3,610 housing units were removed from the rental market in San Francisco by way of an Ellis Act eviction from 1997 to 2013, according to a new report by Tenants Together. That’s an average of 226 units Ellised a year.

In 2013, a total of 250 units in San Francisco were Ellised, roughly 11 percent above the sixteen-year average. In 2012, a total of 109 units were Ellised in San Francisco, 52 percent below average which might help explain why the year-over-year numbers have jumped.

Since 1997, 30 percent of Ellis Act activity in San Francisco has been by way of an owner having invoked the Ellis Act for more than one building. While characterized as “Serial Evictors” in the Tenants’ report, keep in mind that a long-time landlord or estate with more than one building moving to exit the rental business would fall under the “serial evictor” category as well.

And over the past five years, 51 percent of the Ellis Act evictions were invoked within a year of purchasing a building, affecting a total of 297 units since 2009. Unfortunately, the Tenants’ report doesn’t include a comparison with respect to the average length of ownership prior to invoking the Ellis Act from 1997 to 2009.

36 thoughts on “Ellis Act Eviction Activity In San Francisco By The Numbers”
  1. In 16 years something in the range of 1% of all the housing stock was Ellis acted.
    This is a pretty minor issue. But fear mongers need to make a living I guess.
    Now what we would need to see is how many tenants got a windfall from NOT being Ellis acted and collecting buy-out cash.
    Now using your protection to make money off someone else’s property is the real immorality play here. But in SF, a property title is often secondary to the rental agreement. The tenant owns you virtually forever.

  2. To place the opposite spin on this report, you could say that 1000’s of San Franciscan’s were able to purchase their first home as a result of the use of the Ellis Act!

  3. Or: From 1997 to 2013, 3,610 housing units in San Francisco were added to the pool of units available for purchase by San Francisco home buyers seeking a way out of the rental market.

  4. But one less tenant means one less person you can easily scare to play on their insecurities.
    If the tenant lobby fear mongers were really interested into the well-being of tenants, they would push them towards home-ownership.
    For instance there is a great law in France that helps both landlords and tenants.
    At the end of a 3-year lease cycle, the landlord can evict his tenant under the provision of “termination of lease for reason of sale”. One condition for that is that you are bound to offer the tenant the place at the price you were offered. For simplicity reasons, the landlord will directly offer the place at 5 % under what he wants to get (no agent commish helps).
    Both benefit from it: the landlord can free up his place when he sells, and the tenant can stay in the place by purchasing at a discount if he choses to.
    Of course, this would be too simple for SF. Tenant activists consider that landlording is theft. They are more communist than socialist France.

  5. im assuming this is being touted as positive new because having more homeowners has a very positive impact on neighborhoods. It would be good to get SF to 75% home ownership and increasing Ellis Acts is a good start to do this. I hope the rate goes up from 1% because that is way too low.

  6. I think there is some confusion among tenants as to what counts as an Ellis Act eviction. I have talked to a number of renters who assume an owner move in eviction is the same as an Ellis Act eviction, when it is clear that if there is only one tenant being evicted from a multi unit complex it is clearly not Ellis Act.

  7. It’s not like we are losing housing as a result of the Ellis Act. It just goes from being rental to being resident-owned. Most places celebrate people owning their own homes. In San Francisco we celebrate renting only because so many are forced to do it but even for those it isn’t what they aspire to.
    I think the current crop of politicians are so upset about the Ellis Act because they know their election is dependent upon those who are dependent on them and their rent laws. As more San Franciscans become home owners, they will move in another political direction.

  8. Ya gotta love the emotionally loaded graphics and text in that tenant brochure. From the map of black spots surround by blood red pools to the text “Ellis act evictions committed by serial evictors”. “Committed” is a loaded word and alludes to criminal activity. How about “Ellis act evictions by multi-unit landlords” instead? And then they use that prison stencil font as well on the graphic.
    The tenant advocates do have a case but this shrill approach erodes legitimacy.

  9. @BTinSF – Further to your point, there is nothing to say the TIC unit won’t be rented out in the future (and covered under rent control). No, this is about protecting a constituency.

  10. MoD, yeah, you’d think someone is carpet-bombing SF.
    I disagree, tenant advocates do not have a case. Everywhere in the world tenants come and go. Renting is not permanent. 15 years of compounded evictions in the range of 1% of all the rental stock is not the story. The 99% that stayed untouched under the very constraining rules in SF is.

  11. lol: Looks like France mandates right of first refusal for tenants (at a discount). You can put that into a lease agreement in the US, but I doubt many property owners bother to. However, I can see how it would be advantageous; you essentially get a buyer that you are familiar with and that has a vested interest the property/unit.

  12. Serge,
    I have used this eviction clause 6 times in 2 years in my Paris landlording days.
    None, absolutely none of my tenants ever complained or contested. And I have never had to pay even one penny as a compensation. 2 rules to respect: a) you need to do it at the 3-year anniversary of the lease, and b) give a 6-months notice prior to this 3-year anniversary.
    One very good resin none of the tenants protested: even with some level of rent control, all my tenants were paying around market price, even after 5+ years. This means they were solvent for the current rent and had no problem affording a new place at a similar price.
    In SF, the main reason people are extremely vocal about evictions is that they have to leave a rental that they grossly underpay compared with market rent. When you have a sweet sweet deal, you develop a mentality that you must be so precious for SF that a landlord is subsidizing your life here. I am precious, unique and protected, how dare you want to claim your property!?

  13. lol: That is indeed the problem. People who are renting for decades on-end and face eviction will fight tooth-and-nail to stay there. Which is why landlords are being wrung out for every dollar by tenants and their advocacy groups.
    As many others above have mentioned, these tenant groups never consider the positive side which is added housing stock, allowing people who were previously renting to purchase their own house. The FUD tactics (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) perpetrated by tenant groups is borderline propaganda.

  14. RC is akin to parents who coddle their children after high school graduation and them live at home through their 20s. But when you get tired of having them at home, its too late if they haven’t motivated to acquire the skills needed to get a job that pays enough to be self sufficient.

  15. MoD,
    Yes, if you do not put your kids into the real world soon enough, they’ll find the world unfair and mean. So is SF’s very mild brand of capitalism to rent control recipients.

  16. Serge,
    My take on this is that SF receives a steady flow of people who are too scared to fight for progressive ideas in their native Ohio, Alabama or Nebraska. Then end up in their Shangri-La with nothing really important to protest. Rebels-without-a-cause would be a term. Their boredom is proportional to their protest of anything and everything that reminds them of what they left behind.

  17. Lol, I agree the graphic is a bit extremist, but I am not sure what “steady flow” of people from Ohio, Nebrask (?), and Alabama (???) are moving to SF.
    SF is too expensive for most people to just casually move here unless they have a good paying job waiting, are being supported by wealthy parents, or are coming here as a student who will be living in university provided housing. Also, how many natives of Alabama have you run into in the City? Very few. Most people moving to SF come from Southern California, New York, Boston, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, and other places in the Bay Area and other parts of Northern California.

  18. I know a lot if people from Alabama here including me. Also tons of people from univ of Georgia, Vanderbilt, Emory and other southern schools

  19. So how about a study by Tenants Together that shows the % of owners who Ellis Act a building and actually move in to that building? I’ll bet it’s pretty high. And how long do they stay?
    My 4-unot building was Ellised, and the four TIC owners all moved in to the different units. They stayed for two, eight, nine, and twelve years – an Average of 5+ years, which is perfectly reasonable, especially when one moves from single twentysomething to a parents of several children

  20. I’d like to see a graphic showing the number and locations evictions for “cause” like non-payment of Rent or illegal short-term subletting.

  21. The article states:
    Notwithstanding CAR’s statement that the Ellis Act “does not permit the owner to change the property to another use,” that is exactly how the law has been used. In San Francisco, most Ellis Act evictions are performed in order to convert the units to tenancies-in-common (TICs), a form of ownership similar to condominiums.
    LIARS! The use remains the same: residential. The only thing that changes is the ownership structure.
    The authors of this report are liars that are attempting to distort the facts for their benefit.
    ELLIS them all! Sometimes you must break the system in order to fix it.

  22. stats and graphics of all evictions by type for the past 16 years are in a report at link below prepared by the Budget and Legislative Analyst in October 2013. It is very comprehensive with summaries of the laws and provides demographic and economic analysis.
    The annual for-cause eviction rate varies much less than the no-fault rate.
    FWIW, the zip code with the most no-fault evictions is in the center of Campos district.

  23. I have a question re the hostility to renters and rent control on socketsite — where does it come from?
    im a sf homeowner, spent a long time as a partner in hedge funds/private equity — so this is not a tenant activist writing — but i just do not get the hostility toward “renter”, “freeloaders” “campos” etc.
    im realistic about sf politics, economics local and global – i.e. a pragmatist.
    this is a serious not a sarcastic question. anyone want to shed some not-angry light on this?

  24. Louis,
    I can’t speak for others, but I don’t have any hostility towards renters and have rented at various times in my life.
    Rent control as currently structured, however, is a different story. San Francisco’s rent control ordinance places the burden of housing long term residents solely on a small group of society. It would be like requiring hedge funds/private equity entities to be required to provide for 100% of the monies needed for retirement for employees of all portfolio companies.
    I can certainly understand the reasoning for providing housing subsidies for certain segments of the population. However it makes infinite sense to spread this cost over the entire tax paying public rather than those individuals who have chosen to provide housing. Do we require farmers to pay for food stamps?
    Finally, I do have issues with tenant activists. Their position seems to stem from the “property is theft” position and refuse to even consider reasonable compromises. One only has to view the SFTU website to see their extreme bias and confrontational stance.

  25. My hostility comes from tens of thousands in payouts to tenants that were subsidized for decades. All the while, I was changing their water heaters, snaking their toilets and fixing their problems for naught. The rent control structure creates lazy tenants with no incentive to advance because they have a cushy lifestyle supported by landlords.
    I have multiple empty units – I am not stupid enough to rent them out again. I have friends and clients with vacant units. Our mentality is simple: F%%% me once, shame on you…. F%%% me twice, shame on me. Let the rents rise out of control and other landlords can get F%%%%. personally, I shall watch from the sidelines. I am part of this city too and I don’t want to see it become a place for the rich alone. However, that is exactly what the rent control system creates.
    You idiot tenant activists that believe Rent Control is good are retarded. You are being played by scumbags like Vampos – he sucks your votes and tricks you into thinking the slow death is good for you. You are nothing more than Morons that cannot think for yourselves and beyond this weeks paycheck.

  26. “I was changing their water heaters, snaking their toilets and fixing their problems for naught.”
    – Well, that’s your responsibility as a landlord. Don’t like it? Sell the building and go do something else.
    I’ve no disagreement with the general attitude towards RC – I think it’s a ridiculous system. But I really don’t have much sympathy for people like Hitman who bitch about simply doing their job. Or, for that matter, landlords who buy RC buildings and then bitch about RC.

  27. The total number of Ellis evictions is less than reported, since they surely count all of the units in a building, where some of them must have already been vacant.

  28. conifer, that may explain a discrepancy in the Ellis Act stats between the number of units and the number of eviction notices.
    There were 2,893 Ellis Act eviction notices 1997-2013 according to the Rent Board. That’s 20% less than the 3,610 units counted as “removed from the rental market in San Francisco under the Ellis Act” in the Tenants Together report.
    However, from the BLA report I linked to above:
    “It is likely that more tenants may be displaced than reported by the Rent Board. … in some instances, landlords reportedly offer buyouts to their tenants for them to vacate their rental units in lieu of an Ellis Act eviction. If both parties agree to the buyout terms, the tenant leaving is not considered an eviction and vacating the property under these circumstances is not reported to the Rent Board. As a result, data on the number of such occurrences each year are not available.”

  29. @Fishchum
    Exactly! Just about every owner of a rent controlled building in San Francisco purchased *after* the law was passed. It was certainly a raw deal if you owned a building many years ago and had RC imposed on you. As unjust as that may have been, removing RC now would be a one-time windfall to people who happen to own those buildings now.
    Anyone LL who doesn’t like rent control is free to buy a building someplace that doesn’t have it (or buy one not subject to rent control).

  30. A better option for those who want to exit the rent control business is to convert to TICs. It’s far more profitable than selling a building burdened by tenants.

  31. Fischum-
    I’m out now and I have a non-rent control building too, which is gold. Now I shall use my capital to inflict revenge on the communists and profit. I shall Ellis, Ellis and Ellis some more. After the new law is passed, my risk will be priced and defined. F$%$% them all! Ellis now because last one out is a rotten egg. The board of supes throw around moral judgment about the Ellis act – I say that I owe know morality to those who hold me under a gun.

  32. Chris,
    Yeah, you’re probably right. I was describing red state “refugees”.
    The aggro attitude is nothing compared with the anti-landlord hatred on much of other media.
    Why the tenant character assassination? Very simple. You have a tenant being lawfully evicted and the press, websites, supes and the city will go after you. The city will even fund the defense of the tenants to beat you for trying to exercise your legal right!
    This is messed up. I think the main reason for the anti-landlord attitude is that in SF we do give a lot of importance in being more free from constraints and rules, and landlord rights go against everyone else’s happiness.
    If your rent is very low, you gain quite a lot of freedom from social conventions. You can have dreadlocks or a very relaxed dress code because your job in the arts, or for a not-for-profit that pays you a very low (by SF standards) wage can still pay for your rent. You can live your dream, not worry too much about money. Shangri-La.
    Then landlords get tired of paying for this lifestyle that they do not get to enjoy. Suddenly they’re the bad guys and the activists will crucify them

  33. I was Ellised after Brown & Company bought my apt. building approx. 5 years ago. The building was redone (generic from Edwardian) and sold as T.I.C.’s… the building is not shown on the chart illustrating this article.

  34. presidio heights,
    I think this image is an image capture of the animation. I suggest you go to the source of the data.

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