JUST CAUSE Evictions

– Understanding “Just Cause Evictions” –


Just Cause Evictions

WHat is Just Cause?


“Just Cause” is a term used in eviction laws to describe the only legally valid reasons a landlord can evict a tenant from residential real property.


A landlord cannot evict a tenant at-will but must provide a permissible reason, allowed by law, for the eviction.


Unless an exception applies, any eviction without a legally enumerated just cause reason will be deemed invalid and unenforceable.  


Just cause and California law


In California, tenants are given “just cause” protection under the Tenant Protection Act of 2019


Under California law, the “just cause” protection begins after a tenant has resided in a rental unit for at least one year.  If there are two or more tenants, all tenants must have resided in the rental unit for at least one year or one of the tenants has resided in the unit for at least 2 years before the “just cause” protection begins.


Who is exempt from CA Just Cause protection?


California law does not apply to certain types of rental units.  These are exempt from “just cause” protection:

      • Single Family Homes (unless owned by a REIT, Corp, or LLC with a Corp member)
      • Rental Rooms in a Single Family (1-2 rooms only)
      • Duplexes in which the owner who had resided, and continues to reside, in one unit since the beginning of tenancy 
      • Housing that was issued a certificate of occupancy with-in the previous 15 years
      • Section 8 housing
      • Hotels, Motels, Hostels, Dormitories, and Health Care Facilities


California law does not apply to cities that have their own local eviction ordinance that were enacted prior to September 1, 2019.  Local ordinances enacted after September 1, 2019, cannot be less restrictive.


WHat Are Just Cause Laws for California?


In the State of California, “just cause” protection fall under two categories: “at-fault just cause” and “no-fault just cause.” 


An “at-fault just cause” eviction is one in which the law deems the tenant responsible for the eviction and the landlord is justified in ending tenancy.  In this case, the landlord does not have to compensate the tenant for moving.   The eleven (11) enumerated “at-fault just causes” are:


    1. Nonpayment of rent
    2. Breach of a material term of the rental agreement
    3. Maintaining, committing, or permitting a nuisance
    4. Committing waste
    5. Refusing to execute an extension or renewal of the lease based on similar terms
    6. Criminal activity by the renter on the property, including any common areas
    7. Assigning or subletting in the premises, in violation of the lease
    8. Refusing the owner access to the unit, as authorized under the law
    9. Using the premises for unlawful purposes, as defined by the law
    10. A resident manager’s failure to vacate after their termination
    11. Failure to vacate premises following a written notice of intention to end a lease


Ano-fault just cause eviction, on the other hand, requires the landlord to compensate the tenant for moving.  This is because the law deems the tenant not responsible for the eviction and thus the landlord should compensate the tenant for the inconvenience, relocation costs, and damages.  The four (4) enumerated “no-fault just causes” are:


    1. Intent to occupy the unit by the owner, or qualified relative, if a provision in the lease allows for this, or the renter agrees in writing to the termination (leases entered on or after July 1, 2020)
    2. Withdrawing of the rental property from the rental market
    3. Complying with a local ordinance, court order, or other government entity to vacate the property
    4. Intent to demolish or substantially remodel the unit


WHat Are Laws for Santa Clara County?


California’s Tenant Protection Act of 2019 applies to all cities and local jurisdictions that do not have their own local protection.  Any local ordinance enacted prior to September 1, 2019, is controlling.  If the city or local jurisdiction enacted their own ordinance after September 1, 2019, that ordinance cannot be less restrictive (but can be more restrictive) than that of the State’s law. 


In Santa Clara County, all but two cities do not have a local “just cause” ordinance and thus the statewide Tenant Protection Act of 2019 is controlling.  The two cities that do have local ordinances are the City of San Jose and the City of Mountain View.


In the City of San Jose, “just cause” protection is codifies in the Tenant Protection Ordinance (TPO). Although the list of “just cause” is similar to that of the Statewide Law, it is important to note that in San Jose, the “just cause” protection starts the first day of tenancy.


The TPO requires a landlord give a just-cause reason to eviction someone from an apartment with 3 or more units (including condos and townhouses), all unpermitted units (illegal in-law unit, or illegally converted garage), and guestroom in any guesthouse (boarding house).


The ordinance does not apply to single-family homes, duplexes, in-law units, condominiums, and second units (unless they are unpermitted units).


At-Fault Just Cause

  1. Nonpayment of Rent
  2. Material or Habitual Violation of the Tenancy
  3. Substantial Damage to the Apartment
  4. Refusal to Agree to a Like or New Rental Agreement
  5. Nuisance Behavior
  6. Refusing Access to the Apartment
  7. Unapproved Holdover Subtenant
  8. Criminal Activity


No-Fault Just Cause

  1. Substantial Rehabilitation of the Apartment
  2. Ellis Act Removal
  3. Owner Move-in
  4. Order to Vacate
  5. Vacation of Unpermitted Apartment


In the City of Mountain View, “just cause” protection is codifies in the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act.


This local ordinance applies to all buildings with three or more residential units that have a certificate of occupancy after December 23, 2016


Single Family Homes, Companion Units, and Duplex are specifically exempt from this ordinance.


At-Fault Just Cause

  1. Failure to Pay Rent
  2. Breach of Lease
  3. Nuisance
  4. Criminal Activity
  5. Failure to Give Access


No-Fault Just Cause

  1. Necessary and Substantial Repairs requiring Temporary Vacancy
  2. Owner Move-In
  3. Withdrawal of the Unit Permanently form the Rental Market
  4. Demolition