WHERE TO GET HELP
East Palo Alto Rent Stabilization Program
2200 University Ave., East Palo Alto
Tel: (650) 853-3109
Rights and Responsibilities of
San Mateo County Small Claims Court
500 County Center, Redwood City (602 Middlefield Rd.) Tenants and Landlords in East Palo Alto
• This is where you pick up forms and file them.
San Mateo County Small Claims Court Advisory Program
• You can access information through the Telephone Advisory
Program at (650) 363-4303; or through the Web at
• You can also bring your questions to walk-in advisory workshops on
small claims. These are held on Tuesday evenings from 5-7 p.m. at
800 N. Humbolt St., Courtroom I, San Mateo.
The following groups offer free or low-cost legal advice on housing
issues. Call the offices for more information on how they might be able
to help you.
Bay Area Legal Aid CONTENTS
2287 El Camino Real, San Mateo
Tel: (650) 358-0745 or (800) 551-5554
Landlords’ Duties Concerning Eviction
Notices of Termination
Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto
2117-B University Ave., East Palo Alto
Landlords’ Duty to Register
Tel: (650) 326-6440 Frequently Asked Questions
La Raza Centro Legal Sample Letter
474 Valencia St., Suite 295, San Francisco Where to Get Help
Tel: (415) 575-3500
Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County Prepared by Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto
521 East 5th Ave., San Mateo with support from the EAST PALO ALTO RENT
Tel: (650) 558-0915 / TDD: (650) 558-0786 STABILIZATION PROGRAM (650) 853-3109
Stanford Community Law Clinic
2117 University Ave., Suite A, East Palo Alto November 2004
Tel: (650) 475-0560
About the East Palo Alto Rent Stabilization Program
East Palo Alto’s Rent Stabilization Program administers the Rent
Stabilization Ordinance. For units under rent control, the Program:
• Determines the maximum legal rent; and
• Provides fair and impartial hearings regarding rental rates, eviction and
habitability to landlords and tenants.
Regular meetings of the Rent Stabilization Board are held on the second
and fourth Wednesday of the month at 7:00 p.m. at 2415 University
Avenue, East Palo Alto. The public is welcome to attend.
For more information, please call the Program at tel: (650) 853-3109 or see
Rights and Responsibilities Concerning Eviction Under
California Law and East Palo Alto’s Rent Control Ordinance
California law as well as the East Palo Alto Rent Control Ordinance defines
tenants’ and landlords’ basic rights and responsibilities concerning eviction.
Under state law, landlords must provide tenants with notice of termination
of tenancy and file an eviction lawsuit before the tenant can be legally
East Palo Alto’s Rent Control Ordinance provides additional rights for the
tenants in regard to the termination of the tenancy. In particular, the
ordinance requires the landlord provide good cause for termination of the
SAMPLE LETTER LANDLORDS’ DUTIES CONCERNING EVICTION
Change this letter to suit your needs. It should be nicer if the landlord is • To legally evict a tenant the landlord must file a lawsuit in court. A
cooperative; and it should be more demanding if the landlord refuses to landlord is prohibited from evicting a tenant, for any reason, without a
acknowledge your rights. court order. In other words, a landlord cannot lock you out of your
home, remove doors to your home, shut off your utilities or remove you
or your property from your home unless the landlord first seeks a court
[today’s date] order from a judge. Once the landlord files the lawsuit, the tenant will
receive a Petition and Summons telling the tenant when and where to
[your name and address] appear in court and what the landlord is demanding.
Code of Civil Procedure § 1161
[landlord’s name and address]
• Under the East Palo Alto Rent Stabilization Ordinance, a landlord will
Dear [landlord’s name]: not be granted a court order to evict a tenant unless the landlord shows
the court the existence of one of the following conditions:
I am writing to follow up on our conversation about your decision to 1. The tenant has failed to pay rent to which the landlord is legally
terminate our rental agreement in regard to the unit that I occupy at entitled under a lease or a rental agreement.
If the tenant has withheld rent on a valid legal basis, the landlord
I would like to confirm that under Section 13 of the Rent is not entitled to evict the tenant.
Stabilization Ordinance of the City of East Palo Alto, no landlord is 2. The tenant has continued to substantially violate the terms of a lease
entitled to evict a tenant without good cause. I have paid my rent on or a rental agreement after receiving written notice from the landlord
time and have not committed any other infractions that would subject asking the tenant to stop the violation.
my family and myself to good-cause eviction. As such, we have a The landlord is not entitled to evict the tenant for violating the
legal right to remain in the apartment, and any attempt to evict us terms of a lease or a rental agreement if the terms of the lease or
represents a violation of the ordinance. the rental agreement have not been accepted in writing by the
I wish to settle the matter in as reasonable a manner as possible. tenant or are not part of the lease or rental agreement.
However, please be advised that I know I have a right to continue 3. The tenant has intentionally caused damage or allowed substantial
occupying the premises under the East Palo Alto Rent Stabilization damage to be caused to the rental unit beyond normal wear and tear
Ordinance. If it proves necessary, I will not hesitate to obtain additional and the tenant has refused, after receiving written notice from the
legal assistance to enforce my rights as a tenant. landlord, to pay the reasonable costs of repairing the damage to the
rental unit or to stop the damaging activity.
4. The tenant has refused to agree to a new rental agreement upon the
expiration of a prior rental agreement.
[your name] The tenant has continued, after receiving written notice from the
landlord, to be so disorderly that the peace and quiet of other tenants or
occupants of the premises is destroyed.
5. The tenant has refused to give the landlord access to the rental unit Your landlord is entitled to a key to the property. If your landlord has
after receiving a written request from the landlord. requested a key and warned you that you would be evicted if you do not
provide him with one, then you can be evicted. You should negotiate with
6. The landlord, after receiving the necessary permits from the City of your landlord to prevent your eviction. If your landlord insists, you should
East Palo Alto, is making substantial repairs to the rental unit that are provide the landlord with a key. If you do not feel safe living in the unit, then
necessary to bring the rental unit into compliance with the laws you should consider finding an alternative place to rent.
affecting the health and safety of the tenants and the repairs cannot
be completed while the tenant lives on the property. (6) My landlord has put the house on the market for sale and is asking
me to move out. Do I have to move out?
The tenant the right to return to his or her rental unit after repairs
have been completed. Your landlord cannot evict you for selling his property. The new owner of the
If the landlord has a similar rental unit that is vacant, the property may wish to occupy the unit. If so, then the new owner must give
you a notice that he wishes to occupy the property and that he is terminating
landlord must give the displaced tenant the first opportunity to
your lease. If the lease has not yet expired, the new owner cannot ask you
rent the vacant unit, but the tenant must return to the original to move out until the end of the lease period
rental unit when the repairs are completed following written
notice by the landlord. (7) My landlord gave a 3-day notice to move out and said that he would
7. The landlord receives permits from the City of East Palo Alto giving throw my things in the street if I'm not out by the third day,, Can he
the landlord permission to demolish the rental unit. do that?
8. The landlord intends in good faith to make the rental unit his or her Your landlord cannot remove your property from the unit unless he has filed
primary residence or the primary residence of his or her spouse, an eviction lawsuit. In the lawsuit, the landlord must prove that the landlord
child, sister, brother, parent, grandparent or grandchild. has a valid reason for evicting you. Only after the court has issued an
eviction notice, can the Sheriff come and remove you and your belongings.
The landlord must be the lawful owner of the rental unit.
The landlord is considered not to be in good faith if the period of (8) My landlord terminated my tenancy alleging a family member was
occupancy by the landlord or the landlord's relative is for a moving in. Could I file a suit against him?
period of less than 12 consecutive months following the date the
tenant vacated the rental unit. Yes, unless the landlord or his or her spouse, brother/sister, child, parent,
grandparent or grandchild moves into the unit and stays for less than twelve
(12) consecutive months.
The Rent Stabilization Ordinance of the City of East Palo Alto §
13(A). (9) I got a 3-day notice and a 5-day notice, do I have to move out now?
No landlord may threaten to evict or evict a tenant, cause the tenant If your receive any legal notices that you do not understand, you should seek
to leave involuntarily decrease any services or increase the rent if the legal advice immediately. Do not ignore the notices. You have rights, but
landlord's intent to retaliate against the tenant for the tenant's you must act on them promptly.
exercising of his or her rights under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance
of the City of East Palo Alto.
The Rent Stabilization Ordinance of the City of East Palo Alto § 14.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS NOTICES OF TERMINATION
(1) I found out that my landlord had to give me a 60-day notice to The landlord has a statutory right to terminate the tenancy and recover
increase my rent for more than 10%, but he did not, should I just possession of the premises by filing an eviction lawsuit against the tenant
make my regular payment? when the tenant has failed to comply with the rental agreements terms.
Before the landlord is able to file an eviction lawsuit, the landlord must
You should write a letter to your landlord explaining that the rent increase is provide the tenant with at least:
improper because the landlord did not give you adequate notice. After
providing your landlord with the letter and keeping a copy for your records, a) a 3-day notice to pay or quit,
send in the regular payment.
b) a 3-day notice to perform a covenant or quit,
c) a 3-day absolute notice to quit,
(2) My landlord has let me pay my rent after the fifth every month. He d) a 30-day notice to terminate tenancy,
gave me a 3-day notice to pay or quit on the second, but I have no e) or a 60-day notice to terminate if a month-to month tenancy for a
money to pay him before it expires, what should I do? year or more (CC § 1161).
You should write a letter to your landlord explaining that you have
consistently paid your rent after the fifth each month and that the landlord The landlord also has to serve the tenant with a summons and complaint.
had not suggested that that schedule was not acceptable. The letter should The tenant should receive a Court Clerk notice stating that an unlawful
state that you believe the landlord has agreed to the payment schedule you detainer lawsuit has been filed and giving the case number (CCP §
have been following all along. You should keep a copy for your records as 1174) as well as a 5-day Sheriff’s notice stating the eviction date before
such documentation will be necessary should your landlord attempt to evict the eviction takes place.
you in the future.
Tenants should immediately seek legal advice after being served with
(3) My landlord is evicting me for making a lot of noise in my any of these notices if they do not understand the legal implications of it.
apartment, but everybody does it at my apartment complex, Tenants should immediately contact an attorney if they are served with a
what should I do to stop him from evicting me? summons and complaint because they must file their answer with the
court within the five calendar days after being served.
Your landlord can evict you if you are making too much noise. The fact that
others in the complex are making noise is not a very strong defense. Three-Day Notices
However, if your landlord is discriminating against you for any racial, ethnic,
religious or other reason, you should document any evidence you have of When the tenant has breached the rental agreement but the breach can be
discriminatory behavior by your landlord rectified, the notice should offer the alternative to quit possession as
when the tenant fails to pay rent. In fact, most of the 3-day notices that
(4) My landlord is evicting me for damages to the unit that were are served on tenants are to either pay or quit. When the breach cannot be
there before I moved in, what should I do? rectified, the landlord must still provide a 3-day notice, bit the landlord is
You should gather whatever evidence you can that the unit was damaged not required to offer an alternative. Tenants should then realize that a 3-
before you moved in. You may wish to contact the City Code Enforcement day notice to pay or quit does not necessarily lead to an unlawful
Office and/or the County Health Division and have them inspect the premises detainer action. These notices are a tool for the landlord to get the tenant
to provide additional evidence for your case. to pay the rent. However, if the tenant fails to pay the rent, that notice
becomes the first step in a landlord’s court action seeking payment
(5) My landlord is evicting me because I changed the locks and and/or repossession of the rental unit in most of the cases.
refused to give him a key. What should I do?
Thirty-Day Notices LANDLORDS’ DUTY TO REGISTER
As a general rule, a landlord may give a tenant with a month-to-month • In any action to recover possession of a rental unit except an action to
tenancy a 30-day notice of termination of tenancy for any reason, or for recover possession once the landlord has obtained permits from the City
no reason at all. However, there are some restrictions. Tenants in East to undertake substantial repairs o demolish the rental unit, East Palo Alto
Palo Alto are protected by the East Palo Alto Rent Stabilization Ordinance requires the landlord allege substantial compliance as of the
Ordinance that requires good cause for eviction. Therefore, the notice date of the notice of termination or notice to quit with the implied
must state the reason for the termination. warranty of habitability (Section 13-C).
Subsidized housing, discrimination, and retaliatory eviction are also
restrictions on the landlord’s right to terminate the tenant’s tenancy. • The ordinance also requires the landlord file with the Rent Stabilization
When a federal, state or local program is subsidizing the tenant’s Board a copy of any notice of termination, notice to quit, and/or
housing, the lease may include good reasons for termination of the summons and complaint within ten days after the tenant has been served
tenancy. A landlord cannot evict a tenant because of race, religion, sex, with such notice or summons and complaint (Section 13-D).
marital status, family status or any other arbitrary reasons. A landlord
cannot evict a tenant to retaliate against him or her because the tenant has
exercised any of his/her right under the law such as the right to complaint
about bad conditions in the rental unit.
A thirty-day notice requires the name of the tenant, the address of the
rental property, the date, the landlord's or landlord's agent’s signature,
plus the stated good reason for termination when the tenancy is under an
eviction control jurisdiction.
Effective January 1, 2003, the owner of a residential rental unit must give
at least a written 60-day notice to terminate the tenancy. A tenant, on the
other hand, has to provide a 30-day written notice to terminate a month-
to-month rental agreement. However, there are some exceptions to the
60-day notice requirement. Some of the exceptions are:
a) the tenant has been living in the unit for less than a year,
b) the residential unit was sold in bona fide purchaser for value,
c) the buyer gives notice to the tenant no more than 30 days after
buying the property, and
d) the buyer intends to reside in the unit for at least one year.