Legislation and Ballot Measures and Campaigns
COVID-19 Tenant Protections (Local Eviction Moratorium)
Ordinance amending the Administrative Code to prohibit landlords from evicting residential tenants for non-payment of rent that came due on or after July 1, 2022 and was not paid due to the COVID-19 pandemic; and to prohibit landlords from imposing late fees, penalties, or similar charges on such tenants.
Sponsor: Dean Preston
Write Up: In February, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed legislation to require a warning notice to be sent before an owner may serve a formal eviction notice. The new 10-day warning procedure was legislatively created because of a concern that some residents might not have enough time to cure objectionable conduct or may otherwise be confused about when a lease violation has to stop. In response, this ten-day “cure period” was implemented to, in the words of the Supervisors, “provide clarity around what constitutes just cause” to terminate a tenancy so as to avoid a potential housing displacement.
The 10-day rule applied to the following “just causes” under the San Francisco Rent Ordinance: (i) failure to pay rent; (ii) breach of a lease covenant; (iii) the commission of a nuisance; (iv) using the apartment for an illegal purpose; (v) refusing to renew an expiring lease term; and (vi) denying the landlord lawful access to the residence.
The housing industry objected to the fact that the 10-day notice period substantially elongated the rent collection processes. Consequently, SFAA filed a legal challenge to this portion of the law. The case name is SFAA v. City and County of San Francisco, Case Number CPF-22-517718. Zacks, Freedman & Patterson is the law firm representing the industry, and they as usual have done an incredible job.
On July 22, 2022, the San Francisco Superior Court granted SFAA’s request to strike the nonpayment of rent ground from the 10-day requirement, meaning no 10-day warning need be issued at this time for nonpayment of rent demands. Rather, you may simply send out a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit should your tenant fail to remit monthly rent on time. Additionally, the Court ruled that the 10-day rule does not apply when the tenant is causing or creating an imminent risk of physical harm to persons or property.
So here’s how the 10-day notice requirement works for a breach of the lease agreement. Under state law, tenants are usually afforded three days to cure a lease violation, whether that violation is a failure to pay rent, to rectify the breach of a lease obligation, or to curtail objectionable behavior. For example, if the resident is smoking inside the residence and the lease prohibits smoking, an owner may issue a notice giving the tenant three days to stop this activity or risk being evicted. There are a series of rules that determine how the three days are to be counted, so oftentimes tenants are not aware of when the deadline exists for the cure period. The new 10-day rule informs the offenders that they have ten days after receipt of the written warning to rectify whatever it is the owner finds to be problematic. Only after the ten-day period expires may the owner then issue a formal three-day notice, and only after the three day period expires may the owner commence eviction proceedings in court. In essence, this new procedural requirement affords tenants about 15 to 20 days to address landlord grievances. Both the Rent Board and the SFAA have developed a 10-day form to use.
Note that the City may appeal this decision to the higher courts, so please monitor announcements and updates from SFAA with regard to this very important issue. Finally, remember that the 10-day warning still must be used for the other above-noted just cause reasons to seek termination of a tenancy, so please continue to use the SFAA form or the Rent Board form when addressing the breach of a lease covenant, the commission of a nuisance except in instances where the tenant is causing or creating an imminent risk of physical harm to persons or property, the illegal use of the apartment, the refusal to renew an expiring lease term, or the denial of requests for lawful access.
Ellis Act Evictions
Ordinance amending the Administrative Code to clarify that the date a property is withdrawn under the Ellis Act is based on the latest date that any tenancy in the property is terminated; to increase the relocation payments that owners must pay to tenants when evicting under the Ellis Act; to require that an owner who returns a unit to the rental market following an Ellis Act eviction must return the entire property to the market, with expectations for certain owner-occupied units; to claifry that paying punitive damages does not extinguish an owner's obligation to re-offer the unit upon re-rental to the displaced tenants.
Sponsor: Myrna Melgar
Ordinance amending the Administrative Code to require residential landlords to allow tenant organizing activities to occur in common areas of the building; require certain residential landlords to recognize duly-established tenant associations, confer in good faith with said associations, and attend some of their meetings upon request; and provide that a landlord’s failure to allow organizing activities or comply with their obligations as to tenant associations may support a petition for a rent reduction.
Sponsor: Aaron Peskin
Residential Vacancy Tax
Excise tax on owners keeping certain residential units vacant, to fund rental subsidies and the acquisition, rehabilitation, and operation of affordable housing.
The measure would impose a tax on any “residential unit” in a building that is unused or vacant for half a year or more (182 days)—even if it is not half a year consecutively. The tax depends on (1) the size of the unit in square feet, (2) what year the tax is imposed (the rates increase year-over-year until 2026), and (3) whether the unit remains vacant for multiple years in a row. It starts at $2,500/unit in 2024 for the smallest vacant unit (< 1,000 square feet) and caps out at $20,000/unit for any unit over 2,000 square feet that is taxed in 2026 or later and that was vacant the year before as well.
Sponsor: Dean Preston
Status: Qualified for the November 2022 ballot.
Automatic Sprinkler Requirements for Existing High-Rise Buildings
Ordinance amending the Fire Code to require automatic sprinkler systems in existing high-rise buildings; and affirming the Planning Department’s determination under the California Environmental Quality Act.
Sponsor: Aaron Peskin
Status: Introduced on 1/11/22. No hearings are currently scheduled.
Tenant Opportunity to Cure; Eviction Protections
Ordinance amending the Administrative Code to require landlords pursuing certain types of evictions to first provide their tenants 10 days written notice and an opportunity to cure, unless the eviction is based on an imminent health or safety issue or the non-payment of COVID-19 rental debt; and making findings that the eviction protections in the Rent Ordinance are more protective than those found in State law pursuant to California Civil Code, Section 1946.2.
Sponsor: Dean Preston
Status: Passed; SFAA has sued to overturn this ordinance.
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