Supes pass anti-eviction bill — but vote 6-5 against a key enforcement measure

OMI bill passes -- but moderate majority rejects a key element that tenants wanted

The supes approved new limits on owner move-in evictions Tuesday, taking a big step forward toward addressing the city’s latest eviction crisis – but by a 6-5 vote, the board members refused to add enforcement provisions that would provide the city data on landlord buyouts.

Peskin and Kim got much of what tenants wanted -- but the moderate majority blocked a key enforcement provision
Peskin and Kim got much of what tenants wanted — but the moderate majority blocked a key enforcement provision

Tenant advocates were pushing for two key provisions that were in a bill by Sups. Jane Kim and Aaron Peskin. That bill was killed in the Land Use Committee in favor of a competing, weaker measure by Sup .

One provision would allow tenant organizations the right to sue landlords who do illegal owner move-in evictions. That’s critical since the city has largely failed to enforce the existing law.

The other would crack down on “buy-out” deals, in which a landlord offers a desperate tenant who is facing an OMI eviction some cash to leave quickly and quietly – in exchange for giving up their right to sue if the landlord cheats and never moves in.

Under current law, landlords have to file any buyout agreements with the rent board, so that the city and tenant advocates can figure out how many rent-controlled housing units are being taken off the market. They filings are supposed to provide data on how much tenants are getting paid – in many cases, renters who are not fluent in English, are seniors, or are immigrants are taking tiny settlements, while those with sophisticated lawyers get a lot more.

But many landlords never both to file – and nothing happens to them.

The tenant plan was simple: If a landlord doesn’t file the buyout agreement, then the provision in which the tenants waive their rights to sue would be rendered unenforceable. That would, Peskin said, be a strong incentive to get landlords to file the paperwork.

And as he noted, “knowledge is power.” He pointed out that the supes had been hearing horror stories of OMIs for years – but until NBC News did an investigation and found that at least 25 percent of these evictions were fraudulent, “we as a city failed” to address the problem.

The tenants facing eviction “have a gun pointed at their heads,” Peskin said. “They are waiving their ability to go against the person who never moved in. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there does it make a sound?”

Sup. Jeff Sheehy, who had been a cosponsor of the Farrell measure, agreed to introduce the “private right of action” provision, which passed unanimously.

But he refused to support the buyout enforcement provision. “This goes too far and gets into a two party agreement between the tenant and the landlord,” he said.

The motion to amend the buyout provision into the bill failed 6-5, with the usual split between the progressives and the pro-market moderates playing out. (Interestingly, the two supes who own rental property – Peskin and Sup. Sandra Lee Fewer – voted with the tenants, Fewer noting that good landlords are hurt when others don’t follow the rules.)

That would have been the end of it – but then Sup. Katy Tang, who had been quiet, asked to make some comments, which required the board to rescind the vote and open it up again for discussion. Tang said that she was only reluctantly supporting the private right of action, but thought that was all the city needed to do.

For a moment, Sup. Malia Cohen seemed to be wavering. She said she agreed with Peskin’s comments about information, saying that the information on buyouts was similar to information about racial bias in police stops. “If you aren’t counting, then you don’t count,” she said.

Sup. Hillary Ronen pointed out that the law already requires landlords to file buyout agreements; she was an aide to former Sup. David Campos when he passed that legislation. But neither of them had imagined that the law would be so totally ignored with such impunity.

“What’s so insidious,” Peskin said, “is that tenants give away all their rights for a fistful of dollars, then go back and find out that the landlord never moved in, and they can’t do anything. Having that data would be a remarkably powerful thing.”

, who has had the support of the real estate industry, said that he didn’t want the board to interfere with a contract between two parties. “I don’t understand how you can invalidate the total agreement,” he said.

Actually, the only part of the agreement that would be invalidated was the part where tenants would give up the right to sue even if the landlord cheated.

Fewer noted that “if we don’t do this now, we will have to come back to it.”

But even after all that discussion (which Tang probably regrets opening up) the final vote was the same:

Kim, Ronen, Fewer, Yee, and Peskin in favor of the tenants. Breed, Cohen, Farrell, Tang, Sheehy and Safai with the landlords.

The overall bill, which then passed without dissent, is a huge improvement, and the private right of action a major victory.

But in the final count, on the key contentious vote, we saw where the board majority comes down. And we saw that Sheehy, who will face the voters in the spring, was part of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Don Sebastopol

    I would not characterize OMI evictions as a crisis. If you believe a survey done by a newspaper it may be around 100 fraudulent evictions a year. If the intent is to get rid of a rent controlled tenant so they can raise the rent, landlords will figure out some other way to get rid of the tenant if there is an OMI crackdown.

    The buyout issue is confusing. If he purpose is to track how many units are being taken off the market then the filing won’t affect those not being taken off the market but re-rented for a higher price. I suppose the landlord can come up with other reasons to get the tenant to agree to buyout. If the OMI is legitimate, the buyout amounts to ransom.

    • playland

      They voted down the buyout amendment because it was a separate issue that didn’t pertain specifically to OMI. There was a sentiment that it should be revisited as a separate issue.

      If OMI evictions become tricky with the possibility that some non profit will start hassling you 3 years from now then there won’t be any buyouts relating to OMI. The buyout will simply say that you agree to get your rent controlled butt out of my apartment in exchange for a financial payment. Who is going to offer a buyout that includes ‘because my sister needs the apartment and will stay there for 3 years’?

      Progressives are excellent checker players.

  • Heart

    Interesting that some on this thread are hyper focused on hypotheticals and nightmare scenarios rather than on the grim data that proves a correlation between illegal evictions and homelessness. The data reveals that a majority of these OMI evictions are in fact illegal. The Peskin/ Kim legislation protects both law abiding landlords and law abiding tenants and penalizes greed.

    • Don Sebastopol

      Where are the data? According to the newspaper story it was 25% of OMI’s that were illegal. I doubt illegal evictions cause homelessness; depending on how you define homeless. I suppose someone between homes is homeless like someone between jobs in unemployed.

      Regarding correlations: There is a correlation between sour cream sales and motorbike accidents, between the number Nicolas Cage films and swimming pool deaths, between divorce rates and margarine consumption, and how much beef is bought in the U.S, compared to the number of deaths caused by lightning.

    • curiousKulak

      When did “up to 25%” somehow become a “majority”?

  • Heart

    If nothing else, this vote makes it crystal clear that Breed, Safai, Cohen, Tang Farrell and Sheehy are on the side of landlords. Probably because they need the campaign $$$$$. But since 2/3 of San Franciscans are renters, these supes are shooting themselves in the feet.

    • SF Sunset Guy

      these clowns will get re-elected until they’re termed out, just like the useless supervisors before them. They’ll then set their sights on Sacramento, just like Chiu, Brown, Newsom, Ammiano, Daly, Kim, Wiener, and the rest. BoS is just a stepstone platform for grandstanding, not actual management of this City and County.

    • danimalssf

      That’s a nice narrative, but it is wrong. Sheehy was a very big part in getting the private right of action through the process. Tim would never give ANY credit to someone he perceives as not in his tribe. And the vote was 11-0. Yup, they are totes in the pocket of Big Landlord. And Breed certainly shot herself in the foot by winning the last election…

      • Heart

        danimalsf: you really ought to pay closer attention. Care to divulge more about your claim that absentee supervisor Sheehy (appointed and anointed by San Francisco’s most unpopular mayor ever, Ed Lee) has any sway at City Hall? He certainly is extremely unpopular with his constituents who can’t seem to reach him on any given matter. Also: your feeble attempt at whitewashing the outcome of the recent D5 election where London Breed (“all powerful” Pres of the Board of Supes and bought with thousands of dollars of campaign donations from realtors, developers and carpet baggers) is laughable. Word on the street in D5 is Breed is a no-show. D5 residents don’t like her because she doesn’t return phone calls and doesn’t listen to her constituents. She barely won the election by 4%–to an unknown who electrified the district. You clearly have no idea what you’re talking about. I suspect you work as a spinner or lobbyist.

  • SF Sunset Guy

    One provision would allow tenant organizations the right to sue landlords who do illegal owner move-in evictions. That’s critical since the city has largely failed to enforce the existing law.

    I wouldn’t see that provision surviving a court challenge – most courts, even here, wouldn’t grant standing to “tenant orgs” the right to sue landlords-even if it’s proven that the owner skirted the OMI provisions. Moreover, that court would need proof that the OMI was in fact, illegal, and the owner would’ve already been cited, fined or both, no?

    • Don Sebastopol

      Good point, they would not have standing.

    • curiousKulak

      Does the measure give the tenant orgs right to sue in an “illegal” eviction, or just when there’s the supposition of an “illegal” eviction?

      I see plenty of work for lawyers (as usual), and not all that much “justice” – for tenants or for property owners.

      In fact, I see City-funded orgs having a field day bringing suits that ‘settle’ – much like the ADA lawsuits that plague small business throughout the state.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Previously reported: Asha Safai is a real estate flipper and speculator:
    http://48hills.org/2016/07/14/the-story-ahsha-safai-doesnt-tell-in-his-campaign-for-supervisor/