Proposal would put long pause on many S.F. evictions
Evictions for other reasons, like a breach of a rental agreement, “committing a nuisance” and the Ellis Act — a state law that is generally used by landlords to change the use of the building — were far more common, according to the report. People may still be evicted if they violate the health and safety of others in the building, or through the Ellis Act.
Still, Preston said it’s important to keep as many people in their homes as possible during the pandemic. But critics say it is yet another attack on landlords, particularly small ones, who already might be missing income from rent payments due to city and state laws that protect tenants who cannot pay due to the pandemic.
Andrew Zacks, a landlord attorney in San Francisco, said Preston is behaving as if “property owners are not even his constituents.” He added that tenants are “fully protected under state law, and property owners are being completely ignored and their rights are being trampled.”
Janan New, executive director of the San Francisco Apartment Association, said this legislation would put a particular hardship on landlords who want to either move into their properties themselves or allow relatives to live there. She said many renters who are no longer tethered to the city because of their jobs are leaving, and San Francisco currently has a 20% vacancy rate.
“A 20% vacancy rate doesn’t warrant this type of legislation,” she said. “If you want to help the rental market, you should try to get more jobs into the city.”
Preston’s proposal is the latest in a string of legislation that attempts to protect tenants as the pandemic causes record unemployment and pushes more people toward poverty. Mayor London Breed, who supports protecting renters against nofault evictions, first issued an eviction moratorium based on nonpayment of rent in April. That order, which eliminated late fees and interest and gave tenants more time to pay back their rent, is in effect until Sept. 30.
On the state level, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed a law written by Assemblyman David Chiu, Dsan Francisco, that gives tenants a temporary reprieve on missed rent if they lost income due to the pandemic. If Preston’s legislation passes, it would close a loophole in the state law, which does not cover those facing nofault evictions.
“Other cities in California can look to this proposal as an example of how to give renters greater protections in accordance with state law,” Chiu said.
Under the state law, tenants are expected to pay a quarter of their total rent between September and January, with the rest becoming civil debt — unless there was a local ordinance with greater protections. For example, an existing ordinance in San Francisco covers renters until at least October.
If they cannot pay at least a quarter of the rent for those five months by Jan. 31, their landlords would be allowed to file to evict them starting in February.
While tenants’rights activists are pleased with the help, many worry the bevy of temporary solutions will not help people long term. The assemblyman said he wanted his law to be much broader and also cover nofault evictions, but he said it was extremely watered down from its original version.
“There was so much more that I wanted to see in that bill ... but we weren’t able to get it in,” he said.
Meanwhile, Preston also passed a law this summer that permanently bars San Francisco landlords from evicting tenants if they could not pay rent due to coronavirusrelated issues between April and September.
That legislation was challenged in San Francisco Supreme Court by Zacks, the landlord lawyer, on behalf of a group of real estate trade organizations. The measure was upheld in August. An appeal is pending.
Zacks is also questioning the legality of Preston’s newest proposal based on language in the state law around whether new local ordinances can be enacted before Feb. 2021.
But Preston’s office is confident that they are in the clear. The ordinance is cosponsored by Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Matt Haney, Shamann Walton, Hillary Ronen and Rafael Mandelman.
“Taking Ìno fault’ evictions like these off the table is crucial to making sure tenants have secure and stable homes throughout and after the pandemic,” Brad Hirn, a tenant organizer with the Housing Rights Committee, said in a statement.
Supervisor ean .reston wants to ban all nofault evictions in San Francisco until March 2021. Landlord groups arenít happy about that.