Renters asking to break lease early in SF

4 Replies

Hi Community,

I have some great renters ( a couple and their friend) in San Francisco with a lease through Oct 31. They just emailed that their situation has changed (the couple is pregnant and want to move in with family in Wisconsin and then move to Spain) and they emailed stating that they are pregnant and want to break the lease on July 31. I'm open to helping them but don't want to be stuck holding the tab and have a few questions.

1. We're thinking of giving a loose agreement to let them move but that it's contingent on us finding replacements.  How would we phrase that?

2. San Francisco is very "pro-renter". We're not under rent control, it's a new SFR, but realize there are restrictions on landlords collecting rent/back rent. What if we don't agree or give a loose agreement and they just stop paying? Are we out of luck? They have a 3rd roommate who will not be moving out of state.

3. We'd like to cover ourselves in case a prospective renter wants to move on July 1 instead of Aug 1, is there a way we can ask them to agree to leave earlier than July 31 if that happens?

What would you do? Am I missing anything here?


They are going to leave whether you like it or not. Be greatful for the advance notice, and be greatful that now your vacancy will be for Aug 1 instead of Nov 1. 

You may have hit the mother lode. THey are voluntarily moving out so you can advertise the place and charge a (much) higher amount. May the most (highest paying and) qualified person win. You may also want to give strong consideration to placing a Section 8 tenant in your rental there.....that way you don't have to deal as much with turnover.

@Rosalynn Enfield , I think there was a slight nuance that @Brian Garlington missed.

You mentioned a 3rd roommate which was not moving out which means the property is not entirely vacant and you may not be able bring rent up to market unless 1) the 3rd roommate was never on the original lease and 2) you never created a tenancy relationship with this 3rd roommate.  If the former two items are true then you could possibly issue a costa hawkins rent increase to bring it up to market. Please keep in mind to do the necessary due diligence to ensure you give proper notice and you are exempt from any current Covid-19 rental increase moratoriums as well as active emergency price gouging laws.

Regarding your other question...

1 & 2) Regardless of San Francisco's Tenant friendly nature, a Tenant is contractually responsible for the lease term. Assuming you have a lease that has boiler plate language you should not need to create another agreement as the lease agreement already indicates that the tenants are jointly and severally liable for all terms and conditions most key of which is payment of rent. It doesn't matter if they want to move, they are under contract until the end date or until you find a replacement tenant in good faith. If they still choose to move the last remaining tenant (assuming his name is on the lease) is also responsible and you can always take them all to small claims court for any unpaid rent.

On a side note. I noticed you said your SFR was not under rent control. Keep in mind that COO is no longer the sole criteria for determining your exemption from rent control. How you own your property also plays a role and there are situations where a newly constructed SFR in San Francisco is subject to rent control.