Guide to Laws for Homeowners in San Francisco
If you OWN (See here for renters) a home or other residential property in San Francisco, here’s what you need to know about the law. Many laws for homeowners are made at the state level, so see our Guide to Laws for Homeowners in California.
1. Guests & Parties
What do I need to know about hosting a house party?
See our Guide to Laws about Noise.
Can I serve alcohol to guests at a house party or do I need a permit?
See our Guide to Alcohol Laws for more.
2. Unauthorized visitors
What are my rights regarding unauthorized visitors to my property?
In general, any person or thing that comes onto your property without your permission is considered trespassing. In addition to state trespassing laws, the city of San Francisco has its own trespassing law.1SF Police Code Sec 25 The penalty for a first offense is an infraction with a fine between $50-$500. For a second offense within 24 hours, or a second offense within 120 days after conviction, it is a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to 6 months in county jail and/or fine of up to $500.
3. Renting out your property
If I rent out my home or property, what do I need to know?
Can I rent out my property short-term, like on AirBnB or VRBO?
“Short-term rental” generally means less than 30 days (some cities define it as less than 31 days). The legal situation for short term rentals is changing rapidly; see our short term rental page for details.
In the city of San Francisco, homeowners must not create or allow any public nuisance, which includes, but is not limited to, the following:2SF Health Code Sec 581
(1) Any accumulation of filth, garbage, decayed or spoiled food, unsanitary debris or waste material or decaying animal or vegetable matter unless such materials are set out for collection;
(2) Any accumulation of hay, grass, straw, weeds, or vegetation overgrowth;
(3) Any accumulation of waste paper, litter or combustible trash unless such materials are set out for collection;
(4) Any buildings, structures, or portion thereof found to be unsanitary;
(5) Any matter or material which constitutes, or is contaminated by, animal or human excrement, urine or other biological fluids;
(6) Any visible or otherwise demonstrable mold or mildew in the interiors of any buildings or facilities;
(7) Any pest harborage or infestation including but not limited to pigeons, skunks, raccoons, opossums, and snakes, except for pigeon harborages that comply with Section 37(e) of this Code;
(8) Any noxious insect harborage or infestation including, but not limited to cockroaches, bed bugs, fleas, scabies, lice, spiders or other arachnids, houseflies, wasps and mosquitoes, except for harborages for honey-producing bees of the genus Apis regulated by the California Food and Agriculture Code Sections 29000 et seq. which are not otherwise determined to be a nuisance under State law.
(9) Any article of food or drink in the possession or under the control of any person which is tainted, decayed, spoiled or otherwise unwholesome or unfit to be eaten or drunk.
(10) Any lead hazards which are within the control of the Owner or Manager of the building, structure or property.
(11) Any vacant lots, open spaces, and other properties in the City and County of San Francisco, which become infested with poison oak or poison ivy shrub.
5. Modifying your property or building new structures
Do I need to get a permit for any work I do on my house?
If you want to add any square footage to your house, you almost certainly need to get a permit from the city (or county). But even if you aren’t adding square footage you may need to get a permit, and if you are in a homeowners association (HOA), you may need to get permission from the HOA. And all work must comply with the local Building Code. For the city of San Francisco, you would go through the SF Department of Building Inspection.
For legal help with property rights or any of these homeowner issues, see our Options for Legal Help in San Francisco area.
See all Legal Guides