As the Board of Supervisors tries valiantly to push back against the market forces that are displacing many tenants in rent-controlled apartments across the city, landlords and the industry group the San Francisco Apartment Association are fighting for their rights however they can. The latest salvo: a lawsuit brought against the city trying to kill the ordinance that just took effect regulating and tracking tenant buyouts. As the Chron reports, landlords are arguing it's a violation of free speech.
The ordinance, which passed in October and took effect March 7, requires landlords to disclose all buyout offers to the Rent Board, and to begin the process by filing a "Pre-Buyout Negotiations Disclosure Form" that notifies tenants of their right to an attorney and their right to refuse any buyout offer. The goal here, obviously, is to keep tenants from being intimidated or harassed into taking buyouts when they have no legal obligation to take them. But the SF Apartment Association and its executive director Janan New believe that "an owner and a resident should be able to privately negotiate whatever sort of contract they want to negotiate," and that shouldn't have to be made public.
The law also prevents some landlords from converting units to condos, particularly in the event that they buy out someone who is elderly, catastrophically ill, or disabled.
The free speech argument, maybe, is a stretch. But if the law stands, it will only mean more legal expenses for landlords who may instead turn to evicting people for cause, or under new "house rules," like the case of the grandmother in the Mission who's being accused by her landlord of dealing drugs.
News of the lawsuit follows on yesterday's big story, reported far and wide, of the Bernal Heights woman who's being pushed out of her apartment by way of a legal, exorbitant rent increase that will quadruple her rent, despite her believing she was protected by rent control. The circumstances are very specific as to the legality, but tensions over this topic, and the greed of some particularly egregious landlords, are running very high.
Previously, Supervisor David Campos has backed down slightly on an aggressive law to curb Ellis Act evictions that would have put landlords on the hook for relocation sums in the six figures. An amended version of the legislation proposes to cap the payouts at $50,000.