In an effort to crack down on fraudulent owner move-in evictions which are estimated to occur in about one in four of these types of evictions as greedy landlords citywide have sought to replace lower-paying tenants with higher-paying ones two competing pieces of legislation are moving forward Tuesday as a single, compromise proposal at the Board of Supervisors. As CBS 5 reports, the Supes' Land Use Committee decided Monday to go forward with legislation proposed by moderate Supervisor Mark Farrell, after Farrell agreed to amend his legislation with multiple provisions from a different proposal put forth by progressives Aaron Peskin and Jane Kim.
At issue, and likely to come up in debate today at the full meeting of the Board, is how best to discourage landlords' shady behavior through potential legal consequences. As the Chronicle notes, both versions of the bill force landlords making owner move-in evictions to "declare, under penalty of perjury, that they or a family member would occupy the property for at least three continuous years, along with a number of additional reporting requirements."
Should it turn out that it was all a ruse and the landlord actually does try to move a higher-paying tenant into a unit in less than three years, Farrell's legislation allows the former tenant or the City Attorney to sue or in the compromise, it allows former tenants to to have first right of refusal to reclaim the unit at their original rent plus any allowable increases, or they can sue.
Peskin and Kim, and potentially other progressives in today's meeting, are pushing to allow for non-profits to sue on behalf of tenants or, in one provision, without even the former tenant's consent. "I do have real concerns about that specific provision creating more frivolous lawsuits," says Farrell, speaking to CBS 5.
"Enforceability is really the key to this,” says Peskin, adding that older legislation passed by the city has been successful in keeping owners of SROs from converting their buildings into tourist hotels.
Given that rent control tenants rarely have the legal resources on their own to pursue lawsuits in the case of fraudulent evictions, fraud persists and the city gets widespread complaints of abuses with these types of evictions. Allowing tenant advocacy non-profits to sue on behalf of tenants would give this law more teeth, argues Peskin, and perhaps do more to discourage fraud.
48 Hills reports via an op-ed by the SF Tenants Union and the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project that nearly half of all owner move-in evictions don't have the proper paperwork filed with the city, and that in a large number of cases tenants simply move out with no fight because they assume this type of eviction will be impossible to fight.
"We here at the San Francisco Tenants Union know that these evictions are highly abused," write Jennifer Fieber and Terra Graziani. "Landlords seeking higher rents often use OMIs because it is very hard for existing tenants to defend against the claim, even if they suspect the landlord will never move in." For this reason, they argue strongly for the reforms proposed in Peskin and Kim's proposal.
Stay tuned for the debate and for what compromise crackdown measures make it in to the final bill.
Update: The Board unanimously approved an amended version of Farrell's legislation on Tuesday, as Bay City News reports, which assesses nominal fines for violations by landlords for failing to properly file paperwork in owner move-in evictions, but more importantly, allows landlords to be sued by tenants-rights organizations on behalf of evicted tenants, if those tenants consent. The legislation does not allow an organization to override a tenant's waiver of their legal rights to sue, which they can sign away in buyout agreements from landlords.