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Court upholds SF law requiring landlords to accept Section 8 vouchers

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City Attorney Dennis Herrera (Examiner file photo)

A state appellate court has upheld a San Francisco city law prohibiting landlords from refusing to accept federal housing vouchers, City Attorney Dennis Herrera said Thursday.

The First District Court of Appeal issued a unanimous opinion Wednesday upholding a 1998 city law making it illegal for property owners to refuse to accept federal, state or local subsidies to pay rent or to indicate in advertisements that they will not accept them.

The law was challenged by Lem-Ray Properties and agent Chuck Post after the City Attorney’s Office filed suit against them in October of 2015. The lawsuit alleged they had refused to accept subsidies for properties at 935 Geary St. and 81 Ninth St. for at least a year between May 2013 and May 2014 and posted online advertisements during that period stating that Section 8 vouchers would not be accepted.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ronald Quidachay granted an injunction in May of 2016 ordering the property owner to comply with the ordinance, and it was that decision that the court of appeal upheld on Wednesday.

“This is a huge a victory for low income tenants,” Herrera said in a statement. “Section 8 housing vouchers are an essential tool for many renters to secure affordable housing in our city.”

Attorney Edward Singer said that previous court rulings have found that local governments do not have the power to regulate housing discrimination, and that Lem-Ray and Post were basing their actions on their understanding of those rulings. He said it was “unfair” to describe his clients as “scofflaws,” as the city attorney’s office has done.

“We respectfully disagree with yesterday’s decision and are reviewing our legal options,” Singer said in a statement, saying the case “is as much about the balance of power between state and local governments as it is about landlords and tenants.”

“The California Supreme Court may be asked to resolve this dispute,” Singer said.

This story has been updated with a statement from the attorney for Lem-Ray Properties and Chuck Post.

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