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SF tenant rights receive significant boost from supes

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San Francisco City Hall/Mike Koozmin, SF Examiner

San Francisco boosted tenant rights Tuesday by prohibiting evictions for minor offenses, allowing tenants to add roommates and extending rent control on vacated units in some cases.

The bulk of Supervisor Jane Kim’s eviction protection legislation was approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors, as San Francisco’s latest answer to the housing crisis.

The provisions about roommates was approved in a separate 7-4 vote.

Some have faced so-called “gotcha” evictions for minor offenses like hanging laundry out the window or leaving a bicycle in the lobby as building owners look for any reason to capitalize on the hot real estate market.

“Taken together this package of reasonable amendments provides protections for our most vulnerable tenants during this speculative housing market,” Kim said. “It also takes the greed motivation out of the evictions that we are currently seeing.”

While there has been much debate over the proposal leading up to Tuesday’s vote, the debate at the board focused on one provision that would allow renters to add roommates, even if they exceed lease terms. Instead, renters will now be able to add roommates based on the city’s housing codes. Those limits include two persons in a studio unit, three persons in a one-bedroom unit and four persons in a two-bedroom unit.

The roommate provision was opposed by Supervisors Scott Wiener, Mark Farrell, Norman Yee and Katy Tang.

With the approval, eviction notices must come in multiple languages and include contacts for legal assistance. Evictions based on violating lease terms or nuisances must provide proof of the allegations and tenants must have a chance to correct minor violations, such as a chance to remove a laundry line or repaint a wall.

Also, when a landlord evicts a renter for an owner move in, condo conversion or capital repairs they wouldn’t be able to re-rent it at market rate within a five year period but only at the rent the evicted tenant was paying at the time of the eviction.

Wiener argued the roommate provision goes “too far” in taking away the landlord’s lease authority and would affect not just the landlord but other tenants in the building when more roommates are added. “I support having flexibility in people bringing in roommates,” Wiener said. “Our current code has a fair amount of flexibility.”

For example, tenants can swap out roommates or bring in their spouses, domestic partners or children. Wiener noted that he supported the other elements of the legislation. “People should not be evicted for minor lease violations,” he said.

Supervisor David Campos said the roommate provision was a key tenant protection. “The fact is the only way that so many people can live in San Francisco is because they have a lot of people living in an apartment,” Campos said.

Kim emphasized that protecting existing tenants was as important as building more housing to address San Francisco’s housing costs.

She noted that according to the Planning Department’s Housing Balance report issued earlier this year, 6,559 affordable housing units were added between 2004 and 2014 but 5,470 rent-controlled units were lost through different types of evictions. Overall, evictions have increased by more than 50 percent from five years ago with 2,120 reported to the Rent Board for the year ending February.

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