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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

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UncategorizedFacing the evictions: A tenant agenda for 2015

Facing the evictions: A tenant agenda for 2015

The Ellis Act evictions are down, but other evictions are up
The Ellis Act evictions are down, but other evictions are up

By Gen Fujioka

JANUARY 6, 2014 – Ellis Act evictions are often the most dramatic and destructive forms of evictions because they displace all the tenants in a building.  As we discussed yesterday,  Ellis Act evictions surged in 2012-2013 and then declined last year in the face of tenant resistance and aggressive policy proposals to control speculation.  But other forms of evictions are also displacing tenants and accelerating gentrification in vulnerable communities.

To evaluate the threat of eviction, we turn again to data from the Rent Board.  San Francisco requires landlords to file with the board most eviction notices involving rent controlled units. Notices for failure to pay rent are not reported.

Based on these filings, the board publishes in the spring an annual report on the number evictions by category for the 12-month period ending each February.  We can project trends based upon the monthly data available for the first eight months through October 2014.

Based on these projections, Rent Board data yields the following for the top five grounds for evictions in the city (again, excluding failure to pay or late payment of rent) tracking the trends over the past five years:

evictions by category 2011-14.xls

Notes:  “Breach” refers to allegations of breach of a provision of a rental agreement or lease and “OMI” refers to claimed owner-move-in evictions.  “Ellis” refers to Ellis eviction notices issued – the second step in the Ellis eviction process (the units withdrawn data from yesterday’s story is a more inclusive and larger number).  The current period is estimated by extending the rate over the first eight month through February 2015.

Combined across all categories, the total number of 2014 evictions is trending higher than 2013 — even with the decline in Ellis evictions. According to housing counseling organizations, with record market-rate rents landlords are looking for any justification to evict tenants.

The Eviction Defense Collaborative’s Deepa Varma reports, “we see more and more breach cases every day.”  She said that many of these cases involve claims that tenants are violating leases that prohibit subletting where in fact the alleged “subtenants” are members of the same family.

The rent ordinance establishes a procedure for adding such household members to the lease but many families are not aware of their rights and end up moving out.  According to Varma, these evictions could have been prevented with earlier counseling and assistance.

My colleague Tina Cheung at Chinatown Community Development Center counsels tenants every day. She also sees an expansion of other eviction attempts and notes that landlords often take advantage of language and other barriers to evict immigrant families and seniors: “Agreements and notices written only in English are not fully understood yet become the basis for ‘breach’ evictions. Some evictions are attempted without any legitimate basis just to scare tenants into moving.”

Fred Sherburn-Zimmer of the Housing Rights Committee sees a similar increase in eviction notices for technical lease violations or outright false claims.  She told me that “landlords are making up plans to move into tiny apartments when they clearly have no intent of giving up their existing homes.They are claiming lease violations that have no basis in fact.”

Stopping the rise in evictions is essential for keeping what remains of San Francisco affordable housing and social diversity say tenant representatives.

“A majority of city’s tenants cannot afford today’s market rents and unless they can keep their existing apartments most will be forced to leave the city,” said Steve Collier, senior counsel at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic. “Landlords are looking for legal loopholes and excuses to evict and raise rents. The city can and should do more to close those loopholes and control evictions.”

Collier and other tenant advocates are evaluating proposals to address these concerns.  Some of the concepts being discussed include:

  • Allow tenants to change roommates or household members without risk of eviction.
  • Take the profit motive out of evictions by controlling rent increases on units after a no-fault eviction.
  • Step up enforcement of controls on illegal conversions rent controlled units (e.g., short term rentals and SROs) and wrongful evictions.

Advocates also note the need to keep Ellis eviction reforms on the agenda. The activism that slowed Ellis evictions in 2014 will need to be sustained until there is reform in Sacramento or local controls on the real estate speculation that fuels those evictions.

Winning these reforms will not be easy. But in the view of Bobby Coleman, who works with the SF Tenants Union, rising evictions and rents have the potential to unite long-time residents and newcomers to in a common cause. “Most tech workers are also tenants,” Coleman said. “They also are doubling up to pay the rent.”  He believes that building an agenda that unites the city’s tenant majority, including tech workers, offers new opportunities for change.

Polls show that the housing crisis remains a top concern of a majority of the city’s voters.  In 2014, that sentiment provided the basis for tenants to build broad popular opposition to Ellis Act evictions. To address the changing eviction challenges of 2015, tenants will need to expand awareness and popular concern not only for Ellis evictions, but other threats as well.

Gen Fujioka is Policy Director for Chinatown Community Development Center and is a boardmember of 48 Hills.  The opinions expressed this in this article are his own and not necessarily that of CCDC or 48 Hills.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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74 COMMENTS

  1. under the costa-hawkins act how long must a renter stay with the original tenant, to re-establish tenency? Must the tenant be there since 1996? Or does the t tenant reestablish tenancy after 90 days or more? Can the tenant reestablish tenàncy? I was born in 1950, we have lived here since then original tenant passed. In 2014. No lease signed in 1949 but I am still here as tenant but landlord wants to increase rent to 3100/mo from 667.50/mo don’t have another place to stay in sf, is there help out there for me?

  2. An insane guy named Guss Dolan who endorses violence. Check out his post wherein he entertains the idea of stalking the streets of Hayes Valley (HIS neighborhood, I guess) and physically assaults Google employees for “ruining” his city. A real treat.

  3. jjFieber,

    Corrections to what you wrote:

    1) Capital and maintenance expenses are only deductible to the extent that they do not exceed rent received, which of course is taxed at one’s highest marginal rate.

    2) Depreciation is clawed back upon a sale, when it is taxed as ordinary income and not as a capital gain.

    3) Capital gains tax is not just the 15% federal rate, but CA taxes gains as ordinary income, again at one’s highest marginal rate. Moreover some of it as withheld from the sales proceeds even if there is no gain – something that even the Feds do not do.

    4) Prop 13 applies regardless of whether you rent out a property or not, so that is a red herring here.

    Most of my arguments are not framed as being pro-landlord so much as showing how many of the supposedly pro-tenant laws actually harm tenants and benefit landlords by creating artificial shortages.

    I am doing just fine from my investments, to the point where I don’t need a regular job, and I do not gain anything financially by posting here. I am presenting alternative interpretations of the housing situation in SF so that both sides of these debates are at least well informed. It’s always helpful to consider a diversity of viewpoints.

  4. No, Gen wrote about nuisance and breach evictions – both of which are at-fault evictions.

    Of course no-fault evictions can be defended. Each just cause for eviction is well defined.

  5. Landlords expenses are tax deductible regardless of passthough petitions. You know this. You’re an expert on the law. You also know about depreciation deductions (for wildly appreciating buildings), capital gains tax rates when they sell and prop 13. I wish you were honest about the ideological bias in your daily posts and put a disclaimer at the top. The opposing side has equally strong counterpoints–but the supposed debate you are engaged in is called having political differences–it is not that you are actually right and they are wrong. You tend to leave a whole lot out to make it seem like your views are unassailable… but what you are doing isn’t actually debate until you address the validity of the other side.

  6. Your point is irrelevant to this article. Gen writes about NO-Fault evictions which are hardly defensible. You’ll find a way though, I’m sure.

  7. The city attorney routinely loses at court and Miguel (nice guy and all) did not have a license to practice law.

    Vacancy control is illegal in the state of California, and just about everywhere else, for obvious reasons. And even if we had it, no LL in his right mind would ever re-rent at a low rent.

    I come here to hear diverse viewpoints and engage in debates of substance. Few people come here to hear one-sided propaganda.

  8. You can read an article without reading the comments, if you are really that afraid of hearing diverse ideas.

    I doubt that 48 Hills will wish to devolve a key components of its activity and community. That would make litlte sense.

  9. We can decouple articles from discussions. Anyone has blog space for rent? Move discussions there, and link to them from here. Trolling is not allowed. Problem solved.

  10. 1) The city attorney has already looked into the issue of subsequent rent control in cases of no-fault evictions. I’ll trust the CA and Miguel over a landlord troll who just can’t get enough digs or sling enough arrows at the tenant community.

    2) If you’re pro-abortion do you also go to anti-abortion websites and harass the posters there? If you’re anti-gun control do you go to gun control websites and harass the pro gun control commenters too? Are any websites allowed to exist where people with a broad range of similar interests can congregate without being trolled and harassed by people who obviously don’t share the same values, such as yourself, Landlord Pete, the Rentier and others who post here to harass the tenant and progressive community?

    Plenty of thriving general interest websites exist where the pros and cons of various issues can be hotly debated – sfgate, Mission Local, SFist, Curbed and others. Tenants already square off with landlords and their attorneys 24/7 at City Hall, the state capitol and in Congress. It’s not as if landlords and their reps don’t have plenty of opportunity to fight and suppress tenants. So why target a website that only runs articles from progressives for progressives and others who are interested in a particular subject from a progressive perspective? Is it so important that progressives can’t find a safe place free from landlord and general harasssers?

    Hey 48 Hills management. You may get a few more eyeballs and sell a few more ads by appearing to have a “balanced” commenting policy, but you’re going to eventually destroy the product in the future as thoughtful people turn away from the snark and hatefest promulgated by the landlord trolls and progressive haters.

    Posting on a website by a poster with fundamental differences against the subject matter of the website (tenants rights, progressive economic values, etc.) is an act of hate. Why is the 48 Hills Board encouraging hate speech on the website? The very large progressive community has plenty of differences of opinion about policy and tactics. Create a space where they can debate issues, but tell the obvious tenant and progressive haters like Sam, Landlord Pete, Rentier and others to take a hike and go troll up some other chattboard.

  11. SF doesn’t need to be diverse any more than homogeneous neighborhoods like Bayview or Marina need to be diverse.

    The Bay Area needs to be diverse but that is entirely consistent with SF being the “Marina” of the Bay Area.

    And who says that 1,500 new Google employees = 1,500 evictions? You must not live in SF to think that.

  12. Google hired almost 8,000 people last year, most of them recruited from far away places including foreign countries. Assuming 20% of them wanted to live in SF, that’s over 1,500 potential evictions, along with a huge rent spike for everyone else since virtually no rental vacancies or homes for sale exist in SF or the Bay Area. That’s just one company. Multiply by 75 to get a better idea of what’s going on with the local housing market. SF is the center of the social media world, the fastest growing business of any over the last 10 years. These companies rely on hordes of programmers, engineers and other staff to keep humming. Other perennial corporate powerhouses like Oracle, Yahoo, Intel, Samsung, Apple and dozens of other Bay Area mega-companies are still on hiring binges, leading to more evictions, higher rents and unbelievable home prices. The Bay Area is also a hotbed for biotech, another industry hiring people life crazy and making huge profits.

    When Ed Lee said he was going to bring jobs to SF, what he left out was that they would be high-paying jobs in technology, biotech (Mission Bay) and social media (plus the MBAs and lawyers to service them), and that rents and evictions would vastly increase since these new workers make very high incomes and that the new workers would be displacing current residents. This is exactly what the chart above shows.

    Fighting with 3rd party landlords over who has the most rights to live in THEIR rental building – especially when so many landlords are not extremely wealthy – doesn’t seem like a very fun pastime or one with a favorable endgame. Better to design and build the city you want, where people of all income levels and all flavors of cultural, ethnic, social and religious backgrounds can live together without fear of eviction, with the same rights as homeowners. Habitat for Humanity has just that model, which the city should heavily fund to build the inclusive city it says it wants to create. It makes sense to give priority to tenants under threat of displacement from no-fault evictions and to tenants who have lived in the city for many years but who want a much more secure and safe home than many of the smelly, unkempt rat-traps owned by the “housing-providers.”

  13. Section 6.15, along with 6.14, wasn’t that innovative. They were changes to the rules and regulations of the rent ordinance to specifically complement and address the state’s Costa-Hawkins Act, which in part took aim at SF’s notorious revolving room-mate situation.

    In some ways, I think it was a decent (if complex and counter-intuitive) compromise solution. Original tenants on the lease can replace departing room-mates, but not add more room-mates, as long as they comply with the same standards of application that the landlord originally applied.

    And when the last original room-mate leaves, the rent can be re-set to market. Subsequent room-mates do not inherit that right, unless the landlord forgets to issue them with a 6.14 notice.

    Miguel was one of the good guys, but he surely would have known that vacancy control is contrary to Costa-Hawkins. With him and Ted now gone, I do not believe that the tenant community has anyone smart enough to finesse that issue. And a voter initiative will simply be thrown out if it is deemed contrary to state law.

  14. “Allow tenants to change roommates or household members without risk of eviction.”

    Isn’t this already covered under rent rule 6.15, Leno’s wonderful legislative fix to the long-running roommate replacement disputes?

    “Take the profit motive out of evictions by controlling rent increases on units after a no-fault eviction.”

    Eviction Defense Collaborative founder Miguel Wooding (RIP) has wanted to get this passed for over 15 years, but other tenant priorities always took precedence for ballot box initiatives. It appears tenants are running out of new ideas if they’re down to this super-technical provision as a main agenda item. I wouldn’t run it in a low turn-out election though since it’s quite wonkish and it could be difficult to motivate tenants to go out and vote for it. In the November 2016 election it would be a slam-dunk winner, although would likely compete with a long ballot filled with other progressive priorities.

  15. So, out of 230k rental units there were 1700 evictions – less than 1%? I’d like to know how many of the at fault evictions are in subsidized units. Doesn’t the City budge allot like $23m for eviction defense funding? What is that around $13000 per eviction?

  16. ‘“Most tech workers are also tenants,” Coleman said. “They also are doubling up to pay the rent.” ‘

    Well, yes, that’s true. The problem, which some tenants’ rights activists apparently don’t recognize, is that far fewer tech workers (or new residents in general) enjoy rent control – and those lucky enough to have it generally don’t enjoy as much of a discount from market rate.

    Furthermore, newer, non-rent-controlled residents also benefit greatly from increases in the market rate housing supply, in a way that securely rent-controlled tenants don’t. And when housing activists are involved in the market rate housing supply, they’re mostly just looking to squeeze it tighter.

    Obviously, activists can’t openly say that they’re fighting against new residents in SF. But don’t pretend you’re on their side. Come on now.

  17. No, unless the landlord specifically files a petition with the rent board to do a capital expenditure pass-through. And even then, those tenants on low incomes don’t have to pay.

    Otherwise your rent is the same whether your landlords has to spend six figures on the foundations or not.

    But why shouldn’t you pay more if you home is made safer and better?

  18. Wow, 3x as many breach evictions (not even including non-payment) as Ellis evictions!? I think we need to do a better job at educating tenants about their rights and duties and start tackling the breach evictions issue, that is, if we really care about keeping as many people in their units as possible. Stop tilting at the Ellis windmills, where the State, as opposed to the City, is the real player, and where even if all of the Ellis evictions were eliminated this year, we’d still have a serious eviction issue on our plates

  19. “Have tenants ever had to pay for the new foundation? re-wiring? re-plumbing? re-roofing?…”

    Yes, over and over again.

  20. one very simple reason rents in SF are high, is that the housing stock, is mostly, over 100 years old. These Victorians are what make this one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Have tenants ever had to pay for the new foundation? re-wiring? re-plumbing? re-roofing? painting, fixing rot and all of the other things that go along with keeping up an old building?
    Perhaps the answer is to tear down all wooden structures in SF and replace them with simple concrete structures which would require no maintenance. Russia has much more sensible architecture. Then rents would stay the same, forever! Problem solved!

  21. In an other city without Rent Control landlords want long term tenants, yet in San Francisco. It is the opposite.
    Also judging by these numbers it seems like there is a crisis in bad tenants. Who break their lease fail to pay rent or are a nuisance. May be there should be some reporting on the bad tenants out there as they seem to out number the Ellis evictions 6 to 1.
    Blaming the landlord for poor tenant behavior is disingenuous, Landlords are not their tanants parents, Tenants need to take responsibility for their actions.

  22. Gen missed out the biggest cause of evictions, which is the non-payment ( or persistently late payment of rent).

    Evictions for non-payment of rent are summary legal processes, happen very quickly, and are not required to be reported to the rent board, which is presumably why Gen didn’t report the numbers.

    Educating tenants on the important of always paying their rent on time would save far more tenants from eviction than endlessly trying to close loopholes that are only exploited because of similar changes in the law previously enacted by the same suspects.

  23. Gen, as was discussed yesterday (and you surely know this) your idea to cap rents for a new tenant when there has been a no-fault eviction is illegal under current state law. It’s a form of vacancy control and that is outlawed by Costa-Hawkins (with a couple of technical exemptions for Ellis and OMI in certain limited situations).

    It would be helpful if you acknowledged that idea requires a very unlikely change in the law in Sacramento.

    Switching out roommates is entirely possible under existing rules. In fact a landlord cannot unreasonably refuse replacing a roommate, as long as the new roommate meets the credit standards of the landlord. Sections 6.13 thru 6.15 describe the correct process to follow, so an eviction should only happen if the tenant does not follow the correct procedure. So for instance you have to ask your LL to run a credit check for the prospective roommate, and not just move him in and say nothing.

    Your third idea is largely covered by the so-called new Airbnb legislation.

    So as much as you may want these changes, they seem either impossible or redundant, by virtue of my argument above.

  24. Gen Fujioka’s work and analysis is invaluable.

    Yet the fact remains that the tenants rights movement in San Francisco has utterly failed to prevent rents in this city from reaching astronomical levels, forcing tens of thousands of poor and working people out of the city, and fundamentally altering the economic, social and political dynamics within the city and the Bay Area.

    This is not the fault of the tenants rights movement. It is clearly the result of an economic system that is based on profiteering rather than providing for human needs.

    The tenants rights movement has saved, and continues to save, many people from being driven from the city and deeper into poverty. This is, of course, a very good thing.

    But it is just not enough.

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