Although this comes as no surprise to most Bay Area residents, San Francisco is the most expensive city for new renters in the United States.1 The opportunity for profits has motivated unscrupulous landlords to engage in all types of nefarious behaviors to displace otherwise law-abiding tenants from coveted rent-controlled apartments. These behaviors often culminate in the filing of unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuits on frivolous grounds, such as the infamous case brought by two tech workers against a San Francisco special education school teacher on the ground that the use of gas and electrical appliances in her in-law unit constituted a “nuisance.”
Each year, hundreds of San Francisco tenants find themselves fighting eviction lawsuits. The San Francisco Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Board’s 2018 Annual Eviction Report indicates that between March 1, 2017, and March 1, 2018, 1,657 San Francisco renters received eviction notices. Although organizations like the Eviction Defense Collaborative2 and the Justice & Diversity Center3have, to date, provided needed eviction defense services to low-income renters, many nonetheless lose their homes by failing to respond to unlawful detainer complaints in time—even in cases where the purported “just cause” for eviction is meritless. In short, landlords in these cases prevail because they have the power and the resources to hire savvy eviction attorneys—not because the law is on their side. Some tenants, unaware of their rights and fearful of having an eviction on their record, simply move out.
Until recently, New York was the only city in the country to provide taxpayer-funded full scope legal representation to tenants in eviction cases. However, on June 5, 2018, San Francisco voters passed Proposition F by a margin of 55.74% to 44.26%, making San Francisco the second city in the United States to provide tenants facing eviction with the right to taxpayer-funded eviction defense counsel.
Under the new law, the City & County of San Francisco is required to create, finance, and manage a program that makes legal counsel available to residential tenants served with notices of eviction or an upcoming lawsuit to evict them. These tenants must be provided with an attorney within thirty days from the date an eviction notice is served or upon service of an unlawful detainer complaint—whichever comes first. Under Proposition F, the representation will be supplied “at least until such time that the eviction notice or unlawful detainer complaint is withdrawn, the case is dismissed, or a judgment in the matter is entered.” Full scope representation will be provided by a designated organization or attorney and this representation include filing responsive pleadings, appearing on behalf of the tenant in court proceedings, and providing legal advice. The Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development has twelve months to formalize a plan to serve all San Francisco residents. For more information on Proposition F, click here.
Whether your landlord is refusing to make necessary repairs in your rental unit, failing to remediate unsafe conditions, or filing a retaliatory eviction lawsuit against you, contact Tenant Law Group to learn more about your rights and remedies.