don’t risk losing your tenancy.

Back to Top

Q: What if I receive a Summons and Complaint for Unlawful Detainer?

A: You must file a proper response with the Court within five days or you will lose the case by default. It may take you some time to get a lawyer. If you can’t afford a lawyer or don’t yet have one yet, you should have a reputable tenant rights organization help you prepare the papers. San Francisco tenants should go to the Eviction Defense Collaborative <http://www.evictiondefense.org/> 995 Market, Suite 1200, M–F 9:30–11:30 AM, 1:00–3:00 PM.

Back to Top

Q: What if my landlord won’t return my security deposit?

A: Landlords have 21 days to return the deposit or account for any portion withheld. Rarely is it cost-effective to hire a lawyer to recover a security deposit. Most tenants in this situation are successful suing the landlord in Small Claims Court. The clerk will help you file the necessary papers. Go to 400 McAllister Street, room 103. Security deposits are governed by Civil Code section 1950.5. Read the law before you sue. The statute provides a monetary penalty of up to twice the amount of the deposit for bad faith retention of a security deposit. It is the landlord’s burden to demonstrate why they failed to return the deposit.

Back to Top

Q: How do I get my landlord to make repairs?

A: It is the landlord’s legal duty to maintain the unit in a habitable condition and make necessary repairs. They don’t have to make the place perfect, just legally habitable. The landlord’s duty to repair is triggered when the landlord has notice of the condition needing repair. Accordingly, it is important to complain to the landlord in writing about conditions needing repair. It is better NOT to withhold rent. Rather, pay the rent on time and in full. Several state and local laws are available to assist tenants in forcing landlords to make repairs, or for recovering monetary damages and attorney fees from the landlord who doesn’t. Habitability cases are worth the most when there are substantial building code violations and the tenant can show the landlord has known about the problem and didn’t fix it.

Back to Top

Q: Should I ever withhold rent from my landlord?

A: Generally, no; at least not unless you are doing so under the advice and watchful eye of an experienced tenant rights attorney. There are laws that provide for the withholding of rent, but unless you want to have an eviction lawsuit filed against you and you are willing to risk losing your apartment, pay the rent in full and on time.

Back to Top