Author Topic: Rental Options in San Francisco?  (Read 2661 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Rental Options in San Francisco?
« on: September 09, 2013, 03:13:29 PM »
Hi all.  I'm looking for your advice and suggestions and Mustachian-brainstorming on any off-the-beaten path ways to find an apartment in San Francisco.  I currently live in a 3BR apartment with two roommates that is rent controlled.  It's perfect, except for the fact that the landlords are crazy and have finally figured out a way to evict us after five years of being there.  We are going to fight the eviction as best we can, but lawyers are expensive and we are not getting our hopes up.  So, Plan B. 

I know there is a lot of rental inventory in SF that goes unused because the rent control laws are so strict.  Does anyone have any insight on how to break into this market? (e.g., private homes with separate apartments that often go vacant).  We three roommates are not necessarily going to continue living together unless it's cost-effective.  We're all three 30-something professionals and very responsible, good tenants despite the eviction (I'll spare you the details, trust me on this one). 

Or other suggestions of ways to look for housing other than Craigslist?  Buying in SF is not an option.  We would consider moving to Oakland or Berkeley, but not further out because of the financial and time/mental costs of commuting.

Any stealth landlords out there looking for good tenants?




  • Stubble
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Re: Rental Options in San Francisco?
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2013, 05:34:03 PM »
Marry a landlord.  Anyone that has decided it's better to leave a unit vacant is not going to get into some shady deal with you.  Why don't you just pay market rent?  Why do you think a landlord should subsidize your living expense?  Have you looked into any of the first time homebuyers programs? 


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Rental Options in San Francisco?
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2013, 10:48:02 AM »
I know someone who did tenant-side pro bono in San Francisco--i.e., free legal work for a tenant in litigation with their landlord--and won something like $18k for a waitress whose landlord had been illegally charging her too much for a couple of years. I'll ask that person where you can go to get such help... don't give up yet on fighting the eviction, if you want to!

**Update**: he suggests the following.
- Start with the SF Rent Board ( It's an official city agency with very good dispute resolution processes, and they have real power; they can void attempted evictions, award damages to tenants, etc.
- There's also the Tenants' Union ( They offer free or low-cost help.
- And finally, the SF Bar (bar as in lawyers, not as in drinks haha) has an eviction rights hotline for referrals for legal help (some of which would be free or low cost).
« Last Edit: September 14, 2013, 11:07:44 AM by Daleth »


  • Senior Mustachian
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Re: Rental Options in San Francisco?
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2013, 01:12:36 PM »
Before giving up on your place, I'd take Daleth's friend's advice, all of which looks rock-solid.

When I was searching for a similar situation, I contacted a couple of Realtors who had handled recent sales for friends of mine. Sure enough, one of them came up with a fellow agent who had a luxury home with a full guest suite. Seems a relative was pushing to move in and they did not want her there, so they rented to me. We are still friends and she has sold me three houses since.

If I looking today, I'd create a rental resume, spiff myself up and call on as many Realtors holding open houses I could find in the areas I wanted to live. You may have better luck alone or with just one roommate, as a unit large enough to house three adults may be less likely to be lurking in the shadows.

Side note: My FIL owned an 8-unit apt. bldg. in Berkeley, which he purchased before their Rent Control laws were enacted. He hated the RC laws and the fees he was required to pay when a unit turned over, so he  never filled any vacancies. He finally ended up with just one tenant in the building, who stayed there until he died. In a sweet twist of fate, the last tenant had no heirs, and bequeathed his entire estate to my in-laws.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Rental Options in San Francisco?
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2013, 05:13:29 PM »
Daleth and Diane, thanks for the insight.  Unfortunately we are past the point of help from the Rent Board or Tenants' Union (though they have had great advice along the way, so anyone else in a similar situation should definitely contact them), but I like your rental resume idea and will try calling around to some realtors as well. 


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Rental Options in San Francisco?
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2013, 10:03:46 PM »
I'm not sure what your goal is.  Are you looking for another rent controlled place?  You'll still be paying market rate or above to start (if you are renting a rent controlled unit then you jack up the rent to try to account for the inability to later do so).  If you just want to find a place, I'm pretty sure the normal process still works.

For example you can get a small 3br in the presidio for $1k/room:

Not really that crazy for SF.