I Need To Swap Girlfriends (On My Lease)

by | Aug 18, 2011 | Roommates

I live in a pre-1979 rent controlled building. I moved in with my GF (we are both on the lease) in 2003. She moved out a while ago and I just left everything lease-wise as is and paid the whole rent. I now want my current GF to move in and get on the lease. Is there anything besides notifying them and filling out the usual rental forms (she has great credit and would get glowing reviews from her current landlord) that I should know? Things always seem so simple until I read emails sent to you, and you point out a whole bushel of stuff that could go wrong.

Your issue actually seems fairly simple.

I’m assuming that you have a clause in your lease that allows subletting with a landlord’s written consent. San Francisco Rent Board Rules and Regulations §6.15B applies if that is the case.

Essentially, if you do not receive a landlord’s consent or the landlord withholds his consent to replacing your roommate, the lack of consent cannot constitute a breach of your lease for purpose of eviction under Rent Ordinance §37.9(a)(2) if you have followed all of the following steps before the new roommate moves in:

“(i) The tenant has requested in writing the permission of the landlord to the sublease or assignment prior to the commencement of the proposed new tenant’s or new subtenant’s occupancy of the unit;

(ii) The proposed new tenant or new subtenant, if requested by the landlord, has completed the landlord’s standard form application, or, in the event the landlord fails to provide an application or has no standard form application, the proposed new tenant or new subtenant has, upon request, provided sufficient information to allow the landlord to conduct a typical background check, including credit information, income information, references, and background information;

(iii) The tenant has provided the landlord five (5) business days to process the proposed new tenant’s or new subtenant’s application;

(iv) The proposed new tenant or new subtenant meets the regular reasonable application standards of the landlord;

(v) The proposed new tenant or new subtenant has agreed to sign and be bound by the current rental agreement between the landlord and the tenant;

(vi) The tenant has not, without good cause, requested landlord consent to a new tenant or new subtenant more than one time per existing tenant residing in the unit during the previous 12 months;

(vii) The tenant is requesting replacement of a departing tenant or tenants with an equal number of new tenants.” (Rules & Regulations §6,15B(b)(1)(i-vii))

If you follow these steps to the letter, you should be okay.

The days of simply replacing your roommate without the landlord’s involvement are long gone. Many tenants don’t realize this. They think they can simply add a roommate and as long as the rent gets paid, no harm no foul. Or they verbally inform the landlord about new roommates without obtaining a consent in writing.

Over the years, landlords in rent-controlled jurisdictions have increasing relied on “no subletting” clauses to evict tenants. Why? To increase the rent, of course.

Just this week, our office is dealing with a case in which the landlord is threatening the tenants with eviction because roommates were added without written consent. The landlord didn’t give a rat’s ass about that until he decided to sell the building and then raised the issue. Remember, buildings are worth more either without tenants or with tenants who are paying market rate.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to prove that a landlord waived his right to consent to subletting. And it is expensive to prove it because to do so means defending an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit.

If you are living with roommates, you must begin to abide by the Rules & Regulations to avoid eviction.

Ask the landlord for his permission to add you new girlfriend to the lease.

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