Two separate groups of Sunset renters are at risk of losing their apartments after what appear to be some shady moves by the building's new owner. One of the renters has filed an appeal, and is hoping that added scrutiny on the matter will allow both her and the elderly couple living upstairs a chance to remain in their rent-controlled homes.
The property at 2523 34th Avenue was purchased this past October for $850,000, notes Socketsite, and consists of an in-law unit downstairs and a two-bedroom apartment upstairs. Socketsite notes that "[within] a few days [of the purchase], an anonymous complaint was filed with the City, reporting a 'suspected' illegal in-law on the ground floor of the home."
The city then gave the new owner a building permit to address the complaint, which in this case would mean the removal of the in-law's kitchen — rendering that unit unlivable and thus turning the entire building into a single-family dwelling. As soon as the property becomes a single-family dwelling, it is no longer subject to rent control. As such, the elderly couple upstairs would likely face a rather large rent hike.
Removing an in-law unit to revoke a building's rent-controlled status is not a new technique, although it is a particularly loathsome one. We saw a similar thing happen in Bernal Heights last spring when a landlord allegedly bullied out one of two tenants and then argued that technically it was always a single family, and rent control no longer applied.
What did the landlord do next? You guessed it: Quadrupled the remaining tenant's rent from $2,145 to $8,900.
In the case of the Sunset building, the current tenants are hoping that because they were never given proper notice of the proposed kitchen removal during the original appeal window, they now may have a chance to stop the renovation and their eventual eviction from going forward.
As the San Francisco rental market continues to tighten, expect to see this loophole used more and more frequently by unscrupulous landlords looking to skirt tenant safeguards.