How to prevent fraudulent owner move-in evictions

Tenant groups call on supes to enact much stronger rules against common eviction scam

The San Francisco supes start discussing fraudulent owner-move-in evictions Friday, and local tenant groups are asking that both of the bills coming to the committee be amended to include more effective protections for renters.

Sup. Mark Farrell has an OMI bill. So do Sups. Jane Kim and Aaron Peskin. The Government Audit and Oversight Committee will hold a hearing starting at 10 am on eviction enforcement, and tenant advocates plan to be there in numbers.

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The two bills are aimed at addressing what everyone agrees is a serious problem: Landlords are getting rid of rent-controlled tenants by arguing that they want to move in (or let a close relative move in) to the apartment. That’s legal, for the most part – the owner of a building has the right to live in their property.

But in hundreds of instances every year, the landlord tosses out the tenant, waits a few months, and then rents the place out to someone else at a much higher price.

And there’s no easy way to stop that.

The evicted tenants can, and sometimes do, follow up by hiring a lawyer who hires an investigator who checks to see if the landlord actually lives there, and if the eviction was a scam, they sue. But that assumes the tenants (a) know the law, and (b) have it together to find a lawyer who will do this work, and (c) haven’t signed away their rights as part of an eviction buy-out.

See, landlords love to say that there’s no defense to an OMI eviction, and offer the tenants a few thousand bucks if they just sign a paper – which say, in legalese, that they can’t sue later.

The city never checks to see if the eviction was fake. In fact, the city doesn’t always know that OMI evictions are happening, because a lot of landlords don’t bother to file the required notices with the Rent Board. Since there’s no enforcement and no penalties, why bother?

It gets worse: By law, a tenant has only a year to sue – but a landlord is supposed to live in the place for three years after an eviction. So Greedy the Landlord evicts his tenants, messes around for a year with supposed renovations, spends a night or two in the place, and after 12 months puts it back on the market – and the tenant has lost all rights to do anything about it.

The two bills both require more information. Landlords would have to file a sworn statement that they intend to live in the place (Farrell) and would have to file annual reports for three years stating that they do, indeed, live there (Kim, Peskin). In both cases, a landlord who lies could be prosecuted.

But what happens if they never file anything? Who will know? How will the city keep track? “We would be counting on landlords to submit information, and we already know they often don’t do that,” said Deepa Varma, director of the Tenants Union.

The tenants are asking for several changes to make the laws work.

For starters, they want to make the failure to file an OMI report with the Rent Board, including the sworn statements, an “absolute defense” to an eviction. That is, if those documents aren’t on file, a judge would have to toss the eviction claim. (Under current law, a landlord who fails to give the proper notice to tenants can’t evict them; failure to give notice is an “absolute defense,” meaning there is no discussion or debate.)

Then they want the city to follow every OMI case – to check in regularly to make sure that the landlord isn’t cheating. Building inspectors follow up on building permits to make sure the work was done properly; the Rent Board ought to have a team of inspectors who regularly monitor every OMI for the three-year period.

Oh, and if the landlord isn’t really living in the place, the tenants should have the immediate right to return, at the old rent, and the landlord should face criminal charges.

They also want to end the sleazy deals where tenants sign away their rights to sue. “Make it so you can’t sign away that right,” Varma said. And the statute of limitations has to change – if the landlord has to live there for three years, the tenants should have three years to file a suit.

Private nonprofits like the Tenants Union also want the right to file their own cases to enforce the law.

This is one of the major tenant issues of the year. The bills won’t actually come out of tomorrow’s hearing; they will be heard at a later point. But we will see the beginnings of the debate shape up.

49 COMMENTS

  1. Calling a free resource doesnt a home provide.

    Shelter is one of a short list of basic primal human needs, the threat to that is a threat to basic individual security.

  2. If its not happening illegally, landlords should have 0 qualms adhering to these policies. If they’re breaking the law then they should face penalties as any other person would.

  3. If I didn’t want to stay I wouldn’t care. Don’t you notice the damage being done when your children can’t move back?

  4. Landlords do nothing but own land. Every cent the high rents pay is economic damage. It’s time to liberalize building laws so people who work and contribute to society can keep what they earn.

  5. Renting if temporary. Renting for less that others can is temporary. Renting for less than cost is even more temporary.

    Why do you continue to champion the idea that I (well, you, I guess) can pay less and less, year after year, and expect expanded coverage, benefits, and rights?

  6. Are you kidding? No, I am not Geek Girl. Check out our argument on abortion rights for a quick check of that one.

    Also, you’re the same person who swears I’ve said to have lived in Vallejo, and wouldn’t provide any evidence there either.

    WTF?

  7. If you want to throw around the term “intellectual discipline,” you should really make sure that your comments are spot on. Tim didn’t float the “concept that the figure was a lot higher,” and you are the one who used the term “epidemic.” It is improper – intellectually – to place quotes around a word you are not quoting.

    Also, the “issue” is that there is a loophole in the current regulations (as you stated), and that there are two bills going in front of the board of supervisors. According to the link you’ve posted, OMI evictions have easily doubled since the great recession. The second issue would be how to most effectively close that loophole.

  8. GeekGirl (I’ve heard you’re the same person as the ex-GG), true? You should have showed me links. I guess you’re too tired now to do that. Right?

  9. This time she was vaguely on target. If you remember when she was @geekgirl she made tons of stuff up and was able to believe it as fast as she could make it up.

  10. Right here. The Mayor’s Office of Housing & Community is going to MINIMALLY invest $1.5 BILLION on housing, a good # of that for these 3rd party non-profit scammers & that is just the trust fund that’s been operating since 2012.

    It is nothing but a scam that 3rd Party non-profits are using to make $ for themselves.

    Current SFCLT tiny apartments at 308 TURK ST in the TL are going for $2733. Again, they are scamming, just like ALL non-profits scam

    http://sfmohcd.org/sites/default/files/Documents/MOHDC%20Annual%20Progress%20Report%20FY14-15.pdf

  11. Yes tons. The housing being saved from SFCLT is all from the Mayor’s Office of Housing & Community giving a third party or them $. I looked it up on SFCLT site. Looked up all the non-profits into housing, and there are TONS of them – all of them are being funded by the taxpayers of SF for these pet projects which I think is grossly unfair as most people are not getting the benefit of these things. And these 3rd party non-profits all have high overheads & salaries. It is all grifting/scam

  12. And it turns out most evictions were due to non-payment of rent as per playland’s link to the rentboard. There is that. Non-payment is indeed just cause for eviction

  13. TY playland! I knew she was exaggerating. Esp since her reply back to me was “find it yourself”

  14. If you don’t provide a link to your claim then most likely you’re exaggerating or lying. Most people here provide links their claims.

  15. 4th Gen, you could have found it yourself in less time than it took you to ask me to find it for you (which I won’t be doing, thanks.)

    And Don: the relevance is that it’s more reason to understand that nonprofits seeking to aid people being evicted, are swamped. Or you could just ask them yourself.

  16. The 10,000 over 5 years seems right. Here are the rent board numbers:
    http://sfrb.org/annual-eviction-reports

    She somehow left out the part about 75% of the 10,000 being for cause (non payment of rent or other breach).

    There are about 500 no fault eviction notices filed per year, not all result in evictions

    There are about 180,000 rent controlled units so the percentage facing a no fault evictions runs at 0.28% annually.

  17. Most of those are just-cause evictions and a small annual percent compared to the total number of rental units. Nothing unusual. No-fault, OMI and Ellis, evictions are a very small number. In any case, so what?

  18. But they are getting SF taxpayers dollars through non-profits that get taxpayer dollars. it’s all a sham and a scam between them & the Mayor’s office of housing and community

  19. And no, the CLT is not buying up “tons” of buildings; they are struggling to meet anywhere near the demand for their services.

  20. OMIs are only one form of eviction. According to Socket Site, a total of 10,011 evictions have been filed in the last five years. (That does *not* count the times that tenants were bought out, or “voluntarily” left to avoid being evicted.)

  21. Medians can be deceiving. SF has a disproportionate number of young people who earn less. The average homeowner in Hillsborough could not afford to buy anything when they were 25 years old. And SF has a lot of immigrants.

    Who knows about the future. I have been hearing the same predictions (only the rich will live here) for 50 years now. Teachers are still here teaching and restaurants and grocery stores are still staffed. Is there any city in the Bay Area, California or the nation that has seen the future? NYC seems to be functioning. Is there any city in the Bay Area with lower price housing doing better?

    High income earners have created more retail and food service jobs for those who live here. That has slowed the departure of low income people.

  22. Of course anything depends on your income. 20 years ago, median home prices were 2.5 – 4x median income. Now median home prices are between 8 – 10x median income, and median incomes in the SFBA are very high compared to national figures. The reality is, you had it easier than the young people today, even the high earning ones, and there is no need to be ashamed about it, thats just the way it is. I say this as a high income young person. My concern is, a few years from now once I’ve bought a house and am raising a family, who is going to teach kids in schools? Who is going to run the day to day businesses I patronize (restaurants, groceries, etc), how will society function if its only people who make 100k+ who live here.

  23. 2) There is so much displacement that every free/low-cost tenants’ rights organization is swamped and can’t help everyone

    To clarify, according to Tim Redmond, there were 397 OMI evictions last year which is actually down 5% from 2015.

    I’m not sure but there seems to be a lot of non-profit orgs that deal with that, I’m just wondering where all the $ goes if they can’t handle 400 OMIs.

    Eviction Defense Network
    Tenants Together
    St Mary’s
    SFTU
    Bay Area Legal Aid

    Also Community Land Trust is buying up tons of buildings

  24. That all depends on your income. Higher-paying jobs have been replacing lower-paying jobs for many decades. Nevertheless, on average first time home buyers are older than in the past suggesting it takes more time to save and for careers to advance. I think it has gone from late 20’s to early 30’s. For most it took major lifestyle sacrifices then as it does now. And of course two incomes.

  25. Serious question, what are the differences between the Farrell and Kim/Peskin Bill? Tim’s article doesn’t elucidate that.

  26. I was OMI “evicted” many years ago. The landlord, newly purchased the building, needed my flat for his mother. He told me orally. I never got a notice. I moved next door and it was legit. His mother did move in. I learned my lesson and made owning my top priority. It was a sacrifice to save and buy, but worth it.

  27. I have been OMI evicted. Moving is a hassle. But if you don’t own, it is not your home. Renting is by its nature temporary. The only way to have security is to own. If you can’t afford the City there are other nice places to live. Most of my childhood friends and all of my living relatives left the City and are better for it.

  28. Oh, I’m sorry. I thought that you had written to me that “I was just digging myself deeper in”. Even if you did somehow say such a thing I’m sure that you meant it as a personal compliment. My mistake again, obviously.

  29. Sorry, my bad. I had overestimated your level of intellectual discipline.

    The issue is that there were a grand total of 397 OMI eviction notices last year, down 5% from the prior year. I’m very sorry that the facts don’t support the notion of an ‘epidemic’. Tim was floating the concept that the figure was a lot higher because people apparently move out without ever being served an eviction notice.

    I don’t need your lecture about how complicated fighting an eviction is. All I am saying is that it isn’t that hard to simply get the landlord to file a notice before your move out. If someone doesn’t have the energy or emotional makeup to ask to see an eviction notice before they move out then they have bigger overall issues and the eviction process is just a symptom of needs that they should address.

    You don’t seem to have the reading comprehension necessary to carry on one of these discussions.

  30. You are digging yourself deeper in.

    1) Fighting an eviction is a HELL of a lot more complicated than dialing 311.

    2) There is so much displacement that every free/low-cost tenants’ rights organization is swamped and can’t help everyone.

    3) Some people are undocumented and (rightly) afraid that their landlord will report them to ICE.

    4) Who the hell are you to say how someone else is supposed to respond to the threat of losing their home? Some people panic and freeze; some people fight; some people simply don’t have the energy or the emotional makeup to fight. If those are true, do they then deserve to be forced out?

  31. Being mugged in the street is a terrifying event. Being in a car crash is a terrifying event. Get real.

    Being told that you have X days to leave your home sucks but is something that all but the most incapacitated people can respond to by calling one of the many free resources available to them. Is dialing 311 too much to expect?

  32. Wow, it’s a good thing you’re so informed about the multiple ways people respond to traumatic and terrifying events such as the threat of being forcibly removed from their home.

  33. Remember, the last time Tim posted about this & the news video with it I watched the entire video.

    Reposting my findings from that video again:

    417 OMI in 2015 (less last year according to Tim’s stats)
    300 – investigated for fraudulent OMI
    24 out of 300 had ppl in it that were not the relatives that is it.

  34. Well Tim does point out some loopholes, such as that the moved-in relative has to live there for 3 years but the statute of limitations is only one year. But there are only about 400 official OMI eviction notices a year and surely some are legit.

    And if you move out without the landlord filing an eviction notice then you weren’t evicted, you moved. Call the Rent Board or your Supervisor’s office. Or one of the many pro tenancy non-profits. If none of that seemed worth the effort then you didn’t want to stay in your apartment very badly anyway.

  35. There are really not that many fake OMI’s. Maybe not worth the effort. But if this plan goes into effect, landlords who want to get rid of long-term rent controlled renters will figure out some other way. It is an escalating arms race resulting from rent control and tenant protection laws. It keeps lawyers employed.

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