San Francisco renters can breathe a sigh of relief: The Eviction Protections 2.0 bill passed into law on Oct. 9, 2015, hopefully putting an end to the rise in the city’s no-fault evictions. Advocated by lead author and District 6 Supervisor, Jane Kim, E.P. 2.0 is a landmark legislation that will change the grounds on which a lawful eviction can occur. In a city suffering from an all-out housing crisis, E.P. 2.0 has been a hot topic since it was first proposed — and for good reason why. Here’s what to know about the eviction laws in San Francisco and what this important new housing law, in particular, means for San Francisco renters.
What is the San Francisco Housing Crisis?
So, why was this legislation being pushed, and why did it have so many supporters? In a nutshell: Affordable housing is nearly impossible to find. According to the San Francisco Department of Planning’s Housing Balance Report from July 2015, the city added 6,559 affordable housing units between 2004 and 2014 but lost 5,470 rent-controlled apartments due to a variety of no-fault evictions. In the last five years, eviction notices have increased by a startling 67 percent, according to the Rent Board’s annual reports on evictions to the Board of Supervisors. Nearly 83 percent of those were no-fault evictions (an eviction that results from nothing the tenant has or hasn’t done), according to Supervisor Kim.
That significant rise has a lot to do with the spike in market rent in recent years, which means “many tenants face high rent burdens, which have increased rapidly in recent years,” according to “General Obligation Bond for Affordable Housing: Economic Impact Report” by the Controller’s Office of Economic Analysis. The result: sky-high rent and a threat to the function of San Francisco’s rent-control laws.
“When [other] one-bedrooms [are] going for over $3,000…there’s a lot of incentive for landlords to evict,” says Kim. “They’re doing it to evict tenants who are under rent-control, and then when they evict them, they can raise the rent market.”
Because many property owners are forcing evictions by taking their properties off the market or hiking up rent prices, new affordable housing is lagging to catch up. That contributes hugely to the crisis, says Kim, and EP 2.0 is the solution.
What Are the Eviction Laws in San Francisco?
E.P. 2.0 includes a number of new protections that will prevent landlords from unfairly evicting tenants through various tactics. Here are the basics of what it covers:
Before this bill passed, eviction laws in San Francisco allowed landlords to evict tenants for some pretty petty stuff — things like hanging laundry, leaving a stroller in the hallway, or painting a bedroom. EP 2.0 and its campaigners refer to these as “gotcha evictions,” and the new law now requires landlords to provide a “meaningful opportunity” to resolve disputes before issuing an eviction notice.
The bill also creates solid restrictions on additional roommates with the housing crisis in mind. Again, landlords could previously set arbitrary restrictions on roommates and could use new roommates as grounds for a no-fault eviction.
“You can deny [roommates] if you have reasonable discretion to deny,” says Kim of the amendment. “But you can’t deny based on a number maximum.”
E.P. 2.0 sets rent limitations to protect the affordability of rent-controlled apartments and requires landlords to set base rent for the next five years as “the lawful rent in effect at the time of the vacancy in certain situations such as an Owner-Move-In eviction.” That means landlords who issue a no-fault eviction cannot increase rent on the apartment for five years.
“The country is looking at San Francisco to set the stage for solutions to these regional and national issues,” said Maria Zamudio, Executive Director of Causa Justa::Just Cause, one of the lead advocates for EP 2.0.
“The Mission district is ground zero for the displacement of thousands of San Franciscans due to the rapidly growing inequality in our City. But today, we celebrate because the advocacy and tenacity of the tenant community has resulted in the passage of one of the strongest tenant’s rights laws in the state. Today, the people won.”
Finally, in acknowledgement the city’s ethnic diversity, EP 2.0 requires the Rent Board to prepare a form in English, Chinese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog and Russian stating that an eviction notice may lead to a lawsuit to evict and stating that advice regarding notices to vacate is available from the Rent Board. Additionally, landlords must attach a copy of the eviction notice in the primary language of the tenant.
Why Should You Care?
So, say you don’t leave strollers in the hallway, you speak English, and you and your roommate don’t have any plans to add another — you should still care about E.P. 2.0. The scary thing about no-fault evictions is that your landlord could claim anything is reason enough to evict you. And while most of San Francisco’s housing is rent-controlled, the laws allow landlords to raise rent to market rate once an apartment vacates — meaning your chances of finding affordable housing are pretty bleak. So, ultimately, knowing your rights and your landlord’s rights could mean the difference between moving and staying put lawfully.
This bill is just a stepping stone towards more affordable housing in SF, and a very comprehensive stepping stone. Kim says she will and always has been focusing on the production and acquisition of affordable housing.