I recently inherited my mother s home after she passed away. There are tenants in the home with no lease agreement, I need advice.?

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A question by :  The tenants have been there for quite some time (10-12 years maybe?). They did not have a written lease agreement, only a verbal understanding with my mother. The house is in San Francisco and has two habitable spaces which means it is not considered a single-family dwelling?


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You’ll need to go through the eviction procedure. Every state that I am aware of has some kind of tenancy law that specifies that after a certain number of days, a person residing in a property has tenants rights. States have different time limits, but after four months, they probably have tenants rights and must be formally removed. It would be advisable to work through this process with the help of an attorney if you have never done it before. Other advised activities, such switching locks, taking out appliances, stopping utilities, etc., may sound wonderful, but they could cost you a lot of money and put you in legal trouble in addition to slowing down the process.

You must first ascertain their legal standing with regard to residing there. In Nevada, for example, they have the right to remain there if the legal renter requested them to do so. Whether or whether they are on the lease is irrelevant. It makes no difference if the lease forbade additional individuals. It makes no difference that you didn’t give your approval. They have the right to remain there because the lawful tenant invited them.


“Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, and live in San Jose, not San Francisco.

From the humanistic viewpoint, I believe that people generally don’t change. If the tenants have been there for 10 years plus and have not caused trouble, I think they can be trusted, so it would be simple matter of asking them what the unwritten terms were between them and your mother. In particular, what was the rent, if there is any question, who paid for utilities, who paid for repairs, and so forth. Those things could be verified by looking at old bank statements, bills, or maybe canceled checks if the tenants wrote physical checks. As to the things which are uncertain, just use the boilerplate of a standard lease form. I’d make the lease term one year but advise them that things may change drastically after that year.”


“The lack of a lease does not matter. Those tenants have established residency and can only be removed by eviction. If the property has two separate units, then you are most likely correct that it doesn’t qualify for the single family residence exemption to the SF rent control ordinance. That means you can only terminate a month to month tenancy with just cause–you can look up what constitutes just cause online. There’s a list of 16 items if I recall.

How on earth did your mom take on two sets of renters in SF with no lease? 10 years ago was 2012 and the rental market was already super hot at that time. She should have hired a property management company to take care of this for her. If she collected security deposits, I hope she was making the required interest payments on them.

You may be able to require the tenants to sign a lease now, but my understanding is that it has to offer substantially the same terms as they currently have or they can refuse and continue month to month indefinitely. You’ll have to talk to someone who specializes in the SF rent control ordinance.

You may also have options to do an Ellis Act or owner move-in eviction, but you’ll need a lawyer. The tenants do not automatically have to move out just because the property changed hands–you inherited the property subject to their rights as tenants.

UPDATE: your central question seems to be if you can make your tenants sign a lease. As I indicated before, I think you can, but it has to be on the same terms as their oral lease.”


“With all due respect what your Mother and the tenants agreed to mean nothing now because your Mom and a lease do not exist , period the end. Rent control only applies to a previously written lease not a verbal one. You are simply jumping to conclusions . They have not threatened you nor have they claimed to have a verbal agreement with your Mom. This is just something that you know , probably something that your Mom relayed to you while she was alive and well. What you now need to decide is are you selling or staying ? If you are selling it would be nice to offer some notice and if you are staying its time to write up a proper lease and present it to them.”


“Even without a lease they are subject to city and state laws. The lease usually guarantees that the tenant will live there for at least a year. They have been such long term tenants that probably isn’t an issue. If there are specific issues we don’t know about them give them a lease.”


“you should spend an hour or two with a lawyer and present the tenants with a lease to sign complete with the date of the lease, the payment amount, the term of the lease and a security deposit requirement which they will no doubt say they already gave your now deceased mother.
line up your questions and needs before meeting with the lawyer.
you will have a beef on your hands as these people may be paying little compared to what the real value of the rental should be, and be prepared for a fight.

What I am getting out of this is that your mother owned a duplex in SF. Did she live in one of the units? An owner occupied property of less than four units in treated differently by the SF Rent Arbitration Board. Go to 25 Van Ness and have a chat with an advisor about the situation. In the mean time, try to collect whatever information you can from your mother’s records regarding rental amounts, increases and payments. If you need an attorney at some point, I would suggest Lela Harris if she still practices in SF. She is extremely knowledgeable, efficient, and fairly priced.”


“I don’t know about rent control. But without a lease those people are month to month tenants. To change anything you need to give them a written letter to move or with any changes you intend. That gives them a chance to make up their mind or move whether they accept your new terms. Just write the letter and tell them there will now be a lease and you would like them to come and review it and sign it in a week or two and tell them if you are raising the rent. Each state has their own property laws and you need to read them to be sure you are up to what you need to be doing. I found mine on my state’s web site. Read carefully and don’t assume you understand the legal meaning of what you read. I suggest you google anything you intend to use to be sure you understand. Sixty days sounds very good since you are proposing big changes and then they have up until the 30 day mark to let you know whether they intend to stay or go. Don’t forget…it has to be written and I suggest you send it return receipt and keep everything including the receipt that they have received the letter. Be sure you mail it in time for them to have the full 60 days to decide.”


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