How it works

At Rent Masters we empower renters to make responsible and informed decisions. Namely, we can help you decide whether it would be a good decision to move out of your apartment in exchange for a one-time relocation bonus.


What's a relocation bonus?

Due to the sharp rise in the cost of housing in San Francisco over the last 5-10 years, landlords whose buildings are rent-controlled are increasingly willing to pay tenants to voluntarily vacate the building. Depending on how much the market rent has gone up since you began your lease, your landlord can potentially recoup thousands of dollars more per month from a new tenant paying market rent. Accordingly, landlords in recent years have been known to offer as much as $50,000 to existing tenants who are willing to relocate.

Step 1

Learn the Landscape

Review your Rent Masters estimate, and discuss the topic with your roommates and/or significant others. Familiarize yourself with the process by exploring our FAQs below.

Step 2

Initiate Contact

Take the first step forward by scheduling a 30-minute free consultation with a member of the Rent Masters staff, where we'll explore your options and agree on the right approach and timeline.

Step 3

Negotiate

There is no such thing as a typical negotiation, but expect at least 1-2 weeks. During this stage, Rent Masters customers may choose to enlist the support from our network of legal services professionals.

Step 4

Sign & Smile

Once signed, San Francisco law stipulates a 45-day window during which you may rescind the agreement for any reason, so no need to pack right away. Typical payouts are 50% at signing and 50% after the 45 days.


Do I even Qualify?

The long answer? It depends. So you might as well get a free estimate. The four questions below should also give you a quick sense of whether or not Rent Masters makes sense for you.

About Rent Masters

At Rent Masters our mission is to empower tenants in San Francisco. In January 2016 we launched this website and the relocation estimate tool as a means for providing greater transparency to both tenants and landlords about the processes of navigating a tenant-landlord buyout agreement. While the site is no longer actively maintained, the tool remains fully functional, and we plan to leave it operational so that anyone considering this topic can do so with full information at their disposal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can't find what you're looking for? Please simply send your question by email to [email protected]

Q: Is this even legal?
A: Yes, it is 100% legal.

Not only is it generally legal for any two private parties (tenant and landlord) to willfully agree to a financial contract, the process of tenant-landlord buyout agreements is specifically regulated in San Francisco by a series of laws enacted in March of 2015. The new regulations are intended to protect tenants and ensure that any agreement is mutually beneficial. In a nutshell, the process requires a number of filings and disclosures, which ensure that tenants are fully aware and informed of their rights, and prevents landlords from wrongfully pressuring uninformed tenants into making a poor decision. Rent Masters abides by all such regulations and disclosure requirements, and will connect interested customers with a preferred legal partner to review their case in depth.

Q: Will I have to pay taxes on this?
A: Yes, most likely.

While we do not have any certified accountants on-staff, we can refer you to qualified professionals should you seek formal tax advice. In all likelihood, you will be required to pay state and federal income tax on your share of the relocation bonus, at the same rate as your current marginal income bracket.

Q: Does this make the housing crisis worse?
A: Most likely not, but markets are hard to predict.

We'll share more data on this topic in the future when we have more data. As of today, all we can really do is speculate at the microeconomic level:

  • - The housing crisis in SF is primarily caused by an insufficient supply of housing that cannot accomodate the current demand of citizens to live in the city.
  • - When demand exceeds supply, prices go up. If demand softens, prices go down.
  • - If someone accepts a relocation offer and moves into another vacant unit in SF, their impact on total housing demand in San Francisco is neutral.
  • - On the other hand, if they instead take their relocation money and move elsewhere (to the East Bay, South Bay, Southeast Asia, etc.), then they are decreasing total housing demand by one unit, and thus actually helping reduce price pressure.

Q: But won't average rent prices go up?
A: Actually no, we expect average market-rate rents to fall.

Even though the amount paid in any individual apartment will increase after the original tenant vacates the unit, the immediate impact on the market will be to increase the supply of vacant units by one. Even if a tenant simply moves within SF, the increased liquidity takes pressure out of the system. Even better, someone who takes their bonus and leaves SF permanently has directly reduced the demand by one unit.

Accordingly, the hypothetical economic impact is that we move closer toward a normal distribution of market rents. Today, because the "market-rent" is so extraordinary, the shadow market for shared rooms and subtenants has produced a bimodal distribution of rents, basically between the rent-control haves and have-nots. If all eligible Rent Control customers accepted offers, we would expect to see a much closer distribution of rents in the city, with market-rate prices coming down, while average out-of-pocket rent amounts would be higher because more folks would be paying the market-rate. In other words, you might be able to find a decent 1-bedroom again for $2400, but the days of finding a shared room for $1200 will have disappeared.