Can My Landlord Refuse To Add My Domestic Partner To My Lease?

Can My Landlord Refuse To Add My Domestic Partner To My Lease?

Can My Landlord Refuse To Add My Domestic Partner To My Lease?

How to add my domestic partner to the lease?

I have been the only tenant (master tenant) of my rent controlled studio apartment in San Francisco. I moved in alone in July 2009. The building is from the 1930s and there are at least 30 units. I pay $961, up from $920 at move-in.The most recent rental ad that I saw for a similar unit to mine in the same building shows they are renting for about $1600 now. I looked at my lease and as expected the no subletters detail is in bold print.

My boyfriend has been staying with me informally for a few months, and  only the internet bill is in his name as he wanted to get us better internet service. He also changed his address to mine with the US Postal Service and DMV for his drivers license. His name was not on the lease at his previous apartment, he just rents a room there before our relationship got serious.

Just this week we filed a domestic partnership at SF City Hall. I then emailed the property management company, called The Douche Gang, saying that I’d like to add my domestic partner. They replied that he has to apply and pay the application fee and show proof of income.

This was expected but I’m  nervous because the online info I find is that they can’t deny a domestic partner unreasonably, but if this company is bent on removing me to get a market value renter than how do we know what is considered reasonable? My boyfriend has an old debt to a landlord in Seattle from miscellaneous fees and penalty for painting that unit. I know he can’t be denied for credit reasons but what if it was apartment rental related? As you seem to be aware, San Francisco Rent Ordinance §37.9(a)(2)(B) states in part:

[…] where a rental agreement or lease provision limits the number of occupants or limits or prohibits subletting or assignment, a landlord shall not endeavor to recover possession of a rental unit as a result of the addition to the unit of a tenant’s child, parent, grandchild, grandparent, brother or sister, or the spouse or domestic partner […] of such relatives, or as a result of the addition of the spouse or domestic partner of a  tenant […]

In other words, a tenant cannot be evicted for subletting to his or her spouse or domestic partner. The clause that you’re concerned with can be found in the same  section:

A landlord’s reasonable refusal of the tenant’s written request may not be based on the proposed additional occupant’s lack of creditworthiness, if that person will not be legally obligated to pay some or all of the rent to the landlord.

It’s highly unlikely that The Douche Gang will allow you to create a co-tenancy with your boyfriend, i.e., actually putting his name on the lease. Therefore, he is not obligated to pay any any rent to the landlord.

The Douche Gang cannot refuse to rent to your boyfriend based upon some debt he allegedly owed to a landlord in Seattle. (A landlord who is also a member of the Douche Gang,  judging by the facts you provide.)

Any refusal to rent based on a debt is a refusal based upon credit worthiness–an unreasonable refusal.

Personally, I don’t think landlords should be allowed to refuse consent to adding roommates at all. I also think the credit application fee is a scam.

But I don’t think you should challenge the application or the fee. You should simply remind The Douche Gang that they don’t have a right to refuse your boyfriend’s subtenancy.

Greedy douche baggery, it’s spreading like some kind of zombie virus! But, unlike the zombie movies, we have to remind ourselves that we tenants still outnumber the douches.

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Oral Lease, May I Sublet A Room Using airbnb In My Apartment?

Oral Lease, May I Sublet A Room Using airbnb In My Apartment?

Oral Lease, May I Sublet A Room Using airbnb In My Apartment?

I live in a rent-controlled flat, where I have no written lease prohibiting subletting (I’ve lived here for 22 years). I don’t get along with the landlord, and he has pressured me for years to move out.

I have recently started using Airbnb to sublet a room in the flat. I continue living there. I have been using the rule of thumb that I have always used for longer term subletting, namely, I don’t earn more from a subletter than I pay in rent.

However, I’m now wondering if I’m breaking the law, and if my landlord could use this as an excuse to evict me (he’d jump at the chance).

What does the law say about this?

I get a lot of calls from tenants who have oral rental agreements with their landlords, concerned that they don’t have a written lease. If I ascertain that a caller has a rent controlled tenancy, I always say, “What’s the problem? You’ve got the best lease possible.”

Why? As you correctly state, there are no covenants–promises (terms)–in an oral lease. The only thing you have to do is pay your rent and pay it on the first of the month. An oral agreement rarely contains a promise to refrain from subletting.  California case law affirms that a landlord cannot evict a tenant for breach of an unwritten covenant in a lease.  Subletting your room should not be a problem.

Regardless of the rent charged, subletting your entire apartment on Airbnb could be construed as a violation of San Francisco Administrative Code § 41A, which prohibits the conversion of residential rent controlled units into transient hotel rooms. If you are simply finding roommates through Airbnb, there is no functional difference between finding a roommate there than on Craigslist or or any other venue that advertises for roommates. So you aren’t running afoul of the law or your rental agreement if you rent to a roommate you find on Airbnb.

None of my comments mean that I condone your actions. Your statement, “I don’t earn more from a subletter than I pay in rent,” seems to indicate that you are also profiting from your master tenancy. I take your statement to mean that your subletters pay the entire rent and you live in the flat for free. If that is the case, I think that you are using Airbnb to attract short-term tourists/roommates who don’t know or don’t care that they may have Rent Ordinance protections. If you really meant to say that you pay half the rent, please don’t take some of my comments personally.

You should not believe that you can rent to a series of short-term roommates without eventually violating the San Francisco Rent Ordinance. If one of your roommates decides to stay past the term of the sublease, you won’t have just cause to evict her. When she finds out about her rights under the Rent Ordinance, she will file a petition to reduce her share of the rent because you are overcharging her pursuant to Rent Board Rules & Regulations §6.15C.

If the landlord gets wind of your subletting on Airbnb, he may try to evict you despite the fact that your actions may be legal. It happens all the time. As you can see, the facts of you situation may not play well and you could find yourself in a trial. Do you really have the time and money to adequately defend yourself?

If my assumption that your subtenants pay your entire rent is correct, you are following the landlord playbook to skirt the Rent Ordinance and you’re a freaking tenant! Your landlord sees you as the greedy tenant from hell, preventing him from realizing a better return on his investment. You’re the poster tenant to whom all landlords point justifying repeal of our Rent Ordinance protections.

Just because the law characterizes you as a quasi-landlord doesn’t mean you have to act like a Cheese Ball landlord.

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Living In A Chain Reaction Of Broken Promises

Living In A Chain Reaction Of Broken Promises

Living In A Chain Reaction Of Broken Promises

Broken promises.

I am the subtenant in a 2-bedroom house in the Sunset. I moved here about a year ago paying month-to-month and had no written lease with my roommates (the master tenants.) I have wanted to move for a while because they have a rocky relationship and frequently (1+ times per day) have loud arguments, and they aren’t very financially stable, whereas I have a fairly stressful full-time job, usually get home late and then have to prepare for my next day at home. In April I started looking for a new apartment and had a verbal agreement to sublet with someone else. I told my roommates I was planning to move at the end of the month (the 30th) and they found a new subtenant who left me a check for the deposit dated for the 15th, on the 3rd of the month. They also requested that I move out on the 22nd, which the new subtenants wanted but I could not do. I said no, and they said they might have to find different subtenants. (Also blamed me for not giving 60 days notice, which I never agreed to and don’t remember ever discussing.) They offered me various solutions, such as letting me pro-rate the rent for this month and having me sleep on the couch, which I said I could not do.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my new roommates’ sublease in writing and the day after they left a check for me, I found out my other room was no longer available. I immediately called my current roommate and said I could no longer move, to contact the prospective tenant and ask them to void the check, which she could return to them.

I thought everything was ok (other than having a conversation with one roommate over their arguments.) On the 7th, they asked if we could all have a meeting at a certain time on the 9th. I said ok, thinking it was about telling her boyfriend he was inconsiderate for not cleaning up, yelling all the time, leaving the oven on, etc. I canceled my plans for the evening and prepared for an awkward conversation. It turned out to be more awkward than I imagined, because they told me the prospective new roommates were unhappy and thought they had a binding agreement. Then, they said they were waiting outside and wanted to talk to me. I brought them their check and said I could no longer move, and then they said they had a verbally binding agreement and that my giving notice the first time meant I had to leave, and were further angry that *I* had strung them along for 5 days. In fact, I thought it had all been settled last week that I wasn’t moving, and had never had any contact with them before. My roommates just held back saying “this is awkward” and other vague things while the prospects talked about the inconvenience of having to find a new place to rent. I understand it’s rentpocalyptic out there, but I told them the day after they left their check that I couldn’t move, and had never had any agreement to move out on the days they wanted me out.

I ended up paying the prospective subtenants for the cost of storage for this month just so they would go away.

My question is,

a) Was verbally saying I planned to move out a binding agreement? (Obviously I should have gotten my new room in writing since the same thing happened to me, I guess?)

b) Is a deposit that is put down, but never cashed (because it was dated for the future), considered legally binding even with someone you have never spoken to?

c) Is not having the backbone to say no to a prospective subtenant over the phone, and springing that confrontation onto your current subtenant instead (5 days later, while never notifying me there was any conflict) considered harassment?

In all honesty, I feel like the prospects should have paid *me* for saving them the trouble of ever having my current roommates as master tenants. Ugh.

This is a good question because you present a set of facts and human reaction to those facts which could have occurred thousands of years ago. These misunderstandings among human beings created the basis for the law as we know it.

Of course, the first issue is the failure to record contracts and quasi-contracts. As you know, I harp on this continually. Get it in writing!

For example, your initial notice, had it been in writing and accepted by the master tenants in writing could have been the basis for eviction under California law, but not under the Rent Ordinance. Your month-to-month lease with the master tenants would only require a 30-day notice. (See California Civil Code §1946.)

That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. When the prospective new roommates left you a deposit check, you should have (and probably did) inferred two things: 1) Your master tenants relied on your oral notice and re-rented the room; and 2) The new roommates relied on the master tenants’ promise to rent the room, so they paid you the security deposit.

There is an old legal concept called promissory estoppel. The theory is applied when parties rely upon quasi-contracts–contracts that may not be legally binding, but still enforceable if parties act in reliance upon them. That’s exactly what happened here.

When you rescinded your notice after the master tenants relied on it and rented the room, you put them in jeopardy because the new roommates were within their rights to demand possession. The new roommates detrimentally relied on the master tenants’ promise. Because the new roommates were harmed (they had to put their stuff in storage) they could make a claim against the master tenants. It’s good you owned up and paid for the storage, because the master tenants could have prevailed in that claim against you.

Thinking that everything is ok in the absence of communication about a particular issue is a passive-aggressive bad habit that pervades our culture. Silence does not imply consent. Neither the real world nor the law embraces this concept.

Harassment? Really? Let’s face it, you’re just trying to rationalize your actions–actions which jeopardized everyone in the household.

You may argue that your actions resulted from a similar breach of promise by your prospective new household, but from my point of view, that doesn’t cut it. World history is a chain reaction of broken promises. You gotta own up and take responsibility. I would tell those who changed their minds about renting to you the same thing.

Simply put, in the distant past, people like you got the law ball rolling. Look where we’ve come. The law is a rat’s nest of tortured logic applied strictly to the poor and not so strictly to the rich. It’s here because, millennia ago, people like you wouldn’t keep their promises.

The moral? Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

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My Landlord Said I Could Add Roommates, Then Changed His Mind

My Landlord Said I Could Add Roommates, Then Changed His Mind

My Landlord Said I Could Add Roommates, Then Changed His Mind

Add roommates.

I have lived in the same building for 5 years. It was built in 1913, has 64 units, and is a tax credit building. I am 38 years old, and am on Section 8. In the middle of last year the management rented an apartment through the Veterans Administration to a man who turned out to be a drug dealer. Drug addicts, dealers, and prostitutes started coming into the building. The man was evicted but the people found others in the building to let them in.

These people use the hallways as toilets, have sex in the hallways, sleep in the stairways, and regularly break into the building by both kicking in the front door and climbing up the fire escapes. The manager has done everything he can but the management company and the buildings owner refuses to hire full-time security even though the residents demand it.

People have tried to break into my apartment. And in January our maintenance man, who lives in the building, was assaulted. And out building has been cited by the police department. Is this enough to ask the landlord to pay for me to move (which is extremely hard being on Section 8)? Or what can I do to try to get this terrible situation dealt with?

You evidently don’t understand a basic tenet of life in the United States of America. If you’re poor, you must live in a crime-ridden shit hole.

If you haven’t already, you should start to develop a strategy to hold the building owner accountable by researching past complaints on the building. Go to the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection website: Permit Services > Online Permits and Complaints. You can enter your address to see if other tenants have made similar complaints.

You can also go to the San Francisco Superior Court website: Online Services > Case Name Search to understand what kinds of cases have been filed by and against the owner of the building.

Finally, a simple Google search of the address and owner made be helpful to provide additional information.

Since you confidentially provided your address, I did some online research of your building and found a number of court cases and complaints to the Department of Building Inspection. There was at least one news article that could shed some light about the current issues in the building. At the time the article was written, the tenants in the building seemed to be well organized.

You mention that the residents demanded tighter security and my research indicates that the resident have been organized in the past. The key to getting some action is to organize tenants in the building again. Document your complaints with police reports and photos depicting any defective security devices that can be immediately repaired or replaced. Without compromising your safety or risking an altercation, get photos of anyone engaging the activities you describe.

Organize a letter writing campaign that informs the owners of their obligations and remind them that they could be held liable if someone is assaulted in the building.

Call the City Attorney’s office, (415) 554-4700, to alert them about the security issues and the building owner’s negligence.

Join the San Francisco Tenants Union to get them to help to organize the tenants in the building.

You should complain to the Housing Authority since you are a Section 8 tenant.

You mention that the building is a “tax credit” building. If a building has been subsidized in some manner by a government entity, there may be contractual, ongoing requirements to maintain that subsidy. Find out how the building qualified for the “tax credit.” You may want to report your problems to the agency that oversees the building.

It is highly unlikely that your landlord will pay you to move. In fact, it will be difficult to get the landlord to do anything absent some pressure as I described above.

When you visit the Tenants Union you should pick up the approved attorneys list and discuss the feasibility of a lawsuit with several lawyers.

Remember, the more tenants involved, the better.


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My (Ex) Girlfriend’s Moving Out, Will My Rent Be Going Up?

My (Ex) Girlfriend’s Moving Out, Will My Rent Be Going Up?

My (Ex) Girlfriend’s Moving Out, Will My Rent Be Going Up?

I moved into an apartment with my girlfriend 2.5 years ago. We signed a year-long lease as co-tenants and are now on a month to month. All rent checks come directly from me. The building was built long before 1979 and has about 20 units. The rent is $1850. 

We are now breaking up and she is going to move out. I want to stay in the apartment. Can the land lord increase my rent because she is leaving?

I didn’t edit your space between land and lord because it serves to remind us that, as tenants, we are always subject to the whims of a lord.

The answer to your question, however, is a flat out no. No, the landlord cannot increase your rent beyond the allowable increase set by the Rent Board because you are an original tenant on the lease. Reversing the situation, if you were moving out, your girlfriend could not receive a rent increase either. She too is an original tenant despite the fact that you wrote all the rent checks.

The Costa Hawkins Rent Housing Act, a heinous infringement upon local government and self determination which should be repealed, provides that a landlord can only increase the rent controlled rent upon a subsequent occupant. You’re in the clear as an original tenant.

You will also be able to get a roommate if you so desire because the Rent Ordinance allows for a one-for-one replacement of roommates. Be sure to follow the step-by-step provisions of San Francisco Rent Board Rules & Regulations §6.15A or §6.15B depending on the terms of your lease.

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My Landlord Said I Could Add Roommates, Then Changed His Mind

My Landlord’s Threatening To Evict Me Because My Boyfriend Moved In To Take Care of Me

My Landlord’s Threatening To Evict Me Because My Boyfriend Moved In To Take Care of Me

I saw your post on subletting and assignment. My lease has a blanket prohibition in it but I feel my situation is different than other people’s.

Recently my boyfriend moved in. I asked him after several months of coping with a debilitating injury. I asked the landlord several times to fix the intercom which she never did and I was unable to get groceries or answer my door. I live on the fourth floor of a walk-up. I told her he was coming in writing and why. She responded by saying i had to keep her informed of my condition. I have kept her up to date on a regular basis but it is a tendon injury and can take 6 months to initially recover and even longer before I can lift heavy things. She also prohibited me from giving the door code to anyone and basically made me a prisoner. No laundry service. No ability to live.

My boyfriend and I were broken up. But after one long night of crying and feeling like my stomach was going to implode from hunger, I begged for him to come stay here and help me out. Now, since she spies on everyone in the building, she is threatening to evict me because he is here. Even though being here has allowed me to rest and recover. And I am slowly getting better. I am not better yet and am lucky that I have a job that does not require any walking or standing, and which pays enough to pay the 3500/mo I pay for this 2 bedroom apartment. Trust me he would not have been invited if I didn’t absolutely need a caretaker. I have mounds of doctor bills to prove my injury and she won’t budge. Is there nothing I can do?

To paraphrase David Mamet, the landlord business is a people business. It’s a fucking people business. I’m sure your landlord understands this, but $42,000.00 in annual rent just isn’t the market rate any more. Your landlord must be suffering from compassion fatigue.

Does your boyfriend pay you any rent? If he does not, he cannot be characterized as a subtenant. Does he maintain his own residence despite staying with you much of the time? If he does, you should give the landlord a copy of his lease to show that he is not a subtenant.

If your boyfriend pays your a portion of the rent and he does not live elsewhere he is a subtenant subject to San Francisco Rent Board Rules & Regulations §6.15A. This section is applicable to absolute prohibitions on subletting.

Take a look at your lease and see if it includes these items as stated in Rules & Regulations §6.15A (a)(1-2):

(1) The prohibition against sublet or assignment is set forth in enlarged or boldface type in the lease or rental agreement and is separately initialed by the tenant; or

(2) The landlord has provided the tenant with a written explanation of the meaning of the absolute prohibition, either as part of the written lease or rental agreement, or in a separate writing.

Then take a look at your original letter to the landlord. Did you ask her to add your BF to the tenancy. If you did and she didn’t respond in the negative, the landlord may have waived her right to refuse the subtenancy by not responding in 14 days.

I also noticed that you live in a two-bedroom apartment. If you had a roommate in the past, to add your BF to the tenancy you can simply go through the rest of the steps as outlined in Rules & Regulations §6.15A. The rules allow a one-for-one replacement despite an absolute prohibition on subletting.

Intercom systems are integral to multistory buildings. You should call a housing inspector from the DBI to inspect the intercom and any other potential violations in your unit or the building. Then file a petition for substantial decreases in services at the Rent Board.

I also did a little research to determine if you could request a reasonable accommodation to allow your BF to stay with you pursuant to the Americans with Disability Act. While this is not my area of expertise, I found this from the Disability Rights California website:

The length of time that an impairment affects major life activities may help to determine whether the impairment substantially limits those activities.
Even so, the law expressly states with respect to those “regarded as having such an impairment” that protection under the ADA shall not be given to “impairments that are transitory and minor.”  “A transitory impairment is an impairment with an actual or expected duration of 6 months or less.”

Readers: The next time some free-market wanker starts moaning about market rate rents, give them this example. This is the market jackwad–$42,000 per year for a fourth-floor walkup with no doorbell and a three-headed bitch (Cerberus was a hound) guarding the gates of ones own personal Hades.

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My Crazy Roommate, How Can I Get Her Out?

My Crazy Roommate, How Can I Get Her Out?

My Crazy Roommate, How Can I Get Her Out?

Crazy roommate.

I know you usually write columns for tenants in trouble, and my problem is in my role as a master tenant, but I figure I’d give it a shot. I’ve been in terrible situations as a subtenant (in the last 18 months, I’ve had to move three times because my master tenant moved out and the landlord decided to increase the rent astronomically), and I’m finally finding myself on the other side of the fence.

I live in a rent controlled four-bedroom apartment in a four-unit building in the Inner Sunset. We moved in July 2012, and I am the only one on the lease. The other three subtenants in my apartment pay rent to me, and I handle all utilities, deal with the landlord, etc. There is no written agreement with the subtenants, just a verbal month-to-month agreement. I did not waive their rights to the just cause eviction provisions of the rent ordinance (honestly, I thought that would be a terrible way to start a roommate relationship, and I’m now regretting it).

One of the subtenants, about a month into the lease, started exhibiting upsetting and strange behavior. She has divulged a series of really, really uncomfortable personal details to all of the roommates, refused to do chores agreed upon at our first house meeting, become angry and even hysterical when asked to clean up after herself, and has made everyone on edge to the point where we don’t want to come home.

This crazy roommate has loud angry conversations on the phone in her room about how horrible we all are, is rude when she runs into us in the hallways and to our guests when they come over, and is generally miserable to live with. Understanding my rights as a master tenant, and her rights as a subtenant, I have tried to be civil with her, to hold house meetings to address the problems, but nothing has worked. I have met with the other two subtenants, and we have decided the situation is unlivable, to the point where we think she needs to move out (the ugly alternative being I move out and break the lease).

I’d like to ask the crazy roommate to move out (not evict her), on the hope that she realizes that this is a miserable situation for her, as well as us, but she now refuses to meet. Over the past week, I have sent emails, talked to her in person briefly, and sent more emails. She ignores me, is rude, or flat out refuses to meet.

I guess, my question is, what do I do? Can a subtenant just flat out refuse to meet with a master tenant? I know it’s very difficult to prove that a subtenant is a ‘nuisance’ under the just cause eviction provision, but her behavior is so extreme that is affecting the happiness and well being of all three of her roommates. She has become hysterical and unreasonable to the point where we lock our bedroom doors at night…a situation I never thought I’d be in.

As you know, I come down hard on master tenants, essentially because they are landlords and some of them act like landlords. Master tenants make me mad when they either rip off their roommates or their actions, knowingly or ignorantly, place innocent roommates’ housing in jeopardy. You are not a bad master tenant, just an unfortunate one. But, arguably, you could find yourself on the wrong side of the San Francisco Rent Ordinance very quickly if you’re not careful.

Asking your roommate to move could be construed as a wrongful endeavor to evict her without just cause.

A landlord may not evict a tenant simply because she’s an asshole.

The Rent Ordinance is clear that you are a landlord. Section 37.2(h) defines landlord: “An owner, lessor, sublessor, who receives or is entitled to receive rent for the use and occupancy of any residential rental unit or portion thereof in the City and County of San Francisco […]”

It is illegal to evict a tenant without just cause and proper written notice. (Rent Ordinance §37.9 (c).) It is illegal to (in bad faith) “Influence or attempt to influence a tenant to vacate a rental housing unit through fraud, intimidation or coercion.” (Rent Ordinance §37.10B(a)(5).)

Before she moved in, you should have provided your roommate with a written notice that, as the master tenant, you could evict her without just cause pursuant to San Francisco Rules & Regulations §6.15C. But you didn’t and now you’re regretting it.

Isn’t that the real underlying issue here? Wouldn’t it have been better to observe the reaction you received from your prospective roommate when you informed her that she wouldn’t be protected by the Rent Ordinance? When you informed her that it was important to cooperate with other members of the household?

I run a risk management business. I try to foresee risks, even outlandish ones, and contract around them the best I can. Master tenants should understand that their relationships with prospective roommates begin as business relationships. Clearly, there are many other considerations, given that you will be living under the same roof. But ask yourself: Would you sublet to your best friend even if you knew she could not and would not pay the rent? Wouldn’t do the dishes. Left her used needles around the house?

When interviewing a prospective roommate, a master tenant must first consider the business implications. One of them should include a matter-of-fact discussion of the roommate’s rights as a tenant.

What can you do now? I suggest that you try to mediate your issues with your roommate at the Community Boards. Sometimes a good, observant, third-party mediator can expose the root causes of your household dysfunction. You must mediate with an open mind and try to see your part in the problem. No, you can’t force your roommate to mediate or even meet with you, but you can try to schedule mediation and gently point out the benefits.

If everything fails, you should consider moving out. As with most bad relationships, it’s often good to get out of them. Life’s too short.

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