Supervisor Jane Kim takes aim at ‘frivolous’ evictions

In the latest effort to combat evictions in San Francisco, Supervisor Jane Kim announced legislation Tuesday that would strengthen protections for tenants living in rent control units.

Kim announced the legislation outside of City Hall Tuesday morning with the backing of tenant rights groups noting a rise in evictions for things as simple as hanging one’s laundry out the window or storing a stroller in the foyer.

“The surge in these types of frivolous evictions over the past five years coincides with the sharp rise in the market rents,” Kim said.

The legislation, which is expected to be introduced in two weeks, would amend the Rent Control Ordinance to combat building owners looking to use any reason to kick out tenants.

Eviction notices would have to come in multiple languages, along with information where to receive assistance. In addition, landlords would have to provide proof of alleged violations to combat evictions based on “harmless mistakes.”

Tenants, under the proposal, would also have a reasonable amount of time to “cure petty violations, whether it’s taking a laundry line, removing a bike from the hallway or repainting the bedroom wall.”

For certain types of evictions, if a landlord evicts a tenant and then decides to re-rent the unit, the amount of rent would remain at the amount the previous tenant was paying under rent control.

This would apply to evictions where units were taken off the rental market for a while, such as through owner move in evictions, when a building owner evicts tenants to move in their immediate family, or the Ellis Act, a state law that allows landlords to evict tenants to take the units off the rental market.

It would also apply to evictions for capital improvements when repairs can span over a period of months. Tenants often never return to those units and the building owner then rents them at market rates. But under Kim’s proposal the landlord could only rent the repaired units at the prior tenant’s rent.

“This package of amendments provides protections for tenants that are being forced out and reducing the ability of owners to raise rent in those cases,” Kim said.

While Ellis Act and owner move in evictions have declined, she said, other types of evictions, such as breach of lease, nuisance and illegal uses, have risen, Kim said, noting that as of February there were there were 2,120 notices of evictions, a 54 percent increase during the past five years.

While Kim announced legislation to keep tenants in their homes, Mayor Ed Lee during the meeting introduced a $250 million November bond proposal to the board to build more housing. Supervisor John Avalos countered with a $500 million bond, saying the mayor was not going far enough. A debate over the amount of the bond will continue in the coming weeks.

The board also approved new contracting rules for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to purchase renewable energy in California for the anticipated launch of CleanPowerSF. At a separate meeting, the commission approved maximum power rates for the community choice aggregation program. The effort has been bogged down in politics and opposition from PG&E but is now slated to launch on Jan. 26.

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