Renters may soon help pay for bond measures

A loophole in a 2002 piece of legislation may soon be closed and renters may be splitting the cost of future bond measures with their landlords.

Currently, if the cost of a bond is going to be split between tenants and a landlord, specific language stating that fact must appear on the ballot measure. A proposal submitted Tuesday by Supervisor Tom Ammiano would make the cost split of all bonds automatic.

Proponents of Ammiano’s amendment say it simply fixes legislation hashed out in 2002 between city officials, tenant groups and landlord advocates. The intent of that bill was to split the cost, but the language loophole allowed bond measures to pass that did not pass on the cost.

In 2000, city voters approved Proposition H, which prevented landlords from passing on to tenants the cost of building improvements. The San Francisco Apartment Association successfully sued The City, resulting in talks between city officials, the association and other interested parties, which concluded with new legislation.

As part of the new legislation, approved by the board in 2002, landlords could pass on 50 percent of the costs of building improvements to the tenants and 50 percent of the cost of bond measures, according to Janan New, the association’s executive director. However, the language had to appear on the ballot measure of the bond.

Proponents of the measure say it will make voters scrutinize bond measures more closely if the burden is carried by all citizens, not just landlords and homeowners.

The proposed amendment comes just three months before the school district’s $450 million bond measure will be placed on the ballot to help fund a $1.4 billion backlog in maintenance costs, which include a number of fixes to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to Jill Wynns, an SFUSD board member.

Without the amendment, the apartment association, a nonprofit group formed in 1917 to represent the interests of property owners, would oppose the school bond, according to New.

The bond would assess up to $33 per $100,000 of property value for about the next 20 years. The cost to tenants would vary.

For example, an owner of a 10-unit apartment building worth $1 million would pay a total of $330 a year. The owner would then divvy up half the cost among the 10 units so renters would pay about $17 a year on top of their base rent.

The Board of Supervisors will vote on the amendment this fall, and if approved, it would go into effect Nov. 1.

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