SF landlords’ attempts to pass some charges on to tenants face opposition

By Dominic Fracassa : sfexaminer – excerpt

…In San Francisco, like many other cities, when the various costs of running an apartment building outpace the annual allowable rent increases set by the city’s Rent Board, landlords can request to pass on a portion of those expenses to their tenants.

But in recent years, a pattern involving these so-called pass-through expenses has emerged that’s causing alarm among tenants-rights organizations. Landlords, particularly large property management companies, increasingly are passing on the costs of their debt service — payments on the loan taken out to buy the building — and property taxes to tenants.

That could soon change. Tenants-rights groups, including the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, the San Francisco Tenants Union and Legal Assistance to the Elderly, have secured a commitment from Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer to sponsor legislation to eliminate debt-service and property tax pass-throughs.

“It’s time for San Francisco to eliminate debt service as a justification for rent increases,” Fewer said. “Large corporate landlords that are purchasing residential buildings don’t need incentives to immediately burden their rent-controlled tenants with exorbitant rent increases. By closing this loophole, we will help keep our rent-controlled housing affordable and prevent greed-fueled displacement.”….

San Francisco is the only major city in the Bay Area that allows landlords to pass through their debt obligations to tenants. The practice is prohibited in Berkeley, Oakland and San Jose, which did away with its debt-service pass-throughs last year…(more)


How owner move-in reform will affect SF tenants and landlords

Op-ed by Cynthia Fong : sfexaminer – excerpt

Owner move-in reform unanimously passed through the Board of Supervisors on July 18. This reform adds enforcement mechanisms to protect tenants from landlords who abuse OMI evictions and never intend to move in. Here is what this new legislation means for tenants and landlords:

This legislation, aptly named “Administrative Code – Owner Move-In Reporting Requirements,” primarily impacts landlords by requiring new and improved reporting requirements. Landlords are now required to provide a declaration under penalty of perjury stating that they intend on residing in the unit for at least 36 continuous months. In addition, the Rent Board is now required to annually notify the unit occupant of the maximum allowable rent (which is the rent of the previous tenant) for five years after an OMI.

This reform also extends the amount of time that a tenant has to exercise their rights and keep landlords accountable…

Finally, and perhaps the most significantly, nonprofits like the Housing Rights Committee and the San Francisco Tenants Union will be able to exercise a “right of action” to enforce the law…

Effective enforcement mechanisms were passed because tenant advocates pushed for real solutions…

Cynthia Fong is a community organizer with the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco in the Richmond District... (more)


Developments in Development: Déjà Vu

By : missionlocal – excerpt

Does this sound uncomfortably familiar to anyone? Bloomberg reports that “Silicon Valley Elites Get Home Loans With No Money Down” and that “As the tech boom starts to show signs of cracks, there’s some concern that high loan-to-value mortgages are dangerous.”

Granted we’re not seeing mass foreclosures and willy-nilly lending (yet?). And 4 in 10 applicants for these zero-down home loans are rejected by the provider. But that means 60 percent are approved — with the primary criterion apparently being that they earn more than $200K a year. And as Bloomberg notes, the down payment on a house here could buy you a whole house flat-out elsewhere. What could possibly go wrong…

I wonder if any of those loans are going to condo purchases. A new crop is for sale in the Mission right now, including those at “Rowan” on Potrero Ave near Franklin Square that have hit the market. I didn’t know that this was the “heart” of the Mission, and I guess opinions are divided on whether that northeast corner is “flourishing” as The Registry says, but there you have it. The 70 new units are on sale in the Mission — 11 of them below market rate.

By the way, those of you who pay close attention to how projects are proposed, advocated for, and approved in this city may be interested to hear that the head of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition has stepped down. A hunt is under way for a replacement — you can read more about Tim Colen’s achievements here

Enough about finding a place to live in the city, let’s talk about buildings that have been around for a long time. Owners are running up against a deadline to earthquake-proof their buildings. I guess maybe “-proof” is a bit of a strong suffix given that we’re talking about earthquakes, but as the Chronicle reports, the seismic retrofit is no small undertaking.

A whole little industry has sprung up around it, and the cost is substantial — perhaps making it no surprise that property owners aren’t keen on jumping on top of that right away. Legislation allowing landlords to add units to their buildings when they do these retrofits have helped some, but roughly 60 days remain to see whether it’s enough of an incentive for one group of landlords to meet their deadline…(more)

City Cites Its Own Land for “Blight,” Gives Self 15 Days to Fix

Anti-eviction legislation moves forward

by Tim Redmond : 48hills – excerpt

Tenant package gets committee approval with Wiener dissenting on a key element

SEPTEMBER 15, 2015 – The Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee moved forward a set of eviction-protection laws this week, with Sup. Scott Wiener opposed to one critical part.

Sup. Malia Cohen, the committee chair, voted to support the legislation with only minor amendments, an indication that there are probably six votes to approve it at the full board.

It will be an interesting test: Moderate supervisors like Julie Christensen (who is in a tight race against Aaron Peskin) and London Breed (who will likely face a challenge from tenant lawyer Dean Preston next fall) will be under pressure from landlord groups to gut part of the law.

But neither one can afford to be portrayed as anti-tenant right now.

Kim’s package would, among other things, eliminate a lot of “low-fault” nuisance evictions – and would also allow tenants to add roommates as long as the occupancy of the unit doesn’t exceed local codes.

It’s the roommate part that had Wiener disturbed. He argued that allowing new roommates would undermine the ability of landlords to control leases. “What we have here before us eliminates all ability of the landlord to have any control over subtenants,” he said. “This is a major step.”

But Cohen argued that “in this climate, people do need to move in with family and friends.”… (more)

Good point on relaxing roommate restrictions . Many people are finding they need help paying the rent these days and many people need a couch to sleep on. This law should solve at least part of the homeless problem. Now we need a good samaritan law to protect landlords from getting stuck with bad tenants. The problem cuts both ways.