Dealing with Gotcha Evictions in SF

San Francisco, viktorianische Bauten

As the housing crisis in San Francisco continues largely unabated so do many of the horror stories of tenants being evicted. We have covered this issue before when discussing the spike in Ellis Act evictions last year, which is a California law that allows property owners to forcibly evict tenets, even in a rent controlled property, if they alter the primary use of that property from being a residential rental. However, a recent high profile case of Guillermo Manzanares, an 87 year old man being evicted from his home of 50 years in the Mission district, has brought another type of eviction to the forefront of the housing debate: a “gotcha” eviction.

Gotcha evictions, as the slang name would imply, are evictions served for largely trivial violations of a rental agreement. This includes hanging laundry outside one’s window, or leaving things in the hallway of an apartment building. In the case of Manzanares, the man from the Mission, he was evicted for having a live-in caretaker because, unbeknownst to him, his lease explicitly forbade roommates.

And statistics show Guillermo is not alone. According to the San Francisco Planning Department, these minor evictions have skyrocketed in recent years, having doubled since 2010. In fact the total number of reported evictions of this type actually exceeded the number of new residential rentals added to the market last year, forcing many of those evicted out of the city. In total there were 2,120 evictions San Francisco last year, hardly a trivial amount for a city of less than 900,000 people.

In response to these evictions Supervisor Jane Kim has introduced legislation to prevent these types of nuisance or “gotcha” evictions. In particular, she is hoping to pass two new laws, one that would allow tenants to rectify low fault rental violations within a certain period of time to avoid eviction (things like leaving a stroller in a hallway), and another that would give tenants the explicit right to have roommates. The latter proposal has already proven to be controversial, with some property owners and private property rights advocates fiercely opposed.

The opposition argues that for many smaller buildings with limited space and condensed units having an explicit right to a roommate can be overly burdensome on other tenants, and can de facto double the number of people living in a building. It also creates a system by which a huge portion of tenants within a building don’t have to be on any type of lease officially, as they would now have legal standing as a roommate. This makes it harder to prosecute illegal subletting, and deal with un-permitted short term vacation rentals, another problem we have covered as of late.

So what do you think? How should San Francisco deal with “gotcha”evictions? Should renters be given an explicit right to have a roommate? Vote and comment below.

Give Tenants the Explicit Right to Have RoommatesThis law would give San Francisco residents the explicit right to have a roommate in their rental unit. These roommates would not have to be on the lease so long as they follow the rules of the rental agreement. This includes live in caretakers, and other support staff.

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