Fire Safety Success

SFFD and SFAA associate members talk fire prevention and safety, and the quickly approaching fire alarm deadline at the free SFAA fire safety event.

Hundreds of San Francisco rental property owners attended the free fire safety event hosted by the San Francisco Apartment Association in conjunction with the San Francisco Fire Department. The packed event was held at the Jewish Community Center and focused on helping attendees comply with the new fire code and regulations for building owners and apartment houses.

“This event provided resources all in one place for property owners. It shed light on the ordinance and the various nuances that a lot of building owners might have been confused about,” said Yat-Cheong Au of AEC Alarms.

Port of San Francisco Fire Marshal Ken Cofflin took the stage first, taking attendees through each step of complying with the fire code before the 2021 deadline. He also talked about updates the SFFD has made to make complying easier. Rental property owners are required to give tenants a fire safety information discloser when they move in and every year by January 31. For a new template of the disclosure, visit, where it is available in many languages, along with a detailed fire safety video for residents to watch at their leisure. Captain Cofflin gave detailed instructions for inspections, posting the statement of compliance, penalties, and fire alarms.

Perhaps most significantly, Captain Cofflin stressed the importance of acting now to meet the 2021 fire alarm deadline. The deadline for R2 buildings (residential non-transient buildings) upgrade their existing fire alarm systems to meet the 2013 National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) sound requirement is July 1, 2021.

While this deadline is in 2021, SFFD suggests that building owners find a licensed contractor as soon as possible. As the deadline nears, it will be harder to find a contractor who can comply with the 2021 deadline, and prices could rise as demand begins to increase. “The compliance clock is ticking, with less than two years to comply. Prices are increasing and vendor availability is decreasing. Don’t wait until after the July 2021 deadline; you will receive a Notice of Violation. Failure to abate a violation could lead to the recording of an Order to Abate with the Assessor-Recorder’s office,” warned Captain Cofflin.

Next, SFFD Inspector Tomie Kato spoke to attendees about community outreach and education. “The goal is less panic and more education,” explained Kato at the event. She and her partner, Gerald Stone, talked about the top causes of building fires, escape planning, and mitigating fire before help arrives. They demonstrated how to use a fire extinguisher and gave a sneak peak of the free fire safety education available through SFFD, which includes interactive workshops for tenants and at community events, like block parties. For more information or to schedule a free fire and life safety presentation for your tenants, email Tomie at The only thing building owners need to provide is a meeting space with seating.

Other speakers included Gerald Becerra of Barbary Coast Insurance, who spoke to attendees about properly insuring residential rental properties and James Lawrie of the Department of Building Inspection, who talked about egress doors and fire-resistant materials.

The event concluded with an informal meet and greet. SFFD and DBI answered attendee questions and vendors—Barbary Insurance, AEC Alarms, Battalion Fire, Escape Artists, Byington Electric and State Farm Insurance—were available to discuss their products and services.

“I’m glad I went. The information I received is going to save me a lot of hassle and possibly a fine,” said San Francisco rental property owner Sean Pritchard.

For more information, visit SFFD’s revamped Stay tuned for SF Apartment Magazine’s December issue, which will cover everything local property owners need to know about preventing building fires, the legal and ethical steps they should take when fires occur, and how to comply with local and state fire safety laws.

Court Talk
Two recent court opinions explored the murky standards for “good faith” in owner and relative move-in evictions in San Francisco. OMIs and RMIs have obvious, mechanical requirements (like, “move into the rental unit within three months” and “occupy as a principal residence for 36 months”). They also have a “good faith” requirement that the landlord/relative not have an improper, ulterior motive.

In DeLisi v. Lam, landlords performed an OMI eviction, moved in, and performed an RMI eviction to bring in a brother. Both units’ tenants sued. The owners successfully defended their eviction, but the former tenant of the brother’s unit prevailed. Both the owners and the brother actually moved in and were residing there, but the jury considered evidence that the brother never learned many of the essential details of the move (like the layout of the apartment or whether he’d pay rent). The eviction seemed more about displacing long-term tenants than finding a home for the brother in good faith.

Shortly after, Reynolds v. Lau considered good faith where a landlord performed an OMI to move into the apartment above his liquor store. The tenants sued, arguing that he should have evicted the tenant of another unit for fault (instead of using the desired cause for the apartment he wanted). The tenants won at trial, but the Court of Appeal reversed, distinguishing DeLisi. “Good faith” means compliance with the statute, not “a wide-ranging inquiry into the general conduct and motivations of an owner.” SFAA successfully requested publication of Reynolds to distinguish DeLisi, providing valuable guidance for property owners.

Court Talk was written by Justin Goodman of Zacks, Freedman & Patterson, P.C.

SFAA Updates Annual SFAA Trade Show
Save March 26, 2020 for the annual SFAA trade show at the Fort Mason Center. Attendees will learn all about the latest trends, products and services in the multifamily housing industry. Consult with legal and management professionals, get to know service providers, improve your overall effectiveness at the free educational classes, and meet peers in the San Francisco rental property market.  The event is free and open to the general public, so bring your friends and enjoy! Please note that the tradeshow will replace the March member meeting. For more information on the tradeshow or to become a sponsor, contact

2020 SFAA Lease Update
The SFAA lease committee will be getting together soon to review and make updates to the current lease. If there are any existing or new lease items you’d like the committee to consider, email Vanessa Khaleel at

Open House and Toy Drive
The SFAA will host an open house and toy drive in its office at 265 Ivy Street on Thursday, December 12, from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Attendees who bring an unopened and unwrapped toy to donate to Toys for Tots will receive a free 2019 residential lease.

Rent Board Fee
The San Francisco Rent Board announced the updated 2019-2020 fees. From July 2019 – June 2020, the updated fee is $25.

Property Taxes due
Don’t forget the first installment of property taxes is due December 10. You can pay online at