San Francisco has once again thrown its support to tenants over landlords.
In a legislative first, renters could get union-like protection from the city as landlords face penalties for failing to acknowledge and meet with them, according to the San Francisco Business Times. Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced legislation this week that would require landlords to formally acknowledge tenant associations and meet them as many as four times a year.
The move would apply to all buildings with five or more units, and the penalty for non-compliance could be a rent reduction approved by the San Francisco Rent Board. “Harassment” of a tenant association, taking down posted flyers or disallowing associations to meet in common areas could invoke similar penalties.
The legislation applies to both rent-controlled and non-rent controlled buildings. Peskin called the effort “groundbreaking” and “remarkably simple.” He said the change comes from the “storied playbook of labor” and has the support of tenant groups and the Northern California Chapter of the Service Employees International Union.
San Francisco already has tenant associations, like the one organizing a debt strike against apartment manager Veritas Investments. Yet under current law, landlords have no legal obligation to acknowledge or meet with these groups, and no financial incentive to do so.
Tenant associations are and would still be voluntary, but under the legislation a simple majority of tenants would need to sign on in order for the penalties to go into effect.
If approved, the ordinance would become effective 30 days after its passage. It further stipulates that lease agreements entered into or amended after January 1, 2022, must acknowledge tenants’ right to organize.
The legislation is one of many tenant protections introduced by city supervisors in the weeks after California ended its eviction moratorium and disallowed a local provision that would have extended the moratorium through the rest of 2021. Supervisor Dean Preston, the first democratic socialist elected to the board in four decades, recently called for his district, which includes the Haight, Cole Valley and Western Addition, to be an “eviction-free” zone.
Last month, the city passed an emergency ordinance that banned no-fault evictions for 60 days and Preston hopes to extend that until the end of 2021.
[SF Business Times] — Emily Landes