Via a Facebook post over the weekend that's been going locally viral, several tipsters have been alerting SFist to a story that is likely to frighten anyone who's been enjoying the protection of rent control. Bernal Heights resident Debra Follingstad is essentially being evicted by a landlord who quadrupling her rent, from $2145 to $8900 despite the fact that she lives in a rent controlled building, and it's apparently legal. How can they do this, you ask? They made some quick renovations to get the building reclassified as a single-family home.
This is a fresh loophole (to us) that would not be available to many landlords in multi-unit buildings, but it sounds like they went to some expense to avoid having to do any sort of buyout, or invoke the Ellis Act.
As Debra explains:
So here is the short version of the story, 1st they transferred the title of the house to one of the 6 siblings, stripped the apartment downstairs (the one that [my neighbor] Wayne lived in for close to 25 years before they bullied him out) took out the bathroom, and kitchen, put down some crappy carpet and now call it a "storage" space. By doing this it changed the title of the building to a "single family dwelling" which is not protected by rent control and raised my rent to $8900 a month with a $12,500 damage deposit a month. Obviously above market rate and obviously more than anyone would pay.
Debra is now looking to move, having spent the last two weeks "trying to find anything that can make this illegal."
You can expect the Board of Supervisors to begin investigating this loophole and possibly trying to close it. Let's hope, anyway.
Update: Curbed spoke to Debra, who says, "I understand that a rent-controlled apartment is a ticking time bomb. But I never expected what I was served, nor did I think that what they gave me could be legal." They also spoke with her attorney who recently represented another tenant almost evicted via the same loophole by the same family of this landlord. In Debra's case, it is legal, and it's made even simpler by the fact that the second, downstairs unit was never on the books with the city, so it was always known to planning as a single-family dwelling. And though this loophole may not be new, it's use is news to us, and comes as landlords are being forced to pay increasingly high sums in buyouts to get tenants out of below-market rent-controlled units.