How do I get my security deposit back?

The first step is to review your lease agreement. Read your lease to make sure any alterations you’d like to make (ie. hanging pictures, painting, etc) are within the leasing guidelines. Be sure you look to see if the lease has an itemized list of costs for damages. For example, if you hang a picture and now there is a hole in the wall, will you be charged? Most leases have a blanket list of things you can and cannot do so be sure to review your lease carefully. If you are unsure, it is best to verify with your landlord before making any changes, because once you move in you are liable for any damages.

What is a cleaning fee?

To keep your security deposit, be sure to review the cleaning fee that may be charged. It is the responsibility of the tenant to make sure the unit is cleaned and restored back to the condition in which it was initially rented. It is common in San Francisco that a cleaning fee will be charged at the time of move-out and this fee typically averages anywhere from $50-200 depending on the condition in which it was left. Unless it’s stated in your original leasing agreement if the cleaning fee is higher than $200-250 check with your landlord to see why the cost is so high.

How long will it take to get my security deposit back?

The landlord has one month after move-out to give you back your security deposit. If they do not refund your security deposit back in full, they need to itemize what the fee is for and how much it costs.

What is a rental inspection checklist?

A rental inspection checklist should be given to all new tenants upon move-in from their landlord to review each part of their rental unit (working appliances, cleanliness, visible damages, etc). This is a written agreement you’re given this to look over the property and agree that everything in your rental unit is in good working order and shape. By signing this agreement you are agreeing that if anything is broken or anything needs to be fixed, that you are the one who did it and you must take responsibility for that. This does not include normal wear and tear. If there is a problem, such as a broken over, make sure that you write that down and that it is documented and given to the landlord. Taking videos and pictures of any damages or broken items upon move-in is also recommended as this is your record of how the unit was when you moved in. Even if everything is fine, it’s suggested to take move-in and move-out photos for record. Once you have completed the checklist, make a copy of it for yourself, send it to the landlord and be sure you have a statement from the landlord that they received your checklist.


What if my landlord didn’t provide me with a rental inspection checklist?

Your landlord should have given you a copy of their guidelines and checklist upon moving in. If they did not provide you with one you can create your own document here:

Be sure you sign the agreement, send it to the landlord, and confirm receipt of this checklist with your landlord. 

What are tenant rights?

The first thing to know about tenant rights is that you have them. They are a series of federal, state and local laws that are designed to prevent housing discrimination and rent gouging while ensuring that tenants have a safe, clean place to live. They also provide tenants with legal recourse if the landlord lets the property become uninhabitable.

What is rent control?

In San Francisco, about 70-80% of the population rents. Rent control is any policy that limits the amount of rent that can be charged for an apartment, how much the rent can be increased per year, or both. San Francisco’s rent control ordinance was passed in 1979. The ordinance is enforced by the San Francisco Rent Board. The Rent Board also offers protections for renters from landlord negligence and eviction. This means that if you are a renter in a rent controlled property, your rent can only go up by a very small percentage. That amount is set by the city and not the landlord, the highest it is ever seen is 2.5% of the total rent (around $40-60). Most properties around USF were built before 1972 and are rent controlled units. The newer apartments closer to downtown that were built after 1972 are not rent controlled and rent increases can happen at any time with even bigger rent increases.

What kind of tenant rights do I have?

As a paying tenant, you have rights. Be sure you know what kinds of rights you have. Examples of tenant rights are, but are not limited to, repairs, noise of renovation, entering without documentation, harassment, change of agreed house rules, overly involved landlords, mold, infestation, loss of heat, tenant noise, and sudden eviction.

Example: Your back window has been broken for over a month and it’s freezing. You texted the landlord and he said "yes" he’ll see if he can fix it but he doesn’t give a date or time then hangs up.

In this case, does the landlord have a responsibility to make repairs? Depending on the reason for the window breaking, yes. If the window broke due to natural causes like a tree falling and hitting the window, the landlord would be responsible for fixing the window and covering the financial costs. However, if the tenant is at fault for breaking the window there are a couple things to do. First, the tenant could contact the landlord about having the window being repaired and in most cases they would need to pay for the cost of the repair (sometimes the landlord will be willing to split the cost) Or, the tenant could never tell the landlord and as long as they find a company to fix the window that align with the lease guidelines they could pay for it that way, too. If you do decide to hire outside of the landlord it is suggested to talk to your landlord first so that they are aware, and oftentimes they work with a specific contractor who will help you. If the window was already broken upon moving in and the landlord is refusing to have it repaired, you can do one of two things. The first is to see Andrea Rocha in the OCL office and she will help to get the situation corrected. Step two would be to contact the landlord verbally and if nothing happens, you email the landlord to have documentation of your repair request. If your landlord fails to give a proper response or timeline of the repair it is recommended that you see Andrea Rocha in the OCL office so that she can write a letter to the landlord. If extreme steps need to be taken she will help get in contact with the San Francisco Housing Board or Health Board.

*Remember contact OCL if you need support*


Can a landlord enter my unit whenever they want?

No, the landlord is not allowed to enter your apartment whenever they want. However, in the event of an emergency they are able to enter your unit. They are also able to enter your apartment with timely, written notice.

What is a Flat or Roommate Agreement?

Once you've found your roommate, it’s encouraged that you complete a written living agreement that clearly states expectations regarding the house, including but not limited to who will be in charge of paying the rent and utilities. Going back to the security deposit-if a roommate does damage what’s the agreement on repairs, having guests, sharing of food & buying common items?

Roommate Living Tips:

• Create a shared household funds jar or account
• Cleaning Calendar or Wheel
• Solid Guest and Shared Usage Policy
• CoSigning Agreement if only one cosigner is on the lease
• Above all Be Honest with what you need and COMMUNICATE!

Find more information here:

What is a Healthy Living Agreement?

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, to help ensure a healthy and safe living environment it is highly encouraged that roommates/flatmates to set up a meeting within the first week of moving in. Even though it can be challenging, have an open and honest conversation about household guidelines/expectations and ultimately establish shared agreements. This is a non-judgmental agreement on who may or may not have had COVID-19, who may or may not be vaccinated, and how each person generally views COVID-19 guidelines. It is important for all roommates to be open and honest about their expectations of one another.

A template of a Healthy Living Agreement can be found here:

What is a sublease?

A sublease is the re-renting of property by an existing tenant to a new third party for a portion of the tenant’s existing lease contract. Using the College Pads filter you can sublease posts by the bed count, bath, price, room for rent/whole unit, and amenities.

Am I allowed to sublease in the case of an emergency?

Yes, tenants are legally able to sublease their apartment. It is recommended that if you are looking to sublease the unit that you work with the staff at OCL to do so. If you have a rent-controlled apartment you are legally allowed to sublease, however, the landlord is allowed to vet who is allowed to take over the lease. Be sure that your landlord does not “block” all prospective tenants that meet the requirements to sublet your apartment. This can happen and the OCL office can help during these types of situations.

Can I legally leave my apartment before the lease ends?

Yes, you can. These reasons include that the apartment becomes uninhabitable, there is an issue of safety such as domestic or roommate violence, or the landlord breaches the initial lease agreement.

Do I still need to pay if I leave the lease early?

Yes, you will still need to pay if you are legally on the lease. Speaking with your landlord for reasons other than noted above on how to legally leave before the lease can go a long way. A lot of times landlords will work with you on getting out of your lease by either allowing you to have a subleaser or paying a certain amount of money to break the lease.


What are the COVID/USF Protocol?

For a complete list of protocols/guidelines you can visit the OCL office or website, as well as, the USF website for more information. Each time you come to the USF campus you will have to take the Dons Health Check when arriving on campus. Masks are also required to be worn while you are anywhere on the USF campus.

Check here for more information on the COVID-19 guidelines:

What are some action steps I can take to be safe on campus?

Not only does this information below pertain to COVID-19 but also keeping safe on campus and throughout San Francisco.

Sign up for USF Alert:

Sign up for SF Emergency Management System:

SF Public Health:


Who can I contact if I need help?

Off-Campus Living
University Center, 5th Floor
2130 Fulton St.
San Francisco, CA 94117-1045

Hours: M - F 8:30 - 5:00

Book an appointment below. Appointments will be held on the Zoom platform: or

Other helpful links:


SF Rent Board: