San Francisco approves nation’s strongest set of tenant union protections

Landlords must meet tenant unions up to four times per year

San Francisco District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin (City and County of San Francisco, iStock)
San Francisco District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin (City and County of San Francisco, iStock)

San Francisco approved what it calls the nation’s strongest rules to protect tenant unions.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to pass an ordinance that requires landlords to recognize the rights of tenants to organize in buildings with five or more units, the San Francisco Business Times reported. The rule, introduced by District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin, will also require landlords to meet tenant associations up to four times a year.

Any tenants with a landlord who won’t follow the ordinance will be able to file for a rent reduction with San Francisco’s Rent Board. While tenants already have the right to organize, Peskin’s rule goes further by letting tenants petition for rent reductions if landlords refuse to meet with them.

“That’s where this goes a step further than the existing laws in other parts of the country, where tenants have the right to organize, but the landlord does not have the responsibility to bargain,” Brad Hirn, lead organizer for the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, which worked with Peskin’s office on the legislation said. “Here, they do.”

The goal is to correct an imbalance of power between tenant and landlord, Hirn said.

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The San Francisco Apartment Association, which represents about 4,500 landlords across the city, has opposed the ordinance.

“The legislation assumes that landlords and tenants are at odds, and that tenants need to collectively bargain for basic rights,” Charley Goss, government and community affairs manager for SFAA, said. “That’s just not the reality for most tenants in San Francisco.”

The group doesn’t plan to fight the legislation, which is expected to take effect April 9.

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[SFBT] — Victoria Pruitt