New Report on Ellis Act Misuse in San Francisco

by Tenants Together on April 2, 2014

Tenants Together, California’s statewide organization for renters’ rights, today released The Speculator Loophole, Ellis Act Evictions in San Francisco. The comprehensive research quantifies the impact of Ellis Act eviction in San Francisco and who is doing the evicting. The comprehensive research report quantifies the impact of Ellis Act eviction in San Francisco and who is doing the evicting. Based on an examination of property records, rent board data, and corporate filings, the report provides the most detailed analysis to date of misuse of the Ellis Act by speculators. The report also outlines policy proposals that would limit misuse of the Act.

“We are determined to make the discussion of the Ellis Act about facts rather than fiction,” noted Dean Preston, Executive Director of Tenants Together. “Our report removes any doubt that speculator misuse of the Ellis Act is rampant in San Francisco.”

Based on a careful review of the language of the Ellis Act and its legislative history, the report explains how the intent of the Act was to allow landlords, not speculators, to evict tenants to exit the rental housing business. The report looks at the cumulative impact of the Act on San Francisco, finding that 3,610 units have been removed from the rental market in San Francisco under the Ellis Act, and at least 10,000 San Francisco tenants have been displaced.

The timeline of evictions reveals the dominance of speculators in the market. The report finds that 51% of the Ellis Act evictions are commenced by owners within the first year of their ownership of the property, and 78% of by owners within their first five years of ownership. Data is presented over the last five years, as well as a snapshot of the most recent year. The data rebuts claims by Ellis Act proponents that the Act is primarily used by long-time landlords seeking to retire from the rental business.

Also addressed is the issue of evictions by serial evictors. The report finds that 30% of units withdrawn under the Ellis Act are by known serial evictors. Many of these investors have entered, exited, re-entered, and re-exited the rental business, evicting tenants from multiple buildings. The report includes stories of individuals evicted by speculators, as well as profiles of some of the serial evictors.

The report is the product of collaboration between Tenants Together and the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, a San Francisco based group that has led efforts to create visualizations of evictions in San Francisco. In addition to assisting with research and data analysis, the Mapping Project created a unique online portal for the report that includes interactive visualizations.

Senator Mark Leno’s Ellis Act reform bill (SB 1439), backed by a broad coalition including San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, tenant organizations, labor unions, and the tech industry, is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee in Sacramento on April 8, 2014.

The report is available online at www.TenantsTogether.org/ellisreport.

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