In 2008, the Board of Supervisors passed Proposition M. While anti-harassment laws
already existed, tenant activists pressured their allies on the Board to sponsor Prop. M – the Anti-Harassment Ordinance. Prop. M specifically called out more than a dozen actions treated as harassment by a rental property owner, including failure to make repairs, entering without due notice, refusing to accept cash or a rent check after 30 days, and asking tenants for their legal status or Social Security number.
With the law’s passage, even offering a tenant a buyout could now be construed as harassment. Prop M. was among the most stringent laws of its kind in the nation, and was vigorously opposed by SPOSFI and other organizations.
Even though a significant portion of the law was eventually overturned by the court, it was law for a number of years, and had a chilling effect on property owners. Prop. M was another example of the overreaching legislation passed by the Board of Supervisors, creating fear in property owners.
Legislation Makes it Easy to Sue Your Landlord
WithSan Franciscoexperiencing another bump in rents and more owners resorting to the Ellis Act since the Board recently passed legislation placing a 10-year moratorium on condo conversions, tenant activists are again raising the red flag. Maria Zamudio, a housing rights organizer for Just Cause Clinic claims that “about 80% of tenants who visit the clinic seek legal assistance specifically for harassment by landlords or situations where harassment is a factor.” She further states: “San Franciscohas protections for tenants against harassment, but for many tenants those rights are currently inaccessible. If
they want to hold their landlord accountable, they need to file a lawsuit in Superior Court. Immigrants – the majority of tenants we work with – don’t have those resources.”
To answer the call, Mr. Campos is proposing to allow tenants to bypass Superior Court entirely and instead bring their harassment complaints before a Rent Board Administrative Law Judge. Adding a new avenue for attacking property owners at no cost to the tenant seems likely to produce a burden, if not a flood, of complaints for the Rent Board to handle.
Debra Colton, speaking for the California Apartment Association (CAA), summed it up best: “The Rent Board acting in the place of a court is unheard of!” The legislation has to pass the Land Use and Economic Development Committee before it goes to the full board. Needless to say, we’ll be watching the legislation closely.
Reprinted with permission of the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute (SPOSFI) News. For more information on becoming a member of SPOSFI or to send a tax-deductible donation, please visit their website at www.smallprop.org or call (415) 647-2419.