Campos Raises Stakes on Tenant Buyouts

by on July 30, 2014

Supervisor David Campos introduced legislation yesterday to close a longtime loophole in San Francisco eviction laws that contribute to San Francisco’s affordability crisis.

The loophole, often referred to as a “buyout,” enables landlords to evade an official eviction by offering tenants money to move. This allows evictions without just cause, often resulting in rising rents and the loss of rent-controlled housing. Since buyouts are not recorded, they also help underestimate the true level of tenant displacement in San Francisco.

Supervisor Campos’s legislation does the following:

  • It requires landlords to provide tenants with information about his or her rights related to buyouts at least 45 days prior to commencing buyout negotiations.
  • It requires landlords to submit any written agreement or material terms of an oral agreement to the Rent Board within 7 days of executing a final buy-out agreement.
  • It grants the Rent Board the power to initiate an administrative action against a landlord who fails to do either of the above.
  • It gives tenants the right to initiate a civil action against a landlord for failure to inform tenants of his or her rights prior to 45 days of commencing buy-out negotiations.
  • It requires the Rent Board to post buyout agreements on its website and beginning in 2016 requires the Rent Board to report to the Board of Supervisors on the frequency and nature of buyouts.
  • Finally, the legislation imposes the same condo conversion prohibitions that are already in place for other no-fault evictions.

“We are currently experiencing a severe housing and affordability crisis,” said Campos. “Despite unprecedented efforts in Sacramento to secure Ellis Act reform, all legislative attempts at the State level failed. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to preserve rent-controlled units, protect tenants from displacement from the City, and to preserve affordable housing.”

Steve Collier, an attorney with the Tenderloin Housing Clinic who defends tenants facing Ellis and other no-fault evictions, praised Campos’ measure.  Collier stated, “The proposed Ordinance will protect tenants who don’t have an attorney and are not educated about their rights from accepting low-ball buyout offers from landlords threatening owner move-in and Ellis evictions. Landlords will not be able to profit by using buyouts as a path to condominium conversion.”

Campos’ legislation will be heard after the Board returns from its summer break.

Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw's latest book is Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America. He is the author of four prior books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. He is also the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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