Tight Housing Market Empowers Landlords, San Francisco Tenants’ Attorney Protects Renters

At the Brod Law Firm, there is an underlying theme that ties the majority of our cases together – a desire to use the law to help the injured and the wronged. Often, the wrongdoer held a power advantage over our client from a driver who hit a pedestrian, cyclist, or a stopped vehicle that couldn’t avoid the impact to a lawyer who violates her professional duties to a tenant at the mercy of an economically powerful landlord. The final example is becoming increasingly common and the power imbalance is growing as the rental market throughout Northern California tightens. After looking at a story that highlights the San Francisco rental shortage adding to this imbalance, this post will review some of the tools our Northern California tenants’ law firm uses to protect tenants in San Francisco and throughout the region.

Developer Distributes 6,800 Applications and Would-Be Tenants Return 2,595 Applications For a Mere 18 Apartments
According to The San Francisco Chronicle, when it construction began on an apartment complex at 2175 Market Street, developer Forest City vowed to include 20% affordable units, more than the 12% required by the City. From The Chronicle building’s lobby, Forest City passed out more than 6,8000 applications and 2,595 were returned by people interested in what amounted to 18 apartments. A lottery narrowed the field to 400 and, before a crowd of more than 100, the developer drew names in a process one attendee, who had been through two prior housing lotteries, compared to “auctioning off hope.”

Importantly, the lottery was not for free housing. It reflects a growing lack of affordable housing where even a family with three children and two parents earning over $50,000 a year may be unable to find housing they can afford in San Francisco. In another case, affordable housing nonprofit Mercy Housing opened 100 units of affordable housing and received 2,995 applications.

Laws Protect Tenants Even in a Market that Empowers Landlords
While many developers are committed to reversing the trend and providing safe, clean, affordable housing, others take advantage of the tight market. With few options, a tenant may feel “stuck” in a lease with an unscrupulous landlord and may believe they have no choice but to accept a unit that is unfit for habitation. This is where we can help. As a tenants’ law firm, we advocate for tenants to ensure that everyone has access to safe, clean, habitable housing. The following are just a few of the laws and principles that exist to advance tenants’ rights:

  • The Implied Warranty of Habitability – State law requires landlords/owners to maintain units fit for human occupation. While this is read into all California housing contracts and is not strictly defined, Code 1941.1 details some elements of the warranty such as running water, heating, and keeping the unit vermin-free.
  • Protections against unfair eviction – Both local and state rules protect a tenant from being evicted without cause.
  • Protection against health threats – Legislature- and court-made laws protect against mold, bedbugs, secondhand smoke, and other dangers to tenants’ health.
  • The San Francisco Rent Ordinance – A section of the City Code provides special protections for renters in the City including rent control for certain units, protection against harassment/discrimination, and the right to bring a lawsuit for violations of the Code.
  • Contract-based rights – California’s Department of Consumer Affairs strongly recommends use of a written lease. Additional rights can grow out of the rental agreement.

Many of the foregoing protections are addressed at greater length in previous posts and there are many other laws and principles that can be used to protect tenants. Notably, several of the tenant protection laws also include attorney’s fee clauses and other provisions that help tenants enforce their legal rights
Advocating for Tenants in Northern California
If you believe your landlord is taking advantage of the tight housing market and that your unit is unfit for habitation, call our San Francisco tenant protection attorney. We offer a free consultation and work with clients to ensure any fees are reasonable, pursue any opportunities to recover attorneys’ fees from the other party, and create a workable payment plan that meets our client’s needs.

See Related Blog Posts:

Protecting Tenants from Unscrupulous Landlords in San Francisco’s Tight Housing Market
What Does “Habitability” Mean in California?