SF Apartment : November 2017


Free Ride

by The San Francisco Rent Board

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 June 2017 through August 2017 commission meetings. For full Rent Board agendas and minutes, please visit sfrb.org.

400 Block of Greenwich Street

The landlord’s petition for a rent increase to $1,994.14 based on comparable rents was granted in part and denied in part. The ALJ found that a special relationship existed between the former landlord and the tenants because the tenants were the daughter-in-law and grandson of one of the owners, and no rent was charged as a result of this relationship. The tenants appeal the amount of the comparable rent set by the ALJ, arguing that the ALJ should have set the base rent in 1984 between $500-$600, and that the notice of rent increase is defective since it exceeded the amount approved in the decision.

D. Conrad, the landlord’s attorney, urged the Board to deny the appeal. Mr. Conrad stated that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) was within his discretion to set the rent at the amount that he did.

B. Hom, a tenant at the property, urged the Board to grant the appeal. Mr. Hom explained that the property is a family home, it belongs to his grandmother, and their relationship has not changed. He argued that the evidence the landlord provided was far above the average rents for 1984. Mr. Hom told the Board that if the decision stands, he and his mother will probably be evicted from their family home.

A. Hom, the other tenant, stated that she has been living in the subject unit since she got married in 1982, and that it is a family home, and that she never needed to pay rent. She told the Board that since the trustees took over, they have been abusing their power, and her mother-in-law said she didn’t need to pay rent as she considers her like a daughter. Ms. Hom stated that the property is now in bad condition and asked the Board to consider their situation.

Decision: To deny the appeal, 5-0.

2800 Block of 24th Street

The landlords’ petition requesting an unlimited rent increase under the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act was denied. The ALJ found that an unlimited rent increase was not authorized by Civil Code Section 1954.53(d)(2) of the statute since the evidence showed that (1) tenant respondent, M. MacDonald, resided in the unit prior to January 1, 1996, and (2) he was a lawful subtenant at the time the notice of rent increase was served on November 16, 2016. On appeal, the landlord argues that the ALJ erred in finding that an unlimited rent increase was not authorized because the tenant respondent was a minor when he resided in the unit prior to January 1, 1996, and also because he did not occupy the unit as his home from 2004 to early 2009, and therefore did not continuously reside in the unit prior to January 1, 1996.

L. Khaleh, the son of the landlords, told the Board that the facts in Mosser and Drolapas do not support the basis of the ALJ’s decision. Mr. Khaleh stated that there is no dispute on the record that the tenant was not an original occupant, and he didn’t go to school as a child in San Francisco and always went wherever his mother lived. He argued that there was continuing residency in Drolapas, but there is no continuity of residency in this case. Mr. Khaleh asked the commissioners to remand the case.

D. Foran, the attorney for the landlords, stated that the ALJ found that the tenant petitioner was a lawful subtenant at the time the notice of rent increase was served, and he resided in the unit prior to 1996, and therefore he’s not subject to a Costa-Hawkins rent increase. The ALJ stated there was no requirement that the tenant must live continuously, but as in Danger Panda, LLC v. Launiu, the tenant was not a lawful subtenant or assignee prior to 1996, because he was still a child. Mr. Foran additionally argued that his tenancy was terminated after he moved away to go to high school in Cotati.

R. MacDonald, a tenant respondent, told the Board that he trusted the Board’s consideration of the ALJ’s decision. He said that the Board’s decision helped keep two San Francisco public school teachers in San Francisco.

Decision: To deny the appeal, 3-2.

50 Block of Fair Avenue

The landlord’s petition for certification of the costs of exterior painting of the entire building, roof replacement, and replacement of façade windows in unit 2 was granted in part and denied in part. The ALJ rejected the tenants’ objection questioning the sufficiency of the proof of cost and proof of payment for the claimed work, because the landlords’ supporting documents coupled with her testimony sufficiently established the costs and payments. The ALJ also rejected the tenants’ objections to the cost of replacing the two existing skylights because the replacements were necessarily part of the roofing process, and rejected the tenants’ objection that the cost of windows was unreasonable because the competitive bid did not include the cost of installing the windows. On appeal, the tenants argue that the landlords improperly calculate the percentage of per-unit passthrough allocation, that the landlords did not provide adequate documentation to support the claimed costs, that some of the work is the result of deferred maintenance, and that some of the expenses include work that does not benefit the tenants.

M. Ling Hui, one of the tenants, stated that the landlords actually occupy four times the space the tenants in the building do, and should be charged accordingly, no matter the type of use. Ms. Hui told the Board that the Ordinance protects garage and storage spaces as important components of a unit, that competitive bids weren’t provided for some of the work, and that the work doesn’t match up for what the tenants were charged.

Decision: To deny the appeal, 4-1.

600 Block of Larkin Street

The tenant’s petition alleging a substantial decrease in housing services was granted in part and denied in part. The landlords were found liable to the tenant in the amount of $66.00 for bathroom mold. The ALJ denied the tenant’s claims regarding no heat, no mailbox, no security, faulty wiring, poor plumbing, and protruding screws and nails on the staircase. The tenant appeals on the basis that there should be an individual locking mailbox for each residential unit and that there was inadequate heat in prior years.

The tenant stated that there was a lot of evidence that wasn’t heard by the original ALJ. She told the Board that there was some negativity in the judgment made against her, and she felt like she wasn’t allowed an opportunity to speak. She stated that she believed that heating was the more important issue in her appeal, and that she doesn’t understand why the mailbox issue was the focus of the Board’s discussion.

Decision: To deny the appeal, 4-1.

To learn more about the San Francisco Rent Board, call 415-252-4602 or go to sfrb.org.