This article was posted on Wednesday, Apr 01, 2015

Gross Receipts Tax

Passed in 2012, but didn’t begin to phase in until 2014. [We have posted on our website – – an extensive article about the new gross receipts tax approved by the voters in 2012, which will gradually replace the Payroll Tax (which virtually no small property owner was required to pay.]  

Condo Conversion Law

Passed in 2013. Allows 2,200 TIC owners already on awaiting list to proceed to condoization for a $20,000 fee, but throws all future condo-conversion seekers under the bus by placing a moratorium on further condo conversions (except owner-occupied two-unit buildings) until 2024. 

Tenant Harassment Ordinance

- Advertisers -

Approved in 2013. Allows tenants who feel they are being harassed and pressured by their landlord into leaving to get a hearing before the SF Rent Board. The administrative law judge (ALJ) would review the evidence, and if warranted, could forward the case to the City Attorney for civil litigation or to the District Attorney to initiate criminal proceedings. 

Priority in City Housing for Ellis Act Evictees

Passed in 2013. Gives priority for publicly-funded housing to tenants evicted under the Ellis Act and have lived in their unit for at least 10 years, five years if disabled. 

Tobacco Smoke Disclosure Policy

Approved in 2013. Requires landlords with less than 100% smoke-free rental properties to include in their vacancy listings the unit designation as smoke-free or smoking-optional, designate all units as either smoke-free or smoking-optional based on their current lease agreements, and maintain a master list of the location of all smoking-optional units in a building. 

Non-Residential Parking Ordinance Amendment

Approved in 2013. Allows renting up to ten parking spaces (up from five) under simplified rules, but retains 25% city tax per space (paid by tenant). 

Legalization of In-law Units

Passed in 2014. Allows a property owners with an illegal in-law built before January 1, 2013 to apply to legalize it. However, doing so turns a single-family home into a two-unit building that is subject to rent control. 

Regulation of Short-Term Rentals: “Airbnb Law”

Passed in 2014. Landmark legislation for the first time gives limited approval to rentals of under 30 days in homes and rental units under specific guidelines while requiring a city-run registry, collection of hotel taxes, and setting limitations on rental frequency.

District 8 Conversion of Garages to In-laws

Approved in 2014. Lets homeowners add one or two units within existing residential buildings in the Castro. Only a handful of applications have been filed to date. 

Upgrade/Alteration of Non-Conforming Units

Approved in 2014, but being challenged in the courts. Allows property owners to upgrade or alter an estimated 52,000 existing units that are legal but don’t conform to zoning density laws, unless there has been an eviction in the past 10 years. 

Residential Mergers, Demolition, Conversions

Approved in 2014. Discourages landlords from taking rental units off the market by making it harder to merge multiple units into a single-family home, convert housing property to commercial or other use, or demolish a rental. Bars property owners from merging, converting, or demolishing a unit for 10 years after most evictions. 

Hugely Increased Relocation Assistance to Tenants

Approved in 2014, but ruled unconstitutional. Would have required property owners to pay displaced tenants 24 times the difference between the current rent and the amount needed to rent a comparable market-rate unit in the city. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer ruled that the law violated property rights by requiring owners to pay for conditions they didn’t cause. 

Registration of Tenant Buyouts

Approved in 2014. Requires landlords to inform tenants of their legal rights 45 days before starting buyout negotiations, and gives them a 45-day recision period after the buyout has been negotiated. Requires registration of buyouts with the Rent Board. Prohibits a unit from being condo-converted for 10 years after the buyout of a disabled or senior tenant or in any building in which multiple buyouts have occurred. 

Minimum Wage Law (Prop. J)

Approved by voters in November, 2014. SPOSFI members who engage minimum-wage workers must pay $11.05 per hour effective January 1, 2015 and $12.25 per hour starting May 1, 2015. The rate goes to $15.00 by 2018. 

Backyard Plants (AB 2561)

Effective January 1, 2015. Requires a landlord to permit a tenant to participate in “personal agriculture” in portable, landlord-approved containers in the tenant’s backyard. The tenant may do ground level planting only for fruit and vegetables, but not for marijuana. 

Electronic Vehicle Charging Stations (AB 2565)

Effective July 1, 2015. Landlords must allow installation of electric vehicle charging stations by renters. 

Security Deposits & Electronic Communications

(AB 2647) Effective January 1, 2015. Allows a landlord and a tenant to agree to use electronic communications regarding general security deposit issues. Allows the landlord to use e-mail for some of the requirements of a security deposit, including the right to inspect the property prior to termination of the tenancy. 

Smoke Alarms (SB 745)

All smoke alarms sold in California after July 1, 2014 must have a non-replaceable, non-removable battery capable of powering the device for at least 10 years. 

Domestic Violence (SB 612)

Approved in 2013. A tenant may notify the landlord in writing that he or she or another household member is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, human trafficking, or abuse of an elder or dependent adult, and intends to terminate the tenancy. The notification

must be accompanied by a temporary restraining order or other official documentation. The law allows that tenant to vacate without penalty, but the tenant is still responsible for payment of rent for 30 days following the giving of the notice. 

Peter Reitz is the Executive Director of SPOSF/SPOSFI. 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 or call (415) 647-2419.