Rent Board Redux
On the Clock
When filing for a time extension for capital improvement work, make sure to do so as soon as it’s apparent the work will exceed the deadline.
Editor’s Note: The following San Francisco Rent Board cases are real, though they have been edited for space and clarity. They have been selected to highlight some of the more interesting cases that the board reviewed at its recent commission meetings. For full rent board agendas and minutes, please visit sfrb.org.
1800 Block of Pacific Avenue
The landlord’s petition for an extension of time to complete capital improvement work was denied on the grounds that the landlord failed to timely file the petition immediately after it was apparent that the work would take longer than three months to complete; and the landlord’s estimate of January 27, 2019 to complete the work was found to be unreasonable because the landlords had not obtained all the necessary permits to complete the capital improvement work as of the date of the hearing. On appeal, the landlord argues that since the landlord filed the extension of time petition before giving the April 10, 2018 notice to vacate pursuant to Rules and Regulations Section 12.15(b)(1), the petition was filed in a timely manner.
The landlord’s attorney said that one tenant is refusing to leave the unit after being served a temporary capital improvement eviction notice thereby blocking the remaining tenants from returning, and blocking the landlord from doing the work. He said that the erroneous decision puts the landlord at a dead end at the Rent Board, and that there is no way to get the last tenant out other than the Ellis Act. He argued that the landlord should be able to file a new petition without prejudice, and allow the tenants, including a 90-plus year old woman, back into their homes. He asked the Board to remand the case for a finding that Rules and Regulations Section 12.15 (e)(1) applies, not 12.15(e)(2), which would allow the landlord to file a new petition and serve a new notice, and to not put the LL in the “impossible box.”
A resident of the building told the Board that one of the things the administrative law judge noted was that the petition was denied because all of the required permits were not in place. He said that even at the time of the ALJ’s decision and reply to the appeal, those permits were not in place. He said that he is in regular contact with the aforementioned 95-year-old woman who was effectively forced to move back to Canada in the middle of the winter. He said he would like these things to be taken into account.
The landlord’s attorney said that he knows the attorney representing the 95-year-old woman, and that he knows she wants to return to the building, and is adamant that the settlement agreement contains that term.
Decision: To deny the appeal (5-0).
400 Block of Peninsula Avenue
The tenants’ petition alleging an unlawful rent increase was granted. The landlord was found liable for rent overpayments resulting from null and void increases for the period from February 1, 2015 through August 31, 2018 in the amount of $4,428.78, and the tenants’ current lawful base rent was found to be $1,300.00. The landlords appeal, arguing that the tenancy commencement date should be July 2014 at a monthly rent of $1,390.00 instead of the tenancy commencement date of November 2, 2011 at an initial monthly rent of $1,300.00 because the tenant petitioners were not physically present on November 2, 2011 and were not named on and did not sign the November 2, 2011 written rental agreement; and that the Decision incorrectly calculated the annual and banked rent increases available at the time of the March 1, 2018 rent increase.
The landlord, representing himself and his family, told the Board that they currently have evidence of forgery by the tenants, as the former tenants in the unit applied for subsidized housing, claiming that his disabled sister was the landlord. He said that they are trying to talk to the legal department of the Housing Authority.
The landlord said that when the tenants first moved in, there were five tenants living there, and then two more tenants moved in without any notice, which the landlords didn’t find out until three months later. He said that the tenants in this case weren’t the tenants that were on the original lease and because of the forgery they did with his sister’s signature, they needed a lease agreement to show the affordable housing office, and hopes that Commissioners will reject the ALJ’s Decision.
Decision: To deny the appeal (5-0).
1200 Block of Taylor Street
The tenant’s petition alleging an unlawful rent increase under the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act was granted. The ALJ found that the increase was not authorized by Civil Code Section 1954.53(d)(2) since tenant petitioner resided in the subject unit prior to January 1, 1996 with the knowledge of the previous and current landlords, and was a lawful subtenant when the Costa-Hawkins rent increase to $3,100.00 was served on January 19, 2018. On appeal, the landlord claims that the statute includes an additional requirement that the lawful subtenant must also have continuously resided in the unit since prior to January 1, 1996.
The landlord’s attorney said that the ALJ memo implies that the landlord is trying to read an additional requirement into Civil Code Section 1954, but what the landlord is really arguing is an interpretation that comports with the dicta in the Drolapas case and cases like Mosser; that the tenancy can’t be passed from friend to friend or generation to generation. The landlord’s attorney stated that Drolapas says that the protection afforded is limited in scope to lawful and original occupants and that only those occupants who resided at the start of the tenancy and do so with the landlord’s consent are protected from unregulated rent increases. She argued that in this case, the subtenant is holding over; he didn’t move in at the onset of the original tenancy; he moved out for a period of years and effectively severed any tenancy rights that he had; and that the current tenancy began in 2011, not before 1996. She told the Board that it can’t be the intent of Costa-Hawkins to have someone who moves out and moves back in to have the exact same rent control protections as an original occupant.
Decision: To deny the appeal (3-2).
To learn more about the San Francisco Rent Board, call 415-252-4602 or go to sfrb.org.
The information contained in this article is general in nature. Consult the advice of an attorney for any specific problem.