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Four Ways San Francisco Landlords Take Advantage of Tenants by Mark Hooshmand

Mark Hooshmand was featured in the Fall 2018 issue of The Trial Lawyer, writing on four ways San Francisco landlords take advantage of tenants: Housing is a basic human need. The housing crisis in San Francisco has created significant tension as home values skyrocket while the demand for housing continues unabated. To remedy past transgressions, San Francisco enacted Rent Control which limits the annual rental increase along with restricting the grounds for an eviction. Most properties constructed before 1979 have some form of protection. However, as the rental market becomes ever more competitive, the temptations for San Francisco landlords to evict long-term tenants to raise rents and maximize profits is at an all-time high. The numbers support this trend. In 2018, the San Francisco median income was $118,400 for a family of four.1 Individuals with an income between $44,400 and $88,750 qualify for affordable housing units in San Francisco. Yet, the median asking rent in San Francisco for a 2-bedroom is now $4,680 a month, which at $56,160 per year is far beyond the means of the average San Francisco resident.2 Against this backdrop of astronomical rental rates, incidents of landlords going to extreme lengths to force out rent-controlled tenants are becoming unfortunately common. It is important that tenants know their rights and be aware of these various tactics so that they do not become victims of unscrupulous landlords.   San Francisco enacted rent control to address the shortage of decent, safe and sanitary housing. “The [San Francisco Rent] Ordinance addresses these problems by, among other things, imposing rent increase limitations for tenants in occupancy (§ 37.3)3 and limiting...

Common Questions

Know Your Rights. Hooshmand Law Group is dedicated to protecting tenants in the Bay Area and empowering tenants with knowledge and strategies to resolve their housing disputes.  We relentlessly pursue compensation for clients who were wrongfully evicted or damaged as a result of negligence by landlords.  Work with our experienced, persevering attorneys to get the maximum result. Every day our attorneys provide recommendations to tenants in San Francisco, Oakland, and other Bay Area cities.  Call us to schedule a phone consultation or submit your questions online through our website and our attorneys will respond via email or phone depending on your preference. I live in an illegal unit. Do I have tenant’s rights? My landlord is trying to evict me from an in-law unit, basement, garage, or illegal apartment. Do I have to move? How do I know if my unit is illegal? I received a 60-Day Notice to vacate because the Owner or Owner’s Relative wants to move into my unit. What happens now? My lease is up. Do I have to move? What is Rent Control? What does having “Just Cause” to evict mean? How do I know if I should pursue a lawsuit and How should I Choose a Law Firm? Common Questions from Tenants: I live in an illegal unit. Do I have tenant’s rights? Yes, you have rights including suing to recover your rent payments.  The law provides that no rent is owed for the rental of an unpermitted illegal in-law unit (Gruzen v. Henry, Carter v. Cohen) though it is important to talk with an attorney regarding these issues. My landlord is trying...

SF City Attorney Joins Fight Against Landlords That Rented 20 Illegal Units in Laundromat Basement

San Francisco’s city attorney is suing the owner and occupant of a building where he says 20 people were living in squalid, unsafe conditions in the basement of a commercial laundromat. Hooshmand Law Group represents the tenants in a separate lawsuit filed in February. Read more — SF Lawsuit Claims 20 Lived in Laundromat Basement ‘Death Trap’ – NBC Bay Area...

Hooshmand Law Group Files Suit Against Landlord Who Converted Laundromat Basement Into 20-Unit Residential Space

San Francisco Chronicle: …The basement beneath the Clean Wash Center at 4690 Mission St. was known as 5 Persia Ave., an address that doesn’t exist on any map. It was unknown to city building and fire authorities until firefighters, acting on an anonymous tip, inspected the illegally converted storage space one month after the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland killed 36 people at a converted warehouse Dec. 2. Soto and 18 other former tenants, many of whom speak little English, are now suing their former landlord for damages after the city determined it was too hazardous for them to remain there. “No one should be living in this place,” said Idin Kashefipour, their attorney… Lt. Jonathan Baxter, a spokesman for the Fire Department, called the basement a “death trap.” “We determined immediately that there were very egregious fire code violations that were present, that we believed would result in death of occupants if a fire or disaster occurred at that building,” Baxter said. A little more than a month after the inspection, city officials found that none of the code violations had been fixed. They gave the residents 48 hours to leave…The suit contends that the residents’ ouster constituted a no-fault eviction under the city’s rent ordinance. That would entitle those who lived at 5 Persia to thousands of dollars, including reimbursement of the rent they paid to Paredes and money for their “severe emotional distress,” according to the suit. SF Chronicle: Inside the SF Laundromat basement where 2 dozen people...

Judge Rules in Favor of Tenants – Landlord Ordered to Complete Renovations

The Hooshmand Law Group, and attorneys Mark Hooshmand and Tyson Redenbarger, helped the displaced tenants of the Bristol Hotel win a case against the owner for failing to complete renovations in a timely manner. After a three day trial, the San Francisco Superior Court ordered the owner of the Hotel to complete the renovations and return the tenants to their renovated units by August of 2017. The tenants were originally displaced in 2013 for what was claimed to be a three month renovation. However, years later, when work was still incomplete, the tenants filed a lawsuit to enforce their rights to return to Bristol Hotel. The Court’s order is a victory for the tenants who are now entitled to return to their rent controlled units at their prior rent. The Court also ruled that the Bristol Hotel must be properly renovated to code and that the City must approve the work. The Court also approved that a receiver be appointed if the owner failed to complete the renovation. The receiver would have the right to sell the...

City of San Francisco Prevails Against Landlord Anne Kihagi

A recent tentative decision, in favor of the City of San Francisco and tenants, the Court found that landlord Anne Kihagi, and many of her LLCs, were acting in violation of the City’s laws and had wrongfully evicted a number of tenants. Kihagi was found to have illegally forced tenants to leave their apartments though harassment, false owner move in evictions, false relative move in evictions, and other unlawful practices. The Court has tentatively fined Anne Kihagi $2.4 million dollars and issued extensive injunctions curtailing her illegal practices. Information on the case and copies of the Court’s tentative statement of decision can be found...

Hooshmand Law Group Wins Jury Verdict In Favor of Tenants in Fraudulent Relative Move-In Eviction

The Hooshmand Law Group has obtained a judgment in excess of $460,000 for a public school teacher who was wrongfully evicted pursuant to the Owner and Relative Move-In (OMI/RMI) provision of the San Francisco Rent Ordinance (statute below).  After a two-week trial the jury found that the landlords, who had recently purchased the 4-unit building in San Francisco, had acted in bad faith and knowing disregard of the law when they terminated the Plaintiff’s tenancy on the pretext that their brother would be moving into the unit.  The San Francisco Rent Ordinance requires that a landlord or relative for whom a unit is vacated must have a good faith intent to occupy the unit for a period of thirty-six consecutive months.  Often, however, the owner or relative never move in and instead the Landlord rents the unit out at a much higher price. The OMI/RMI provisions of the rent ordinance are among the few “no-fault” bases for evicting a rent controlled tenant, and landlords often abuse these provisions to charge higher rents at current market prices.  Indeed, a recent investigative report by NBC Bay Area found that 1 in 4 evictions under the OMI/RMI law could be fraudulent.  (link below)  While landlords are required to register these evictions with the San Francisco Rent Board, the city does not actively monitor OMI/RMI evictions to ensure the rules are followed.  As a result, many tenants move out and never look back to find out if their former Landlords have complied with their end of the bargain. Tenants evicted under a false OMI/RMI are often displaced from San Francisco entirely, and are...

We Stand With Oakland

Our hearts go out to the victims of the Oakland Ghost Ship fire, their families, and the community. While the housing crisis in the Bay Area is at an all time high, the health and safety of tenants should not be put at risk. We believe that these tragedies can be avoided and urge property owners and landlords to ensure that their units are in compliance with all state and local...

$1,000,000 Total Recovery for Long-Term Tenant Wrongfully Evicted Under a False Owner Move-In

The Hooshmand Law Group recovered $1,000,000 for a tenant who had lived in his unit for more than 40 years before being falsely evicted pursuant to the owner move-in exception under San Francisco Law. The San Francisco law requires that an owner move-in eviction follow certain strict guidelines. The landlord in this case did not follow the guidelines and intended to make a profit on the unit. The owner attempt to conceal the falseness of the eviction; however, the Hooshmand Law Group helped prove the violation and recover significant damages. The recovery compensated the tenant for the loss of a rent controlled unit, damages and emotional...

Hooshmand Law Group Wins Defense Verdict for their Client in Meritless Lawsuit

Senior Associates Stephanie Foster and Jasna Veledar obtained a defense verdict for their client, accused of assault, battery, and elder abuse.  Hooshmand Law Group previously represented the client in a landlord tenant jury trial in which they obtained a successful verdict and damages award against the former landlord in 2013.  The landlord then turned around and brought the civil suit against the client.  HLG continued their representation of the client, past the landlord tenant suit, in order to help the client.   After three days of trial, the jury found in favor of Ms. Foster and Ms. Veledar’s client and concluded that no assault, battery, or elder abuse...

Owner Move-In Evictions San Francisco

A very common type of eviction in San Francisco is one where a tenant is displaced so that an owner or owner’s relative can move into the unit. Under San Francisco Administrative Code Section 37.9(a)(8), subject to certain restrictions, a landlord can evict a tenant to pursue an owner move-in (OMI) eviction only if a) the landlord is going to move into the unit to live, b) if the landlord is living in the building already, or c) if a close relative moves in and lives in the unit. Most importantly, an owner who seeks to recover possession of a unit for an owner or relative to move in must do so in good faith, without ulterior motive, and with honest intent. Unfortunately, however, OMI evictions are frequently abused by landlords who seek to evict tenants from their rent controlled units. Landlord doing an improper OMI eviction generally give tenants warning notices or letters stating that they will be doing an OMI eviction. These notices are often illegal and cause tenants to fear eviction, and often even voluntarily leave the unit. Other landlords take more drastic action by harassing tenants with unauthorized entry into the unit, threats of the owner’s family moving into the unit, or false claims of untimely rental payments. Tenants should not move out pursuant to such letters, threats, or warnings that an OMI eviction is forthcoming. Instead, tenants can fight OMI evictions on bad faith grounds, or for violations of specific requirements and restrictions. First and foremost, other than in very specific circumstances, including if a tenant has lived in the unit for less than...

You Don’t Have To Move If Your Unit Is Rent-Controlled, Even If Your Lease Is Up

If you live in an apartment or rental unit in San Francisco that is covered by the San Francisco Rent Control Ordinance, you may not be evicted by your landlord, even if your written lease with the landlord has expired. Instead, you have the right to continue your tenancy and your landlord may not seek to terminate your tenancy without a “just cause” reason. If you are renting a residential unit that was constructed before June 13, 1979, your unit is likely covered by San Francisco Rent Control. However, there are a few types of buildings that are exempt from Rent Control protection even if they were constructed before June 13, 1979. A few of the most common exemptions are: Dwelling units in non-profit cooperatives own, occupied, and controlled by a majority of the residents; Dwelling units solely owned by a nonprofit public benefit corporation governed by a board of directors, the majority of whom are residents of the dwelling units, and where the corporate bylaws require that rent increases be approved by a majority of the residents; Dwelling units that have been permanently removed from rental housing pursuant to the Ellis Act and Ordinance Section 37.3(d); Commercial spaces where there is incidental and infrequent residential use; Housing accommodations in dormitories owned and operated by an institution of higher education, a high school, or elementary school. If you do reside in a rent-controlled apartment or rental unit, your landlord may only evict you from your unit in limited circumstances where there is a “just cause” reason for eviction. There are 15 just cause reasons for eviction under the Rent...

Oakland Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance

Section 8.22.360 of Measure EE specifies that a landlord can evict a tenant for the following reasons: Failure to pay rent; Breach of lease terms; Failure to sign a lease extension or renewal that contains materially the same terms as the current lease terms; Willful substantial damage to the unit; Disorderly destruction of peace and quiet of other tenants; Use of unit for illegal purpose; Denial of legal access to unit to the landlord, after written notice to cease; Owner seeks in good faith to recover possession of the rental unit for her occupancy as a principal residence, where she has previously occupied the unit as her principal residence and has the right to recover possession for her occupancy as a principal residence under a written rental agreement with the current tenants. Owner seeks in good faith to recover possession for her own use and occupancy as her principal residence, or for the use and occupancy as a principal residence for her spouse, domestic partner, child, parent, or grandparent. Necessary substantial repairs, for a three month temporary relocation; or Owner seeks to remove the property from the rental market as an Ellic Act eviction. The program applies to most buildings with two or more unites that have a certificate of occupancy prior to January 1, 1983. All residential rental units in Oakland are covered by the Oakland Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance with the following exceptions: Rental units in any hospital, skilled nursing facility, or health facility. Rental units in a nonprofit facility that has the primary purpose of providing short term treatment, assistance, or therapy for alcohol, drug,...

‘Hacker Houses’ Short Term Rentals Disruptive to San Francisco Tenants

The concept of “Hacker Houses” or “Hacker Hostels” have become increasingly wide-spread in San Francisco. The owners or hosts of these Hacker Homes claim that their goal is to bring together communities of hackers to work and share ideas with one another under one collaborative roof. In reality, this scheme has created the illegal short-term rentals of individual bunk beds within residential spaces, with as many as five or six beds crammed into one dorm-like room. The average nightly rental rate for each bed can be more than $50.00 and as a result, incentivizes many landlords and tenants to rent out their units on a short-term basis to pocket a higher profit. This has not only created unsafe conditions for the numerous individuals living within these Hacker Houses, but has also caused excessive noise and security concerns for the neighbors residing next to these House Houses. Many of these Hacker Houses will see tens if not hundreds of individuals moving in and out every month, with some staying for a few nights and others, a few weeks. Hacker Houses have also contributed to San Francisco’s growing housing crisis, as an increasing number of residential units are not being utilized or made available for long-term tenants’ use. If you have been affected by a Hacker House or Hacker Hostel, or have information to offer, please contact us at...

Tenant Buyout Agreements Now Regulated With Protections for Tenants

The San Francisco Rent Ordinance has a new section, added on March 7, 2015. Section 37.9E covers the very common tenant buyout agreement, where landlords offer cash buyouts to tenants in exchange for tenants vacating rental units. The ordinance specifies that the main purpose of this Section 37.9E is to increase the fairness of buyout negotiations and agreements. It requires landlords to provide tenants with a statement of their rights and allows tenants to rescind a buyout agreement for up to 45 days after signing the agreement. This reduces the likelihood of landlords pressuring tenants into signing buyout agreements without allowing the tenants sufficient time to consult with a tenants’ rights specialist. The ordinance has a secondary goal of helping the City collect data about buyout agreements. Buyouts are advantageous to landlords because, even if a landlord spends tens of thousands of dollars, the landlord can recoup that cost by retaining ownership and re-renting at market rates or selling the unit. However, the buyout amounts vary wildly and at times are even below minimum relocation benefits, which are required to be paid for all no-fault evictions. As tenant buyouts were unregulated, landlords could use them to circumvent many of the restrictions that apply when a landlord executes a no-fault eviction. In addition, landlords sometimes employ high-pressure tactics and intimidation to induce tenants to sign the agreements. Further, some landlords threaten tenants with eviction if they do not accept the terms of the buyout. Disabled, senior, and catastrophically ill tenants can be particularly vulnerable, and can face greater hurdles in securing new housing. The new law requires that, prior to...

Hooshmand Law Group Among Sponsors of the Public Advocates 44th Anniversary Voices of Conscience Celebration

Hooshmand Law Group is proud to be among the sponsors of the Public Advocates 44th Anniversary, Voices of Conscience Celebration this evening at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Public Advocates Inc. is a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization that challenges the systemic causes of poverty and racial discrimination by strengthening community voices in public policy and achieving tangible legal victories advancing education, housing and transit equity. We are excited to support Public Advocates’ efforts of achieving affordable and equitable housing for all. Hooshmand Law Group is a tenants and consumer rights firm in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more information click...

Notice of Tenants’ Rights

The California Civil Code, as well as the San Francisco Health Code and Housing Code define landlords’ obligations to make and keep rental homes in habitable condition. Inspectors of the Department of Public Health and Department of Building Inspection are responsible for enforcing the respective Health and Housing Codes. All residential landlords, whether they are private property owners or owners of public housing, are subject to the following codes. Property owners are required to provide: Building free of lead hazard and mold. Safe source of heating systems capable of maintaining temperature of at least 68 F at a point midway between the heat source and farthest wall and at 3 feet above the floor of living, sleeping, cooking and eating areas each day between 5 AM and 11 AM and 3 PM to 10 PM. Effective weatherproofing of windows, exterior walls, and roofs. Housing free of garbage, waste, rats, vermin, and bedbugs. Plumbing and gas facilities in good order. Hot and cold running water. Adequate electrical plugs and phone jacks. Well-maintained stairs, floors, and common areas. Additionally, your landlord cannot evict you without “Just Cause.” If your landlord uses unlawful ways to evict you or retaliates against you because you or your relative assert your rights for a safe and habitable home, your landlord may be subject to liability for any actual damages caused to you, including mental or emotional distress. Your landlord cannot force you to vacate the unit without proper notice and, in some cases, appropriate relocation fees. Retaliation can include unlawful rent increases, attempts to unlawfully evict tenants, and reductions in services. If your landlord seeks...

Court Certifies Hooshmand Law Group Class Action

On March 23, 2015, San Mateo Superior Court Judge Marie Weiner certified Plaintiffs’ class action lawsuit against the Marymount Gateway and Summit Apartments in connection with the attempted condo conversion of the Marymount Gateway and Summit Apartments in Pacifica, California. The complaint charges that tenants’ rents were improperly raised and that tenants who moved out were not paid moving expenses. The certified classes are: a) All persons who signed a lease at The Marymount Apartments and whose rent was raised after January 21, 2008, but before March 23, 2015 (the “Raised Rent Class”); and b) All persons who signed a lease at The Marymount Apartments who voluntarily moved out of The Marymount Apartments after December 15, 2008, but before March 23, 2015, and were not paid moving expenses (the “Moving Expense Class”). Hooshmand Law Group was appointed as class counsel and will represent all class members who decide not to opt-out of the class. The Court approved notice can be found here If you believe you qualify to join one or both of classes listed above, please contact Ana Lupascu at (415) 318-5709 or contact...

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