todd-quackenbush-222-copy-300x183If you rent your home in the San Francisco area, you most likely are aware of San Francisco’s Rent Control Ordinance. Even if you currently rent or you are thinking of coming to the area and renting, there are many specifics of the ordinance you may not know about. Consider the following when looking for a new place to live or if you feel like your current landlord is not following the law.


What Does the Ordinance do?


The San Francisco Rent Ordinance provides a number of protections to tenants who rent or lease a dwelling. First and perhaps foremost, the law regulates the amount that rent can be increased annually for specific dwellings in specific situations. To this end, the law also allows only a certain amount of capital improvement costs to be passed on to the tenant by the landlord. It also allows the tenant to petition the Rent Board for a decrease in rent if the landlord has failed to provide services that have been agreed upon or that are required by law. This includes if the landlord has not maintained the premises in a habitable manner or if unit has uncorrected housing code violations. Secondly, the law regulates the circumstances under which a tenant may be evicted.

josh-wilburne-501947-unsplash-copy-300x200San Francisco’s Rent Control Ordinance gives tenants certain rights when it comes to eviction. It either prohibits eviction in certain cases or, in others, allows the tenant to recover relocation costs from the landlord. It also created The Rent Control Board to help prevent tenant abuse by landlords. One of the areas of law that the ordinance covers, which is frequently abused by landlords, is called “just cause” evictions.

Rent Control Ordinance

The  San Francisco Rent Control Ordinance regulates how and when landlords can increase rents and pass on their costs to their tenants. It also regulates tenant evictions. It provides restrictions on when landlords may evict tenants.

christopher-jolly-616571-unsplash-copy-300x200California law requires that a landlord must ensure that a property is habitable before it is rented or leased. To a tenant, this means that the premises they rent or lease must have adequate living conditions. One of the conditions that can call habitability into questions, however, is a bed bug infestation.

The Health Risks of Bed Bugs

Bed bugs used to be a concern most prevalent in developing areas. However, in recent years, bed bugs have run rampant throughout the US. This increase has been mostly put down to the fact that bed bugs have developed strong resistance to many common pesticides. As such, infestations can occur even in the cleanest premises and can be incredibly difficult to eradicate.   Bed bugs are small (a quarter of an inch long or smaller) insects that feed on human blood. They typically feed at night and hide in cracks and crevices found in furniture, bed clothes, and carpets during the day.

rod-long-1052613-unsplash-copy-300x200We are all familiar with product liability even if we do not necessarily recognize it by that name. In short, product liability means the idea that when we, as consumers, purchase a product and use it for its intended purpose, it is supposed to be safe and not cause us harm. While the idea itself seems simple, in reality it is not so straight-forward.

Product Liability in Law

At one point, consumers were not protected when they purchased a product.  Most everyone has heard of the idea of caveat emptor, or “buyer beware.” This is the idea that if you bought a product and it malfunctioned or caused harm, you were stuck with the results. Law constantly evolves and as time has passed, the idea that manufacturers and those who sell the goods should be held liable when consumers are hurt by the products they have purchased has come into being.

yoann-siloine-532510-unsplash-copy-200x300The California Department of Public Health has previously declared that childhood lead exposure poses the greatest environmental health threat to children in the state. As such, both federal and California law provide protections to ensure that exposure to lead is minimized.  Children are especially sensitive to lead exposure, and California has long been considered a leader in trying to eliminate lead exposure in children.

How are Children Exposed to Lead?

Since 1978, lead has been banned in paint in the U.S. However, especially in a city like San Francisco that has a tremendous amount of older housing stock, decades of lead-based paint still exists in many buildings. Over time, paint breaks down and is worn away. This results in dust and paint chips being released into the environment. As every parent knows, small children will put anything in their mouths, including paint chips. Furthermore, lead was a constituent ingredient in many plumbing products. When it degrades, it can enter the water supply, thereby serving as another method of introduction into the bodies of children. Finally, lead can accumulate in the dirt on the grounds of a dwelling as it sloughs off exterior painted surfaces.  The dirt can then get ingested directly or brought into the house and incidentally ingested.

daniel-monteiro-413416-copy-199x300Surprisingly to most drivers in California, the state does not require drivers to have liability insurance. What the law does require, however, is that a motorist be able to show financial responsibility. There are four ways by law that a motorist can do this. The motorist must either have a:

  • Motor vehicle liability insurance policy
  • Cash deposit of $35,000 on file with the DMV

jared-erondu-8130-copy-300x200California law guarantees tenants habitable conditions when they rent or lease from a landlord.  It is possible, due to the conditions of the rented unit, that a tenant will determine he or she simply can not live there anymore and vacate the unit. What rights does the tenant have if this occurs?

Guarantee of Habitability

California law guarantees that a landlord only rents or leases units that are considered habitable. This simply means that the dwelling is fit for a person to live there. However, the law is quite specific as to what it means for a dwelling to be considered “habitable.” California Civil Code requires that landlords must ensure that certain conditions exist before leasing a unit to a tenant including:

christian-langballe-78684-copy-300x200California passed a law in 1991 to give additional protections to the elderly known as the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA). It was put into place with the knowledge and understanding that the elderly that are under the care of others are especially dependent on the care they receive and often are in situations in which they lack the ability to protect themselves. This leads to the question, then, of what type of caretaker relationship is necessary to hold someone liable under the law?

California’s Elder Abuse Law

California has enacted laws that specifically criminalize elder abuse and that also allow for civil remedies. The civil provisions of the EADACPA are found in Chapter 11 of the Welfare and Institutions Code. It protects the elderly from physical abuse, neglect, or fiduciary abuse. The law defines an elder as any California resident 65 years of age or older. Physical abuse is defined to include:

lili-popper-29464-300x169The rights of tenants in San Francisco are protected by the San Francisco Rent Ordinance Act and the Rent Board it created. Generally, the Rent Board controls what landlords can charge, how the eviction process works, and how rentals must be re-marketed if an eviction has occurred in the past. However, there is a state law called the Ellis Act that can negatively impact tenants and bypass many of the rights guaranteed by the Rent Board.

What is the Ellis Act?

The Ellis Act is a California law that was passed in 1985 in response to the California Supreme Court case of Nash v. The City of Santa Monica as a way to allow landlords to evict tenants by essentially “going out of business.” Essentially, the Ellis Act is often practically applied when a landlord wants to withdraw all of the units in a multi-family building from the market either to divest themselves of the property or to turn the building into a condominium. At first blush, the Ellis Act seems to give landlords the right to evict tenants for the owner’s profit, which it certainly does, but it also provides a complex process that landlords must follow before they can withdraw a building from the market.

scott-webb-386701-copy-202x300In California, landlords have a duty to ensure that residences are “fit for human occupancy,” and that any necessary repairs are taken care of. Despite these laws, however, it is not uncommon for tenants to walk into an uninhabitable apartment for which they have already signed the contract and paid. If you find yourself in a situation like this, contact the landlord-tenant attorneys at Willoughby Brod and seek out the help you need to regain habitable living quarters.

What an Uninhabitable Residence Looks Like

Just because something is broken or malfunctioning in your apartment does not mean that it is uninhabitable. However, California law does assign a broad spectrum of responsibilities to landlords when it comes to ensuring that a property is habitable, including the following: