SF Apartment : August 2016
RENT BOARD REDUX
by The San Francisco Rent Board
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 November 2015 through March 2016 commission meetings. For full rent board agendas and minutes, please visit sfrb.org.
April 12, 2016 Meeting
400 Block of Eddy Street
The tenant’s petition alleging an unlawful rent increase was denied because the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that the tenant and her deceased husband had moved to a larger room at a higher rent upon their own request. The tenant appealed, claiming that the rent was increased due to her presence as an additional occupant in the unit. The case was remanded to the ALJ to examine new evidence and hold a hearing only if necessary. The ALJ determined that a decision on remand could be issued on the record and that a further hearing was not necessary. The ALJ again found that the tenant and her deceased husband had moved to a larger room at a higher rent upon their own request, and that the lawful base rent effective December 1, 2014 was $469.00. On appeal of the remand decision, the tenant contends that the unwritten policy of the landlord is that the rent depends on the number of people living at the residence, that her former neighbors can attest to the policy, that this was the arrangement the tenant and her deceased husband agreed to when they moved in, and that the landlord did not honor that arrangement.
Decision: To deny the appeal, 4-1.
600 Block of 25th Avenue
The landlord’s petition requesting that the Rent Board determine that the property is a single-family dwelling exempt from the rent increase limitations of the Rent Ordinance pursuant to California Civil Code Section 1954.52(a)(3) of the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act was granted. On appeal, the tenants argue that the decision fails to address that the landlord was retaliating against the tenants, that the decision is based upon the landlord’s statements of his intent, rather than the facts that the tenants, by contract, rent the upper unit of a two unit building, and because the Ordinance is a remedial law, the ALJ was required to interpret it to protect the tenant in possession.
Decision: To deny the appeal, 3-2.
1400 Block of Waller Street
The tenant’s petition alleging a substantial decrease in housing services and an unlawful rent increase was granted, and the landlord was found liable to the tenant in the amount of $25,417.99 for rent overpayments, and $2,940.52 for rent reductions corresponding to the decrease in housing services. The landlord appeals the decision on the grounds of financial hardship. The landlord also appeals on the merits as to the unlawful rent increase claim only, arguing that that the ALJ missed some years when the landlord did not increase the rent and also null and voided some allowable increases.
Decision: To deny appeal on the merits: 5-0. To accept appeal on the landlord’s claim of financial hardship and remand the appeal for consideration of the landlord’s financial hardship: 5-0.
May 10, 2016 Meeting
200 Block of Grand View Avenue
The landlord filed two concurrent petitions, one seeking certification of the cost of mandatory seismic retrofit work required by law to 7 of 8 units, and one seeking certification of the cost of exterior paint, motion sensor lights, re-keying the front and side doors, stucco and sheetrock, and a solar hot water system to 8 of 8 units. The ALJ certified the requested cost for the mandatory seismic retrofit work, and certified the cost of the items on the standard petition, except for the cost of the drywall/stucco. The landlord appeals, arguing: that the drywall/stucco work that was included on the petition for standard capital improvements should have been included on the mandatory seismic retrofit work petition; and that the ALJ should have allowed the landlord the opportunity to amend the mandatory seismic petition at the time of the hearing to include the drywall/stucco work with the mandatory seismic petition and to clarify what portion were repairs incidental to the seismic work rather than deny that portion of the petition completely.
Decision: To grant the appeal and remand the case to allow the landlord thirty (30) days to amend the seismic petition to include the $8,950.00 cost for stucco work. If an amended petition is filed, the ALJ will issue a Post-Appeal Order providing the tenants an opportunity to object to the amended petition, and determine if a supplemental hearing is necessary: 5-0.
100 Block of Hyde Street
The tenant’s petition alleging the landlord had increased the rent over the allowable limits under the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act was denied. The ALJ found that the tenant and her husband were the original occupants who took possession of the unit pursuant to the rental agreement, and that neither of them permanently resided in the subject unit at the time of service of the notice of rent increase. The ALJ further found that the appellant’s cousin, tenant petitioner Jonathan Alvarado, was a lawful subtenant who did not reside in the subject unit prior to January 1, 1996, and was not a co-tenant at the time of the service of the notice of rent increase. The ALJ determined that the rent increase was authorized by Civil Code Section 1954.53(d)(2) of Costa-Hawkins. On appeal, the tenant claims that the subject unit is the only place that has been her home since 2008, that all the times she was out of the unit were for personal reasons, that the absences were not meant with any intention to move out of her apartment, and that she purchased her ticket to San Francisco before receiving the 60-day notice of rent increase because she was ready to come back home.
Decision: To deny the appeal: 4-1
500 Block of Eddy Street
The landlords’ petition seeking a 7% rent increase based on increased operating expenses to the tenants in 29 units was granted. The tenant in unit 40 appealed, arguing that the landlords’ petition was flawed and questionable, that it had wildly changing figures, deceptive or exaggerated expenses, questionable services, and that the property managers had inappropriate business practices. The tenant in unit 21 appealed the decision on the grounds of financial hardship.
Decision: To accept the appeal of the tenant in unit 21 and remand the case for a hearing on the tenant’s claim of financial hardship and to accept the appeal of the tenant in unit 40 and remand the case to consider the tenant’s claims on appeal regarding the discrepancies between the expense amounts claimed in the petition and those found in the decision: 5-0
To learn more about the San Francisco Rent Board, call 415-252-4602 or go to sfrb.org.