A proposed change to San Francisco’s Administrative Code would allow tenants to pack in more people into an apartment without the risk of an eviction or having to pay more.

As proposed by Supervisor Avalos, an amendment to San Francisco’s Administrative Code would prohibit rent increases based on the addition of occupants, even where a pre-existing rental agreement or lease permits such an increase. The ordinance would also prohibit evictions based on the addition of occupants as long as the total occupancy does not exceed the maximum set by the Housing Code.

According to the current Housing Code, two people can legally sleep in a room of at least 70 square feet in San Francisco. An additional 50 square feet of space is needed for each additional occupant.

The proposed ordinance has been assigned to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee to review.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by gribble

    A perfect way to encourage more landlords to quit renting.

  2. Posted by conifer

    So in theory, one could have 20 people in an apartment of 970 square feet?
    How many years before we have sanity as a requirement for Supervisors?

    • Posted by anon

      Seems reasonable to me. Not everyone needs or wants huge spaces for sleeping and spend most of their time being productive or having fun instead of lounging and watching TV.

    • Posted by snapshotist

      In a /room/ of at least 70 square feet. If you have 2 rooms (a bathroom is not a room, a kitchen is not a room, a hallway is not a room), that’s 4 tenants. Just because a room is 1,400 sq. ft. doesn’t mean you divide by 70 to get the number of tenants. Read before you jump to your preconceived conclusion.

      This amendment doesn’t change anything that the law doesn’t already do except to prevent evictions and rental increases from bringing in an extra roommate or two to help with the rent. In some cases, it may allow one extra person for living rooms that exceed 70 sq. ft. because the law today limits 3 tenants for a “one bedroom.”

      But I get it. As a landlord in a RC building, one hopes that the increases would eventually boot the tenant such that one could raise the rent to a new, outrageout price. With a roommate, people making a normal living wage can actually continue to live here. The horror!

  3. Posted by I'm a landlord

    Amazing. So even if you don’t intend to be a slumlord operating a flophouse-like property your tenants would be able to force you into such a situation.

    We have 2 units coming on the market soon … both over 1,400sqft. I suppose we should just expect to get applications from groups of 20. Eff this town.

    • Posted by Miah

      If you find the rental “industry” so terrible, then get out and do it elsewhere. I own and rent units in SF, and this is the only way to help people afford to live here. This is a decent amendment, and is a result of so many of us (especially speculating landlords) being too greedy. It sucks for those of us who are not raping renters, but there aren’t that many of us who aren’t taking full advantage of the rental hikes. So, amendments like this have to happen. It’s our own fault these things are happening.

      • Posted by diverj

        And what is to prevent tenants from then charging additional tenants even more? Basically they can run a hotel out of a rental

      • Posted by SFrentier

        Oh, ok genius. So you mean to tell me that when you have a vacancy you’ll just make a modest rent increase for the new tenant, and not bring the unit to market rent? Liar.

      • Posted by Property Is Theft

        Miah, sounds like you will know the answer to this apparently simple question.

        What is the percentage threshold of maximum of allowable rent charged that determines whether a landlord is Good (helping people to afford to live here, a.k.a. “sharing what they have” albeit at a profit), versus Evil (speculating and greedy)? Is it 50%? Or 80%?

        What about a landlord charging 100% but helping family members through school or with healthcare? Still gonna burn in hell?

      • Posted by MysteryRealtor

        Miah, with all due respect; you are lying.
        If you really owned property in SF yourself you would have a different ‘tude. I highly doubt you have ever written a property tax payment check to the CCSF? Do you even know when they are due? I think not.

    • Posted by Hitman

      I’m a landlord – right on! It is better to just Ellis and TIC then go to south Beach and buy a nice non-RC condo. Miah’s mentality is pure subsidized tenant thought. She ain’t no landlord. I call BS

  4. Posted by SF resident

    Yes, f$&k SF. This is ridiculous!
    There will be no more mom + pop landlords left.

    • Posted by anon

      So they’ll be forced to sell for massive profit to large landlords. Cry me a river.

  5. Posted by Hitman

    If you are a mom & pop and you can: Ellis and sell out!

  6. Posted by Reluctantlyvacant

    +1 on the mom-and-pop case. I own and live in a 2-unit Victorian flat in Castro. My friend is moving out from the other unit soon. Stuff like this means that there’s no way I will rent on the open market. I’d love to, and I could afford to rent cheaply if I also had some control, like enforceable lease terms. I’m generally pro-tax and way left, but my home is the vast majority of my wealth and I’d be an idiot to hand it to anyone.

    To the other points: It’s my home, not just an investment, so I’m not going to “get out of the business.” Instead the second unit will sit empty unless I have friends or family visiting. You lose, SF.

    • Posted by anon

      If you’re letting the unit sit empty, you are “getting out of the business”.

      • Posted by Reluctantlyvacant

        Yes, but not in the sense that I’m selling and making the unit rentable. More in the sense that the number of occupied units decreases by one.

        Seriously, the situation with tenants who live in the same duplex is so absurd they made a movie in the 90s about it. Pacific Heights.

        • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

          One solution: airbnb, within the limits of the law

    • Posted by Scotty

      I’ll rent from you with reasonable terms ;-)

  7. Posted by Steve

    So, as tenant’s add more roommates, the landlord’s water, sewer, and garbage bills increase and he can’t
    pass that on to the tenants? How reasonable of the [Supervisors].

    • Posted by anon

      Sure he can, I’ve lived in several different places in SF and never had the landlord pay for those things. What in the world are you talking about? If the landlord was dumb enough to include free utilities in the lease, well, bad things happen to dumb people.

  8. Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

    Once again, you landlords are missing the point. This is yet another opportunity to mint money. Sure, with respect to existing leases you will have to tolerate another person living in the unit and paying the extra $8 for water. But with vacant units, you’ll now be able to cram three bunkbeds in each bedroom and, for a crummy 2BR flat, sign 12 leases at $500/mo. and get $6000 for the place. It will fill up immediately by removing the slack in affordable rentals. Landlords win again!

  9. Posted by EcceMorons

    The tenants who are showing up here and pretending to be landlords are pretty annoying as far as trolls go. Always remember: Never feed the trolls

    I have a 3 unit rental building. For the most part I’ve been ok with SF rent control laws – because I’ve gotten turnover, and my units are rented at about 80% of market. My tenants are all ecstatic to be here, and I’m happy to have them.

    BUT, if this proposal passes, it gives my tenants the right to add up to 12 additional tenants per unit, based on the size requirements noted. Nothing really prevents them from packing in 12 new tenants and charging them higher rents – and making a huge profit on MY unit. Yes, the rent laws don’t allow that, but have no teeth – the only penalty is if one subtenant complains about being overcharged proportionately, the master tenant(s) must just reimburse him (and him only) for the overcharge. It’s like having embezzlement laws that say “If you steal $100,000, if you don’t get caught, you’re fine, but if you get caught, the only penalty is you have to return the $100,000, and you’re free to resume embezzling.”

    Although my situation is happy for both me and my tenants, if this proposal passes, I’ll Ellis Act immediately. I can’t have my tenants turning their 4 bedroom flats into flophouses. Yes, my dear “tenant commentators” – I WILL go out of the business, and my tenants will lose their homes. No need to shed tears for me, I’ll profit from turning my units into TIC’s – shed them for my tenants who will be booted out and have to pay much more to rent elsewhere.

    • Posted by Reluctantlyvacant

      Ignoring political realities, what would encourage landlords to rent, and be fair to tenants?

      It seems to me that rent stabilization works pretty well in NYC – limits the amount of increases, but provides far more substantial increases than SF, which doesn’t cover costs.

      Other ideas?

    • Posted by snapshotist

      Just because a landlord disagrees with you doesn’t nullify them. I’m a landlord. I’m a renter. I’m totally okay with this. Then again, my unit is about $500 under market value and since I’m not a greedy person who wants to contribute to the skyrocketing rents, it doesn’t matter to me to leave that money on the table. I still make money off the property at its current rent and I give someone a place to live. The money I don’t take out of their pocket will hopefully allow them to save and be as lucky as I am to buy property someday. It probably makes me a “socialist” to want to share in wealth and not horde it all.

  10. Posted by Joseph A

    its an absurd change that would hate as a tenant ,
    Imagine the traffic if the one bedroom apartment next door became a crash pad for 6 guys ?

    I think its silly , and that a lease should be allowed to have tenant occupancy limits ,
    Water Usage, and just the impact on a property when you have extra traffic can be significant , plus it can have a huge impact on the buildings community

  11. Posted by AnnaNg

    Terrible for everyone.
    Chris Daly tried to pass something like this in the recession – it did not pass.
    Imagine 10 people living all around you – this should upset tenants & owners.
    Enough SF – AVALOS HAS GOT TO GO!

  12. Posted by spencer

    utter insanity that you cant put a limit of number of renters in a property that YOU OWN.

    if i were a landlord i try to only rent to a couple. let in a group of young single people and pretty soon you have a frat house without anyway to stop it

  13. Posted by Scoop B Sails

    I imagine if passed it will only be eventually overturned along legitimate hazhard concerns, both in terms of municipal fire safety and insurance policies.

  14. Posted by unlivable city

    John Avarice

  15. Posted by AnnaNg

    What is the source of this news anyway?

  16. Posted by Dolores Guerrero

    The supervisors on the land use and economic development committee are Wiener, Kim and Cohen. If you oppose this legislation, as I do, please write to them and let them know. I live in Wiener’s district and have already written to him.

  17. Posted by MichelleL

    Do you think this could pass? Ugh. We are small mom and pop landlords who rent out two three bedroom units at BMR rates in our three unit building which was condo converted about seven years ago. We never sold because we like our tenant neighbors. I feel the city is forcing our hand to get out of the landlord business :(

  18. Posted by Bill H

    Stupidest idea yet – this will result only further eliminating rent control rentals in the city, more buildings will be Ellis acted and/or sold as TIC units, most of these tenant occupied TIC’s will end up an OMI eviction.

    Landlords still willing to lease places will be forced to raise prices to cover utility bills alone, quickly turning a 400 square ft studio from a $2000 rental to a $3500 rental that a group of 5 or 6 guys will happily pay for.

    The only logical conclusion here is that Avalos is to stupid to hold public office or a pawn for some group poised to profit from decrease in rentals or legal activity this will result in.

    Please, please don’t vote for this guy or property owner hater Jane Kim – they don’t understand basic economics or are totally corrupt, maybe both.

  19. Posted by geekgrrl

    I can’t find the specific building or planning code reference but I am certain the 70 square feet per person refers to the bedroom specifically – NOT the square footage of the entire dwelling unit. The size of the living room, kitchen, etc, is irrelevant.

    So if a bedroom is 140 square feet, then 2 people can sleep there.
    IIRC, non-master bedrooms are @ 120 square feet.

    Plus, the state and city building codes for plumbing alone must have limits as to how many people can be living in a residential apartment, the city infrastructure can only take so much.

  20. Posted by parklife

    Perhaps the BoS should just cut to the chase and revoke all of the provisions contained in rental leases. I just cannot understand why a contract agreed upon by two independent parties is subject to constant revisions at the whim of the BoS.

  21. Posted by MissionGal

    I think the BoS should determine how much all the units in SF should rent for, i.e.: Studio = $500/month, 1BR = $700/month, 2BR=$900 and so forth. And rent increase is only allowed at 0.1%/year, just like in 2010.
    Oh better yet, homeowners should be obligated to put their district supervisor’s name on the grant deed.

  22. Posted by Tax the tenants

    Time to implement a tenants tax. The small landlord teat is drying up.

    • Posted by strawman scarecrow

      A whiners tax would reap a windfall.

  23. Posted by anon

    So, can someone please clear this up: does the housing code say max 2 people per “bedroom”, or max 2 people per 70sf? The former is pretty reasonable, the latter not so much.

  24. Posted by Alex in Santa Clara

    Let’s say the “clown car” limit for a given property is 20 people, but the landlord prefers 3 tops…

    Can the lease agreement be for $20K per month, with a $1K per month *discount* for every resident below the clown car limit, with a maximum $17K per month discount?

  25. Posted by moz

    Maybe we could just start building a lot more housing to meet the demand.

  26. Posted by Ryan

    As someone who regularly works on construction projects, I can say with some certainty that the code is 70 sq ft for a BEDROOM for 2 people, and it sounds like an addition 50 sq ft per bedroom per person is required. Therefore, as an example, in an apartment with 2 bedrooms of 120 sq ft each (probably slightly larger than average for SF) you could have a max total of 3 people per bedroom, or 6 total tenants. The square footage of the rest of the apartment is irrelevant to the number of tenants.

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