Court upholds SF law protecting tenants from loophole evictions

“We cannot allow unscrupulous landlords to circumvent our local laws and unlawfully evict tenants” says city attorney David Chiu

San Francisco /
Jan.January 25, 2022 08:29 AM
City Attorney of San Francisco David Chiu and Justice Stuart Pollak (California Courts, California State Assembly, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons, iStock)

Score one for San Francisco renters.

A state court upheld a local law that prevents landlords from jacking up rents to force out renters by weighing market rents and whether an increase was imposed within six months of an eviction attempt, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The San Francisco Apartment Association and other groups said in a lawsuit that San Francisco was violating the 1995 Costa Hawkins law by effectively controlling rents.

Superior Court Judge Charles Haines disagreed in 2020. His ruling was upheld Monday by the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco.

“Costa-Hawkins does not protect a landlord’s right to use a pretextual rent increase to avoid lawfully imposed local eviction restrictions,” Justice Stuart Pollak said in the 3-0 ruling, according to the Chronicle. The ordinance aimed not to restrict rent increases, but “to deter landlords from trying to attempt to avoid local eviction rules by imposing artificially high rents in bad faith,” he said.

City Attorney David Chiu commended the ruling. “When a tenant’s rent is doubled or tripled, that is just an eviction by another name,” he said in a statement. “We cannot allow unscrupulous landlords to circumvent our local laws and unlawfully evict tenants.”

Supervisor Hillary Ronen, sponsor of the 2019 ordinance, also praised the ruling saying, “jacking up the rent to force a tenant to move is clearly harassment, and we are not about to tolerate that in San Francisco.”

The owners’ organization, which has had a litany of legal battles against San Francisco renters in recent years, disagreed.

Christopher Skinnell, a lawyer for the apartment association, said the ordinance, “puts landlords at the mercy of local regulation with respect to the setting of rents in an area where the Legislature expressly intended to preclude local regulation. Skinnell alluded to possible review in the state Supreme Court in the future, the Chronicle reported.

[San Francisco Chronicle] – Madeline Sperling





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