A simple, fair tenant bill

Pub date June 5, 2006



A simple, fair tenant bill




Legislation that would ban landlords from arbitrarily eliminating services or restricting access to common space in residential units is likely to get seven votes at the Board of Supervisors June 6th. It’s also likely to get a mayoral veto. So tenant advocates ought to be putting the pressure on Sup. Bevan Dufty, who is one of the mayor’s allies – but is also in a district where a majority of the voters are renters.


The bill, by Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, would end what some tenants say is a growing practice: Landlords suddenly take away parking spaces, access to laundry facilities, or the use of storage space, in the hope that it will drive out tenants who are protected by rent control. The current law forbids evictions without “just cause” – but that provision apparently doesn’t apply to anything other than the actual place where a tenant lives.


There are all sorts of opportunities for abuse here: A landlord could evict a tenant from his or her parking or storage space, then offer to rent it back at a high price. Or those sorts of amenities could be doled out to tenants who never complain about living conditions, and withheld from tenants who try to exercise their rights. Or – most likely – a landlord desperate to get rid of a tenants who is paying below-market rent could take away every possible amenity until that tenant gives up and moves away, allowing the landlord to raise the rent for the next tenant.


The fix is simple, and won’t cost landlords any extra money. Mirarimi’s bill is just basic fairness: If you offer a garage as part of the original rental deal, you can’t suddenly take it back without a valid reason. If you include on-site laundry facilities as part of the lease, you can’t arbitrarily lock the door to the laundry room and give only certain favored tenants a key.


Dufty is up for re-election this fall, and is almost certain to face some serious opposition from the left. With three of the mayor’s four allies – Sean Ellsernd, Michela Alioto-Pier and Finoa Ma – pretty much immovable, Dufty’s been in a position to make or break legislation by being the eighth vote to make a bill veto-proof. And since Newsom has vetoed every significant piece of tenant legislation to come before him, Dufty needs to feel the heat: Is he on the side of tenants – when it matters?


This one is a great test case: The legislation is so simple and fair, it’s hard to imagine how a reasonable landlord could oppose it. Let’s see if Dufty’s willing to stand with the tenants on one that ought to be a no-brainer. Give him a call, at 554-6968.