These days it seems like each week brings with it another tragic story of someone being forced out of the apartment they call home, and today is no different. The Chronicle reports on the story of a man who, in May, lost his partner to suicide. They lived together in a studio apartment near Alamo Square, and, you guessed it, the deceased was the master tenant. And now, of course, the landlord is raising the rent.
Christopher Holden, 42, spoke with the paper and explained how just two weeks after his partner passed he was told the apartment rent would increase from $1,390 to $2,150. Holden, a social worker who works with elderly who risk homelessness, was previously paying half of the $1,390 rent. The means his rent was set to jump from $695 to $2,150 — and yes, the apartment is rent controlled.
"I don't want to speak about all landlords, but I've seen this type of situation again and again," executive director at the San Francisco Tenant's Union Deepa Varma told the paper. "On top of losing a loved one, dealing with a divorce or a death in the family, we see people faced with high rent increases and evictions that can lead to homelessness. You see it happen when someone passes away from cancer or people leave their partners, or situations where there's domestic violence come up."
Holden, speaking of his work with the elderly, seemed in disbelief that he had become the one on the edge of being forced out. "One time I saw a 90 year old woman get kicked out because of an Ellis Act situation," he told the Chron. "She had nowhere to go. She was crying."
It should be noted that the landlord's actions are completely legal, as Holden was not on the lease and the landlord had no obligation to add him.
This calls to mind the recent case of a 47-year-old video engineer hit with a rent increase on his North Beach three-bedroom apartment that would send his monthly rent from $1,800 to $8,000. In that incident, too, the master tenant moved out — leaving the remaining tenants at the whim of the landlord.
So all of you out there living as subtenants, this is friendly reminder that just because you're paying rent doesn't mean you have legal rights to stay on at the same rent if and when the master tenant leaves — regardless of the circumstances surrounding the departure.