“The Public Health Department was successful Monday in advocating for legislation that would empower it to fine landlords $1,000 a day for nuisances — such as bed bugs, mold or garbage — not eradicated in a timely manner.
The Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee approved the legislation in a 2-1 vote Monday to send the legislation to the full board for a vote. Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi and David Chiu supported it. Supervisor Sean Elsbernd opposed it.”
Landlords lose fight over nuisance law [SFExaminer]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by lyqwyd

    $1,000 a day seems very high to me, maybe more like $100 a day would be appropriate.
    On a similar note, does this also cover graffiti, or is there another ordinance covering graffiti?

  2. Posted by Dave

    This is crazy. First of all, if I ever get bedbugs in my building, it’ll be because a tenant brought them in. Of course, I’d want to eradicate them ASAP, but that is often easier said than done, from what I have read. A $1000/day fine would send me toward bankruptcy in short order. And where’s the culpability of the tenant who brought in the bedbugs?
    There are already laws about graffiti; property owners are required to remove it promptly; failure to do so can result in fines, and/or the city can remove it and bill the property owner for the cost of doing so.

  3. Posted by mikey woodz

    =another BS liberal wacko SF law

  4. Posted by R

    More shooting themselves in the foot.
    Bedbugs are tough ones, and the only true way to be sure they are gone (and avoid the potential $1000 a day fine) will be to temporarily evict tenants (pay them $5k), make them move every single thing they own out, then fumigate for bedbugs. Then let them move back in (after they clean everything they own). Course, the tenant is responsible for moving everything out and everything back in, and for finding a place to live for 30-90 days.
    Then rinse and repeat when the tenants bring the bedbugs back in.

  5. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    I’d like to see a cite on how or why a landlord would need to pay anyone 5k to temporarily evict a tenant; that’s just an urban legend in my mind.
    If the landlord is doing fumigation, the landlord can just notify the tenant that they have to move out during the fumigation period, and that they (the tenant ) are responsible for moving and storing all of their belongings. This fact alone is enough to make this legislation toothless in practice, and most landlords who don’t want an excuse to bellyache about how put upon they are know this.
    No tenant that doesn’t already want to move is going to put themselves through this, they’ll just try the high-heat steamer method on their own and not only will they not bother the landlord, they’ll pay for it on their own (precisely because unless they have a supportive family who’ll take them in during the fumigation period, it’s cheaper than putting all of your belongings in storage and then finding somewhere else to live for the fumigation period, if you’re not twenty years old and don’t own anything).
    Please. Let’s not pretend that this shifts the balance of power; a sufficiently unscrupulous or ruthless landlord can avoid doing anything she doesn’t want to do or get a tenant to do anything he or she wants them to do at any time.

  6. Posted by Eric in SF

    I didn’t say longtime-lurker was in danger, I merely pointed out that admitting on a public blog you intend to or have broken the law is something anyone should think twice about.
    Once the posting IP address has been produced via court order, you go back to court and subpoena the ISP who owns that address for subscriber info.
    At this point it’s a money game. Who has the most money to sweat out the legal process. It doesn’t have to go far, just till one party runs out of money.
    People who break the law and talk about it publicly sometimes do it enough that once an online handle is figured out, google is your best friend for seeing a pattern of postings.

  7. Posted by pobeb

    Brahma, if you have a family of five living in the unit, then yes, it can possible be $5k to temporary move them out.
    The following is from SFAA:
    “in order to assist your displaced tenants in finding temporary replacement housing, the Rent Ordinance requires you to pay no more than $1,000 in actual relocation costs to each of these tenants. These payments can cover transportation, storage, insurance, installation of utilities and rent differentials. The actual cost must be paid to your tenants no less than 10 days prior to the repossession of the units by the landlord and/or within 10 days of each tenant establishing the actual cost of moving.”

  8. Posted by ryan

    @Brahma, you have no clue about SF rentals.
    http://www.sfrb.org/index.aspx?page=946

  9. Posted by Willow

    “I’d like to see a cite on how or why a landlord would need to pay anyone 5k to temporarily evict a tenant; that’s just an urban legend in my mind.”
    I’ve been in this situation as a landlord and I can assure you that I was responsible for picking up the tab for temporary housing as well as the cost of moving in & out. (Which is fair enough…) Fortunately it was only a week but I think you are being naive if you think a tenant is not going to expect a landlord to pay for all costs associated with the inconvenience of having to temporarily leave.

  10. Posted by ryan

    @pobeb,
    That information is outdated. I guess I’m happy I could not immediately find the up to date rate sheet at the rent board website, but it’s worse than what you list.

  11. Posted by sfrenegade

    Can you make bringing bed bugs into the unit a breach of the lease? The landlord has ZERO control over that.
    Mold is a touchy one too. It is possible that the building doesn’t ventilate right, but it’s also possible that a crappy tenant caused water damage that resulted in the mold. I’m also not clear why garbage is always the landlord’s responsibility.
    Too many of these things are a two-way street for landlords to always have liability. It seems like one solution for landlords is to make all of these things a breach of the lease. The real problem is having to deal with all these stupid rules from the Board of Stupidvisors.

  12. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “Can you make bringing bed bugs into the unit a breach of the lease? The landlord has ZERO control over that.”
    Rats, mice, and other mammals are vectors for bedbugs and landlords are required to keep their properties free of such vermin.
    The bedbug issue is bizarre as they were mostly eradicated from the USA after WWII but now they’re suddenly coming back.

  13. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    pobeb, ryan and Willow, I stand corrected, thanks for the pointer. I didn’t draw the connection between the $5k figure and a household of five, etc.
    sfrenegade, I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve read a lot of leases and landlords try to put all kinds of things into leases. My last landlord had a preamble in the lease that said effectively, “the tenant agrees that the responsibility for mold introduction lies with the tenant.” And that I agreed with this by signing the lease.
    I didn’t have a mold problem at that place, but the operative thing is, if you wind up in court, is that clause going to be upheld by a judge? They guy who wrote that wasn’t a lawyer, either, he was just a landlord trying to shield himself from liability.

  14. Posted by Eric in SF

    Brahma – SF landlords are famous for not knowing the rent control landscape and asking their tenants to sign all kinds of things that are not legal.
    You cannot sign your legal rights away, at least not in the USA, so it always pays to know the rules as a tenant.
    For instance, landlords of units covered by rent control are not allowed to evict for any reason other than the 15 just-cause reasons in the rent control ordinance. Landlords can’t create new ones for vermin, etc.
    NY now requires any landlord offering a real property lease for residential use disclose the bedbug history of the location. This extends to co-ops as you lease your private space from the co-op board that you are a member of.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703376504575492110700407820.html

  15. Posted by sfrenegade

    “Rats, mice, and other mammals are vectors for bedbugs and landlords are required to keep their properties free of such vermin.”
    Sure, but you could easily have rats and mice because of tenant behaviors.
    “if you wind up in court, is that clause going to be upheld by a judge?”
    The lease is likely considered an adhesion contract and should likely be construed against the landlord. It’s probably unreasonable to say that it’s unilaterally the tenant’s fault, so I don’t think the statement would be conclusive in court. The purpose of that clause is likely to confuse the tenant into thinking that only he/she can be responsible for mold and that it’s not something they could sue over. It could just as easily be the landlord’s fault as the tenant’s.
    It probably wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that tenants must reimburse landlords for this stupid nuisance fee to the extent the tenant is responsible. Of course, that would be hard to litigate and collect upon. This whole idea is something they could only think of here.

  16. Posted by sfrenegade

    “Landlords can’t create new ones for vermin, etc.”
    Breach of the lease is “just cause.”
    Anyway, this kind of crap is why I’ve never owned rental property in the City and County of San Francisco.

  17. Posted by Live Smart

    In response to this proposed legislation, landlords should carefully pre-screen and don’t rent to potential tenants who don’t shower often, are dumpster divers, looked like grunge hippies, have ever lived in the Tenderloin, Haight-Ashbury, bad parts of the Mission, or constantly moved around a lot. Physical clues say a lot.

  18. Posted by EH

    Breach of the lease is “just cause.”
    You’re making his point for him: that’s exactly the benefit of not being able to sign your rights away. The landlord can’t put terms that are contrary to law into the lease and then enforce it as a different kind of contract. The Duck Test.

  19. Posted by EH

    And where’s the culpability of the tenant who brought in the bedbugs?
    If only it was possible to determine who the tenant was.

  20. Posted by Longtime-Lurker

    But seriously, everything Live Smart said was true.
    As a landlord, I can tell you that the never ending stream of regulations, restrictions, potential fines and threats imposed by the BOS has dramatically changed my screening process. I used to love a diverse building and a fun group of tenants – the kind of people I would like to hang out with. I genuinely enjoyed being a part of many peoples “San Francisco” experience.
    This has all changed. If you are elderly, going to be elderly in the next 5-10 years, have children, are pregnant, are planning on having children, work in social advocacy, are disabled, have an unsteady income such as musicians or artists, are 18-26 and seem like you could be the party type, seem like you may align with “progressive politics”, are a law student, have HIV, or do not display some direct life and/or career path that suggests you’ll be out within 3-4 years max….
    YOU’RE NOT GETTING THE PLACE. Best of luck to you, I’m sorry I couldn’t rent out to you, but I simply can’t take that risk. I have seen way too many other landlords who are genuinely good people with good intentions pay out tens of thousands – either as “moveout reimbursement” or to fend of obvious shakedowns. I’m not doing it.
    There is a 25 year old single male who just graduated from Cornell’s MBA program who also wants the place. He’s boring, likely a Republican, but he just landed a job with UBS downtown as a junior analysts and will be working 75 hour weeks making $93K/year. He doesn’t like it here (“it’s kinda dirty” he says) but he plans to use this initial position as a starting point to Wall Street within two years.
    There’s plenty of him to come along, and if he doesn’t I will keep the place vacant.
    Congratufuckinglations SF politics.
    ps – Oh, and one more to add to the list now… if you just moved here, are totally qualified, but happened to spend you’re first few weeks in a temporary situation in a building with poor maintenance… sorry, you could have bed bugs. Really, you could. So you’re not getting the place either.

  21. Posted by EH

    Ha ha, Longtime-Lurker is funny!

  22. Posted by Eric in SF

    Longtime-Lurker – really good read, and I appreciate your taking the risk of posting it.
    I’ve said it on this blog before – what you say here is fully discoverable *under your real identity* through a simple court summons for the blog owner and hosting service. Always ALWAYS think twice about admitting to housing discrimination.
    That said, I do appreciate the insight into your thinking.

  23. Posted by sfrenegade

    “The landlord can’t put terms that are contrary to law into the lease and then enforce it as a different kind of contract.”
    How is saying something like this in a lease against the law?: You may not through your actions and omissions: create a nuisance to neighbors; introduce vermin into the premises; fail to sort your garbage, recyclables, and compostables; damage the premises; violate public health standards; or otherwise create liability for the landlord.
    I could see this being against SF housing law, but I always hold out hope that the Board of Stupidvisors isn’t *that* stupid.

  24. Posted by Eric in SF

    SFrenegade:
    “In order to evict a tenant from a rental unit covered by the Rent Ordinance, a landlord must have a “just cause” reason that is the dominant motive for pursuing the eviction.
    There are 15 just cause reasons for eviction under Ordinance Section 37.9(a). The most common are:”
    See:
    http://www.sfrb.org/index.aspx?page=962

  25. Posted by Eric in SF

    PS. This means that renters of units under rent control have lifetime leases in San Francisco if the landlord does not move themselves or a family member into the unit or take the building off the rental market via the Ellis Act.

  26. Posted by Mole Man

    In most serious cases “in a timely manner” turns out to not be enforcible.

  27. Posted by sfrenegade

    From Eric in SF’s link: “Breach of a rental agreement or lease;”
    If you have a clause that requires the tenant not to damage the unit, and the tenant damages the unit, thereby breaching the lease, are you telling me this would not qualify as “just cause”? If so, why?

  28. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    Eric in SF wrote:

    I’ve said it on this blog before – what you say here is fully discoverable *under your real identity* through a simple court summons for the blog owner and hosting service. Always ALWAYS think twice about admitting to housing discrimination.

    Chilling! And how, prey tell, even if one obtains the IP address used to post the comment, is one going to prove a specific individual posted the comment?
    The blog owner and or hosting service don’t have your real identity, at best they’d have an IP address and an e-mail address and by extension a set of credentials. I’m genuinely interested in the case law on this, all you cyber law specialists out there. Is the burden of proof on the accuser or the accused to establish that a specific individual is the only one having a particular password associated with an e-mail address and therefore had to be at the keyboard when the comment in question was posted? And what if the credentials were associated with bogusmail.com?
    Anyway, Longtime-Lurker is just showing his ignorance, as bed bugs do not require unsanitary or poor maintenance conditions. From what I’ve read the most likely vector for bedbugs is the suitcases of moderately affluent people who travel to exotic locales, so when your 25 year old single male MBA’s slacker/hedonist/artistic girlfriend, who’s “just wanted to travel and see the world her whole life” asks him to go on vacation with her to Chile, he could bring back bedbugs just as easily as an unrepentant hippie who’s never left The City. Is Longtime-Lurker going to police his tenant’s romantic life as well?

  29. Posted by sfrenegade

    “Chilling! And how, prey tell, even if one obtains the IP address used to post the comment, is one going to prove a specific individual posted the comment? ”
    Agree, Brahma. These sorts of bogus statements were also what caused the assassination of Satchel/LMRiM by the coward joe shmoe. The chain of actions that would be required to trace this back to Longtime-Lurker, if the claims are indeed true, is untenable:
    1) Longtime-Lurker would have to interview a person and have an obvious illegal reason to deny them the place without any legitimate reasons like ability to pay, credit history, bad reference, non-protected category, etc.
    2) the person would have to think, “hmm, I read this random blog the other day about SF property, and there was some guy who said he discriminates against [my purported category], maybe this Longtime-Lurker guy is my aborted landlord”
    3) the person would have to somehow make a discovery action sufficient to subpoena the editor based on the above facts and be able to adequately connect his/her denial of housing to an anonymous blog comment where someone vented about the stupidity of landlord/tenant law in the City and County of San Francisco
    Alternatively, the city of SF with its abundant resources could proactively scour random blogs to determine whether an anonymous commenter on a housing blog venting about SF’s stupid landlord/tenant ordinances might be engaging in illegal housing discrimination against people and…
    Riiiiight.

  30. Posted by Eric in SF

    I didn’t say longtime-lurker was in danger, I merely pointed out that admitting on a public blog you intend to or have broken the law is something anyone should think twice about.
    Once the posting IP address has been produced via court order, you go back to court and subpoena the ISP who owns that address for subscriber info.
    At this point it’s a money game. Who has the most money to sweat out the legal process. It doesn’t have to go far, just till one party runs out of money.
    People who break the law and talk about it publicly sometimes do it enough that once an online handle is figured out, google is your best friend for seeing a pattern of postings.

  31. Posted by sfrenegade

    Keep up the scare tactics, Eric. We’ve already been told scare tactics are dead, after all. How exactly do you propose that someone connect a random blog comment to an actual instance of discrimination in a manner sufficient to get a court order? Give us a substantive answer instead of giving vague generalities.

  32. Posted by Eric in SF

    Would *YOU* be comfortable posting from your home computer about actually breaking the law?
    Am I the only tech nerd here who has watched the music/film lawsuits for the last X years and learned how devious humanity is?
    PS. I would never use that tone with you in person and I find it disappointing that people use it online in what is usually a pleasant place to chat.

  33. Posted by sfrenegade

    “Am I the only tech nerd here who has watched the music/film lawsuits for the last X years and learned how devious humanity is?”
    Yes, and that’s when parties with tons of money (i.e. not broke-ass tenants or the city of SF) connect specific *on-network* behavior (downloading/uploading of copyrighted content) to a specific user (identified quite easily). You are talking about connecting *off-network* behavior to a person who may or may not be doing what they say they’re doing. The old expression about a little bit of knowledge comes to mind…

  34. Posted by Eric in SF

    I don’t see the value in my time to engage someone who insults me sight unseen. See you in the next posting.

  35. Posted by Al

    Look– regardless of whether or not it’s a good idea to say so, it’s clearly what a lot of landlords believe, and it has serious implications, and they should be discussed.

  36. Posted by Justin

    Meanwhile panic continues in NYC as bed bugs are found in two locations at Lincoln Center….
    http://blogs.wsj.com/metropolis/2010/10/14/bed-bugs-at-the-met/
    You do NOT need to travel to an “exotic locale” to get bed bugs, just try looking up the warnings posted to travellers regarding NYC, Las Vegas and Hawaii.

  37. Posted by justme

    Congratufuckinglations SF politics.

    Congratufuckinglations yourself. You are a moral and ethical vacuum.
    You are a perfect example of why the laws you are so publicly flouting exist in the first place. You are the reason we can’t have nice things.

  38. Posted by A.T.

    Longtime-Lurker, very interesting comments. Pay no attention to this notion of “your IP address might get subpoenaed” — never gonna happen in a million years (fwiw, it would be a subpoenae, not a summons).
    His/her points are quite valid and simply illustrate how the rent control and related ordinances ultimately harm they very people they purport to help. Not only do they result in higher rent (for all but the tiny slice of 15+ – year tenants) due to the artificially reduced supply but they also impede the ability of all but the well-heeled and privileged to find rental housing at all. Landlords tend not to be stupid. They are going to find a way to limit their risk to all these regulations by carefully selecting their tenants. I’m a big fan of reasonable economic regulation. But “pro-tenant” regulation that ends up harming tenants and raising costs for everyone — tenants and landlords — is ludicrous. Thank god for the nuclear-option of the Ellis Act.

  39. Posted by joh

    Just another “pro-tenant” bit of legislation that’ll drive rental prices higher.

  40. Posted by sfrenegade

    “But “pro-tenant” regulation that ends up harming tenants and raising costs for everyone — tenants and landlords — is ludicrous.”
    The economics of most of the decisions of the Board works the opposite way. For example, the Board constantly complains about the lack of affordable housing but simultaneously implements policies that keep housing prices high. They don’t know what they’re doing.

  41. Posted by sacdomc

    When (not if) we leave SF for a reasonable school situation for our child, we will not rent our apartment; we will either sell or leave it empty. The politicians in this town can’t be trusted not to change the rules, and you can’t count on getting a tenant out – even if you have “just cause.” Congratulations, BOS, on keeping yet another apartment out of the rental market.

  42. Posted by EH

    Eric in SF: I know what you’re talking about and I realize the point you are trying to make, but it’s too tenuous in this context. Molehill meet mountain, rappers talk about having murdered people all the time.

  43. Posted by Dubocian

    I use a “Bed Bug Amendment” from the California Apartment Association with my leases. It contains a bunch of information on bed bugs and how to avoid them, and contains a clause where the tenant agrees to indemnify the landlord against claims, losses and damages arising from the tenant’s (or their guests’) negligence. You can bet that if anyone ever introduces bed bugs to my property (assuming they show up in one apartment first, that tenant is pretty obviously the culpable one) I’m going to be trying to enforce that clause to its full extent. Let’s hope I never have to test it.
    Bed bugs don’t discriminate, and these days, they are as, or even more, commonly found in high-end luxury accommodations than in tenements. In the past few months their have been outbreaks in multiple Nike Stores in NYC, as well as Abercrombie and Fitch, Hollister, Lincoln Center, and untold hotels and apartments. I don’t think that demographic profiling of tenants would be much help in keeping them out.

  44. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    I like how this thread took on the subtext of renters being filthy disease ridden scum. Too bad Satchel isn’t around any more as his response to that notion would have been entertaining.

  45. Posted by R

    “I like how this thread took on the subtext of renters being filthy disease ridden scum.”
    Nobody said anything about disease ridden.
    :)

  46. Posted by :-)

    You can call renters all the names you like, but who really holds the power in this city?
    :-)

  47. Posted by R

    The connected, be they renters or owners.
    But certainly not renters a group. If that were true, the board wouldn’t consistently pass measures that drive up and up the cost of renting.

  48. Posted by sfrenegade

    “The connected, be they renters or owners.”
    That’s very true. This is why people in Pacific Heights get to do whatever they want for the most part when remodeling/rebuilding, but people in the Excelsior are “destroying affordable housing” by doing so.

  49. Posted by sfrenegade

    “The connected, be they renters or owners.”
    It’s also why corrupt Blue Bottle Coffee co-owners are given permission by corrupt government officials to take over public rights-of-way in order to expand their own private business.

  50. Posted by Justin

    http://bedbugregistry.com/
    Interesting site for looking up hotels and apartments. Visiting New York City is off my list. As was posted earlier, economic status has nothing to do with infestations. Las Vegas is battling this problem with dogs who regularly inspect bed linen facilities, hotel rooms and public areas.

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