The Hard Times Handbook - Page 12

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And while you may have to deal with some complications and legal issues, you don't need to pack your bags yet.

Instead, pick up the phone and call the Tenants Union (282-6622, www.sftu.org) or get some professional advice from a lawyer.

The three-day notice doesn't mean you have to be out in three days. "But it does mean you will have to respond to and communicate with the landlord/lady within that time," Gullicksen told us.

It's also important to keep paying your rent, Gullicksen warned, unless you can't pay the full amount and have little hope of doing so any time soon.

"Nonpayment of rent is the easiest way for a landlord to evict a tenant," Gullicksen explained. "Don't make life easier for the landlady who was perhaps trying to use the fact that your relatives have been staying with you for a month as grounds to evict you so she can convert your apartment into a pricey condominium."

There are, however, caveats to Gullicksen's "always pay the rent" rule: if you don't have the money or you don't have all the money.

"Say you owe $1,000 but only have $750 when you get the eviction notice," Gullicksen explained. "In that case, you may want to not pay your landlord $750, in case he sits on it but still continues on with the eviction. Instead, you might want to put the money to finding another place or hiring an attorney."

A good lawyer can often delay an eviction — even if it's over nonpayment or rent — and give you time to work out a deal. Many landlords, when faced with the prospect of a long legal fight, will come to the table. Gullicksen noted that the vast majority of eviction cases end in a settlement. "We encourage all tenants to fight evictions," he said. The Tenants Union can refer you to qualified tenant lawyers.

These days some tenants who live in buildings that have been foreclosed on are getting eviction notices. But in San Francisco, city officials are quick to point out, foreclosure is not a legal ground for eviction.

Another useful tip: if your landlord is cutting back on the services you get — whether it's a loss of laundry facilities, parking, or storage space, or the owner has failed to do repairs or is preventing you from preventing you from "the quiet enjoyment of your apartment" — you may be able to get a rent reduction. With the passage of Proposition M in November 2008 tenants who have been subjected to harassment by their landlords are also eligible for rent reductions. That involves a petition to the San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Board (www.sfgov.org/site/rentboard_index.asp).

Gullicksen also recommends that people who have lost their jobs check out the Eviction Defense Collaborative (www.evictiondefense.org).

"They are mostly limited to helping people who have temporary shortfalls," Gullicksen cautioned. But if you've lost your job and are about to start a new one and are a month short, they can help. (Sarah Phelan)

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OUT OF WORK? HERE'S STEP ONE

How do you get your unemployment check?

"Just apply for it."

That's the advice of California's Employment Development Department spokesperson Patrick Joyce.

You may think you aren't eligible because you may have been fired or were only working part-time, but it's still worth a try. "Sometimes people are ineligible, but sometimes they're not," Joyce said, explaining that a lot of factors come into play, including your work history and how much you were making during the year before you became unemployed.

"So, simply apply for it — if you don't qualify we'll tell you," he said. "And if you think you are eligible and we don't, you can appeal to the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board."

Don't wait, either.