Bill to limit Ellis Act evictions moves to Senate floor

Rich Pedronocelli/AP File Photo

Legislation proposed by State Senator Mark Leno that would limit Ellis Act evictions in San Francisco passed at the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday in a 5-2 vote and will move forward to the Senate floor. 

Leno's proposal, Senate Bill 1439, would require new property owners to wait five years before invoking the Ellis Act to remove tenants, and restrict landlords from using their Ellis Act rights more than once. 

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“The Ellis Act was intended to apply to landlords who want to go out of the rental business, but it is now being abused by speculators who quickly vacate properties and resell them for a profit,” Leno said. “Longtime tenants, many of them seniors, low-income families and disabled Californians, are losing their homes. As a result of these devastating evictions, entire San Francisco neighborhoods and communities are being changed forever, as are the lives of the individuals and families who are impacted.” 

“The Speculator Loophole: Ellis Act Evictions in San Francisco,” a report released in April by Tenants Together, found that the Ellis Act is most often invoked by speculators. The report, which spanned from 2009 to 2013, found that 51 percent of Ellis Act evictions came within a year of new property ownership, and 78 percent came withing the first five years of new ownership. 

Although the tech industry has been blamed for rising rents and evictions in The City, many tech companies support Leno's legislation, including Twitter, Salesforce and other local companies. The bill is also supported by Mayor Ed Lee and Tenants Together. 

“Unchecked real estate speculators are taking advantage of longtime San Francisco renters, and Senator Leno’s bill gives our City the critical tools we need to close a loophole in the Ellis Act and stop these evictions,” the mayor said. 

But the support of Lee, tech companies and tenant rights activists may not be enough — a similar bill, SB 464, failed on the Senate floor in 2007. 

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