Can Our Landlord Kick Us Out When Our Roommate Moves?

Can Our Landlord Kick Us Out When Our Roommate Moves?

Can Our Landlord Kick Us Out When Our Roommate Moves?

I’ve lived at my home for over 2 years, my girl friend and I replaced two roommates who were on the original lease. The house was built in the 1940s and monthly rent has been $2400 the entire duration of lease. The original roommate still left on the original lease is moving out on the first. We would love to stay at the home and replace his room with a good roommate.

The landlord has contacted us stating that he needs us to fill out an application for a new lease – as well as pay a security deposit for the home. To make a long story short, the house has been in terrible shape since we moved in due to the prior roommates who were kicked out- holes in walls, filthy pet damaged carpets, plumbing leaks, paint peeling inside and outside, possible roof leaks/mold, leaking/moldy basement, large gashes in a few walls, broken doors throughout home and the front door frame is extremely damaged and not secure from a safety standpoint.

We spoke to the landlord for the first time today and he wants to meet us to discuss the application and what will happen after he conducts a walk thru with the old roommate to figure out how much security they will get back. After being told about the security deposit and need to show the room to potential roommates.

We asked if/when he would do things like paint and replace carpets and make fixes to the home because of the extreme shape the home was in and he gave us the impression that he wasn’t planning to fix anything and it was up to him to decide if we can even stay here and if he will fix anything while requiring a security deposit.

I’ve done some research and saw that we might qualify for a novation from our roommate who is moving out, which would then make us responsible for paying him any security deposit that would be due back. I do not know if this would be a option for us?

We are just worried that the landlord will either kick us out after we fill out a application, require a huge security deposit without making any fixes to the home or raise rent to an extreme amount. We are in great standing with our old roommate so I’m sure he would be ok with a novation or another option I don’t know about.

What are our options at this point? We are PT students with FT jobs, so a rent raise, having to suddenly move or huge deposit requirement would be too much for us at this point. I would appreciate any advice you could send me- thank you for your time spent on my questions.

I worked at the Homeless Advocacy Project while I was attending law school. In the first year of law school one usually studies contracts. In my case the class was two semesters. I came across the concept of “novation” one day and I asked my boss, a former California Supreme Court clerk, to clarify the meaning.  She looked at me, wryly smiled and said, “You know, Dave, it’s been a long time since I was in law school, but I think novation occurs when the sun goes supernova.”

I still get a laugh when I think of that moment and I have come to understand the irony of her comment–discussing the legal concept of novation in an office full of people desperately trying to survive a bit like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

A novation is the substitution of all new parties in an existing contract. For example, if you stay in the house under the old lease, the landlord is essentially allowing the old roommate to assign the lease to you. By offering you a brand new lease, the landlord is offering a novation. Signing a new document with your roommate, depending on the terms of the existing lease, is usually a waste of time.

Back to my original point, you’ve got bigger fish to fry.

Remember, because you live in a house, a single-family dwelling, you are only protected by the “just cause” provisions of the Rent Ordinance, not the price controls. The landlord can increase the rent as much he wants unless:

1) The dwelling or unit has been cited in an inspection report by the appropriate governmental agency as containing serious health, safety, fire, or building code violations, as defined by Section 17920.3 of the Health and Safety Code, excluding any violation caused by a disaster.
(2) The citation was issued at least 60 days prior to the date of the vacancy.
(3) The cited violation had not been abated when the prior tenant vacated and had remained unabated for 60 days or for a longer period of time. However, the 60-day time period may be extended by the appropriate governmental agency that issued the citation. (California Civil Code §1954.53(f))

However, because you may be approved subtenants, despite the landlord’s request for new applications, it is unlikely he has just cause to evict you, unless he wants to hold you and your roommates responsible for the damage caused by the former roommates (waste).

I think you’re doing everything you can to try to convince the landlord you can be good tenants. I understand that the rental market is tough out there, but why would you want to continue to rent from a slumlord who won’t spend the money to fix a leaky rook? Believe me, from your description, the roof leaks. Why should you have to spend the time and money to repair deferred maintenance? I do believe that you should repair damage caused by you or the other tenants, but that’s it.

Finally, let’s say the landlord does make an agreement with you. You lease the house and sign a one-year lease. Let say you fix up the place and make it cozy. That will certainly give the landlord incentive to increase the rent to whatever the market will bear next year.

If you really want to try to make a deal with the landlord, take your photos and documents to the San Francisco Tenants Union to develop a strategy, which may include calling a housing inspector.

My personal opinion is that you shouldn’t waste your time and energy on this joint. You should be looking for another place to live. You know, bigger fish to fry.

Call the Tenant Lawyers now for a free consultation.
(415) 552-9060

I Think My Master Tenant Is Scamming Me

I Think My Master Tenant Is Scamming Me

I Think My Master Tenant Is Scamming Me

I thought this might be a good question for people like me who sublet temporarily in SF for a couple of months to give themselves more time to look for more permanent housing.

I am subletting an apartment in a 5 unit old Victorian in the Mission District of San Francisco for about 3 months from the original tenant who I met off Craigslist.  The tenant was temporarily leaving to take care of an ill family member on the East Coast.  I offered to write up the sublet contract because she was leaving for the East Coast in 5 days and was clearly distraught and still had a lot of things to take care of.

The tenant asked for an initial payment of the rent for the first month and the last month and an additional security deposit of a month’s rent of $1700 (in cashier’s check), plus utilities of about $60 in addition to rental reference and credit check.  She also asked me to include an option in the contract letting her move back in a week earlier and she promised to pay me back the prorated one week’s worth of rent before I vacated the apartment.  She has 30 days to return my security deposit.  She told me some other things to put in the contract about her plants and keeping the place clean and we agreed on the final version over phone and by email before meeting in person.

Before I moved in I asked to meet her landlord but she assured me she already talked to him.  We met the day before she left, went over the contract together and signed it then she gave me her keys.  A month into the sublet I ran into the landlord who was surprised to meet me and asked if I was living in that apartment.  I explained to him that I was subletting for about 3 months and was equally surprised that he didn’t know about it.  He told me the tenant had previously sublet to another people without telling him and he was unhappy about it but that generally she was an okay tenant who had lived there four years.  After some small talk, we exchanged contact information and he told me to let him know if there were any problems or anything that needed to be fixed.

Since that time, the tenant has exhibited more worrisome irrational behavior. 

1.     She called me trying to change the move back date in the contract to a much earlier date (not what we agreed to) and then promised both over the phone and by email to mail me the payment for the week’s rent plus utilities before my move out date in March (it’s been two weeks and I have not received it).  There is a specific provision in the contract saying that she needs to pay me that amount before I vacate.

2.     When we discussed the security deposit she was cagey saying that she would mail it back to me but she needed to hang on to it for the 30 days. Honestly, there is nothing in her apartment repair or otherwise that would be $1700.  I’ve kept everything the way she left it, watered her plants for her, and I don’t use her dishes or cookware because I have my own

3.     When discussing move out the date, she asked me to vacate the apartment and leave the keys in an envelope in her mailbox because she was going to “emotional” coming back to her apartment and wanted to be alone.  I objected saying that I felt more comfortable handing her the keys in person to make sure she received them, also that we should inspect the apartment together before I left so she could point to things that were “broken” she would use the security deposit to fix.  She reluctantly agreed but I have the feeling she wanted to avoid me.

I am worried that she is going to try to keep both my security deposit and also my week’s rent.  What can I do?  Refuse to vacate the apartment until she pays me at least the week’s rent?  Should I ask for a cashier’s check?  Get her landlord involved in this?  If she doesn’t pay me my security deposit what would I be able to do?  Small claims court?

Do I have any rights as a subletter?  What can I do to protect myself at this point?

I feel bad thinking this way but she has given me the impression that she is hanging on to my money because she’s not doing so well financially.  I don’t think she’s working right now.  Of course, I am hoping for the best but in our interactions with each other she has given me a negative impression of her in a short amount of time.  At first, I felt bad for her and thought this arrangement was mutually beneficial but now I feel like she’s trying to take advantage of me. 

Cases like this drive me crazy. It’s not enough that we in the tenant defense business have to deal with unscrupulous and/or uninformed landlords, we have to deal with tenants who decide they own their units and rent them out like landlords.

Master tenants who sublet in this manner rarely obtain the landlord’s consent to sublet. I write thousands of words complaining about landlords who don’t give a rat’s ass about their tenants. It’s always money. money, money, me, me, me.

The master tenant here is no different. She didn’t bother to consider that she could be subjecting you to a costly lawsuit that could ultimately effect your credit rating to the extent that future landlords won’t rent to you, not to mention that this could be a scam. She’s a Bad Master Tenant.

Luckily you’re not presenting the worst case scenario. The landlord could have served a notice to cure or quit alleging illegal subletting. Then the master tenant and you could spend the next couple of months defending an unlawful detainer (eviction) action–a lawsuit that the landlord would likely win. I have to say , your landlord gracefully handled the news that you were the new subletter.

The master tenant is either oblivious to the Rent Ordinance or she is relying on your naiveté. Bad.

To understand the scope of your rights as a subtenant you should first read Rent Board Rules & Regulations §6.15C. The regulation is very specific. Unless the master tenant has informed you in writing, before you sublet, that you are not subject to the just cause eviction provisions of the Rent Ordinance, the only way the master tenant can evict you is by alleging one of the just causes like nonpayment of rent, nuisance, habitual late payment, etc.

Even if you have been informed that you are not subject to “just cause” eviction, the master tenant would have to serve you a 30-day notice to quit.

Essentially, you have obtained most of the rights of a subtenant and you could tell your new “landlord” that you plan to live in the unit forever.

You also have to ask yourself if she’s simply scamming you. Believe me, that’s more common than one might think. Is she charging you more rent than she pays? What’s with the $5,100.00 charge for a temporary sublet? Did she use the dough to finance her trip? Check the Superior Court website to see if she has been sued for this before.

And here’s a thought for you: It’s not usually a good idea to give a stranger you’ve met on Craiglist over $5,000.00 unless the services are performed immediately.

So what do you do?

The landlord won’t want to get involved and he doesn’t have any duty to you anyway. He might get fed up and evict the entire household, but that does you no good.

I think you should simply tell the master tenant that you will move out, if she returns all of the unused rent  including the security deposit. (BTW, Civil Code §1950.5 provides that the landlord must return the deposit in 21 days, not 30.) She needed to hang onto to it for thirty days? Bad.

When you move out, the transaction should be a “cash for keys” exchange. That’s cash or a cashier’s check, not a rubbery gotcha note.

If the master tenant balks, you’ll know she spent your money. As distasteful as this may be, you may have to tell her that she just acquired a new roommate until she pays you.

You can also move out and sue her in small claims court, but the likelihood of ever collecting is small. The master tenant is unemployed and, think about it, her only source of income may be the next sucker she finds on Craiglist.

Why am I so freaking nasty when it comes to master tenants like this? They screw it up for the rest of us. Ironically, whatever the internal justifications master tenants sublet in this manner–ineptitude, desperation or greed–those justifications provide the fodder for landlords to demand the repeal of rent control. Of course, the repeal of rent control would further subject tenants to landlords’ greed, desperation and ineptitude.  Bad, bad, bad.

Call the Tenant Lawyers now for a free consultation.
(415) 552-9060

My Landlord Won’t Let My Boyfriend Move In

My Landlord Won’t Let My Boyfriend Move In

My Landlord Won’t Let My Boyfriend Move In

BIG fan of the column! Was feeling pretty good about having my boyfriend move into my apartment after your columns the last few weeks, until I hit a snag: my landlord said NO when I asked for permission.

Taking special care to follow every one of your instructions from the past two weeks, I asked my landlord for permission for my boyfriend to move in. I live in a one-bedroom, rent controlled apartment. I pay less than a tenant on a lower floor who has lived there longer. The landlord recently (less than 6 months ago) rented the unit across from me for almost $400 more a month than I’m paying… So when I asked for permission (in writing) his answer was:

“I have reviewed the lease and made a determination. Unfortunately, I must deny your request because the lease is clear on this type of situation. It is my option and wish not to amend our current agreement as set forth by the lease terms. “

There is a use/occupancy clause that says: “Tenant must have the prior written approval of owner if an invitee of Tenant will be present at the premises more than seven consecutive nights or fifteen days in a calendar year.” and

“Assignment and Subletting: Tenant may not assign this agreement nor sublet the whole or any portion of the Premises. This is a blanket prohibition which means that Tenant may not have any other person reside at the premises… no additional tenant or occupant will be allowed in the unit regardless of the relationship between tenant and said proposed occupant.”

The landlord and I talked on the phone and he wouldn’t point to any reason why he is saying no, and he gave me his lawyer’s number to call if I had questions. I asked if he would be willing to do a NEW lease for the two of us (saying “I understand I probably pay the least amount of rent in the building”) and he was not open to that either.

Landlord and I have had a decent relationship thus far. His daughter just moved in below me, so I’m worried that she will find a way to give him just cause (noise) if I make a fuss, or that she will rat me out if he moves in anyway, especially now that the landlord knows we were planning it.
The boyfriend is going to Asia for several months after his lease ends next month, so we don’t have to worry about this until December, when he was going to move in. We were going to look for another place when he got back (one with parking) so it’s not like we were planning on staying forever, but my landlord is being so shady about it that now I want to.

I was planning on getting a recommendation from him in writing before I challenge this nonsense later in the year, so when I am looking to move out, I can worry less about him not recommending me to future landlords. Anything else we can do?

Should I just let the boyfriend move in and try to say he can’t evict me on those grounds? I know I don’t want to be a defendant but I also don’t want to give him the pleasure of having me move out early so he can jack up the rent.

What to do?

I’m happy that reading my columns inspired you to ask the landlord for permission to sublet. You now understand his position on the issue. What if he is correct?

In this case, the landlord may be correct.

The last two TT columns have discussed the effect of replacing a roommate when the lease provides for a landlord’s written consent to do so. In your case the lease absolutely prohibits subletting. If you never had a roommate, you will not be replacing one.

San Francisco Rent Board Rules & Regulations §6.15A is applicable to these facts. The first few paragraphs state:
“This Section 6.15A applies only when a lease or rental agreement includes an absolute prohibition against subletting and assignment.

(a) For agreements entered into on or after May 25, 1998, breach of an absolute prohibition against subletting or assignment may constitute a ground for termination of tenancy pursuant to, and subject to the requirements of, Section 37.9(a)(2) and subsection (b) below, only if such prohibition was adequately disclosed to and agreed to by the tenant at the commencement of the tenancy. For purposes of this subsection, adequate disclosure shall include satisfaction of one of the following requirements:

(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.”

Look at the clause in your lease that relates to assignment and subletting. Does it conform to the Rent Board requirements? It looks like the clause has provided an explanation of a blanket prohibition on subletting. That’s a problem.

Does the lease allow for only 1 person? Are you the only named person on the lease? Have you always lived alone?
If the answers to these questions are “yes”, the no-subletting clause is probably valid. If any of the answers are “no”, you may be able to make a case to add a roommate.

Do not let your boyfriend move in without the landlord’s permission. You will be discovered because the landlord’s daughter lives in the building, but that’s not the point. I never recommend that a tenant blatantly breach a lease unless the clause is illegal or unconscionable.

You can explore two other options. You can ask the landlord to allow your boyfriend to stay as a guest until you find another place. The landlord may want you to give notice to move on a date certain. That could be a problem if you can’t find a new place in time.

Or you can get married or you and your boyfriend can register with the City as domestic partners. Check out “Tenant Troubles: Is My New Husband Going To Get Me Evicted?” to understand how the Rules and Regulations apply.
Before you take any other action, I strongly urge to bring your lease and any other relevant documents to the San Francisco Tenants Union for a counselor to review. You may even want to discuss this with an attorney. The TU has a list of approved tenant attorneys.

Sometimes following the rules won’t get you the answer you wanted. But following the rules won’t get you evicted either.

Call the Tenant Lawyers now for a free consultation.
(415) 552-9060

Is My New Husband Going To Get Me Evicted?

Is My New Husband Going To Get Me Evicted?

Is My New Husband Going To Get Me Evicted?

I live in a four unit rent controlled building in San Francisco. I moved into the one-bedroom apartment in 2005.

My ex-husband moved out in 2009, and I finally got around to telling my landlord in 2010, so I am now the only “original occupant”.

However, my new fiancé has been living with me, and paying all the rent since August 2010.The lease requires that, “a substitution, addition, replacement, or sublet of tenants or roommates is not allowed unless the landlord has given specific, written consent.” and “In the event subsequent occupants, co-occupants or substitute roommates are accepted into this rental unit by prior written consent of the owners, the provision the of sf rent control ordinance, part 6, 6.14 & 6.15 will apply. “

We are going to get married in less than a month, I’m going to change my name, which I don’t think is going to be a problem since I pay my rent through money order. But, apparently him living with me but not on the agreement is a violation.

We wanted to act like he hasn’t been living at this address, and do all the stuff to get him on the agreement, but his credit report will state this address as an address. So, that’s sort of a give-away, right? Is there anything that I could do to help alleviate this situation, or will we have to move when we get back from our honeymoon so I won’t get evicted? I love this apartment so freaking much…

As you noted in your email, in your email your situation is almost exactly like our reader’s last week who wanted to swap girlfriends (on his lease.) If your fiancé had not already moved in, you could very easily use the method prescribed in Rent Board Rules & Regulations §6.15B to request permission form the landlord for him to move in. If your ex-husband was originally on the lease you would simply be making a one-for-one roommate replacement.

Of course it would be difficult to make the replacement now because your fiancé already lives with you. It is always tough to fake the approval process. He could move out and move back in. Or you might argue that he is an original tenant if he has been paying directly to the landlord for the past year. But guess what?

Rent Ordinance § 37.9(a)(2)(B) states: “[…] a landlord shall not endeavor to recover possession of a rental unit[…]as a result of the addition of the spouse or domestic partner of a tenant, so long as the maximum number of occupants stated in Section 37.9(a)(2)(B)(i) and (ii) is not exceeded.” The maximum number of people allowed in a one-bedroom apartment per the regulations is certainly more than two, depending upon which code you read.

Rent Board Rules & Regulations §6.15D also addresses this. Creditworthiness cannot be a bar to the addition of a family member unless the family member is going to be legally liable for paying the rent. In your case, no matter where the money comes from, you’re the person who is legally liable because yours is the only name on the lease.

You do not have to engage in any subterfuge.

Readers: It’s never a good idea to try to backpedal to get a landlord’s consent to the addition of a roommate after the roommate has moved in. Follow the rules before you add a roommate. If you’re married to your roommate (or joined in civil union) you should still understand that the rules apply, but they are much more forgiving.

Go get married, have a great honeymoon and don’t worry about eviction.

Call the Tenant Lawyers now for a free consultation.
(415) 552-9060

I Need To Swap Girlfriends (On My Lease)

I Need To Swap Girlfriends (On My Lease)

I Need To Swap Girlfriends (On My Lease)

Swap girlfriends?

I live in a pre-1979 rent controlled building. I moved in with my GF (we are both on the lease) in 2003. She moved out a while ago and I just left everything lease-wise as is and paid the whole rent. I now want my current GF to move in and get on the lease. Is there anything besides notifying them and filling out the usual rental forms (she has great credit and would get glowing reviews from her current landlord) that I should know? Things always seem so simple until I read emails sent to you, and you point out a whole bushel of stuff that could go wrong.

Your issue actually seems fairly simple.

I’m assuming that you have a clause in your lease that allows subletting with a landlord’s written consent. San Francisco Rent Board Rules and Regulations §6.15B applies if that is the case.

Essentially, if you do not receive a landlord’s consent or the landlord withholds his consent to replacing your roommate, the lack of consent cannot constitute a breach of your lease for purpose of eviction under Rent Ordinance §37.9(a)(2) if you have followed all of the following steps before the new roommate moves in:

“(i) The tenant has requested in writing the permission of the landlord to the sublease or assignment prior to the commencement of the proposed new tenant’s or new subtenant’s occupancy of the unit;

(ii) The proposed new tenant or new subtenant, if requested by the landlord, has completed the landlord’s standard form application, or, in the event the landlord fails to provide an application or has no standard form application, the proposed new tenant or new subtenant has, upon request, provided sufficient information to allow the landlord to conduct a typical background check, including credit information, income information, references, and background information;

(iii) The tenant has provided the landlord five (5) business days to process the proposed new tenant’s or new subtenant’s application;

(iv) The proposed new tenant or new subtenant meets the regular reasonable application standards of the landlord;

(v) The proposed new tenant or new subtenant has agreed to sign and be bound by the current rental agreement between the landlord and the tenant;

(vi) The tenant has not, without good cause, requested landlord consent to a new tenant or new subtenant more than one time per existing tenant residing in the unit during the previous 12 months;

(vii) The tenant is requesting replacement of a departing tenant or tenants with an equal number of new tenants.” (Rules & Regulations §6,15B(b)(1)(i-vii))

If you follow these steps to the letter, you should be okay.

The days of simply replacing your roommate without the landlord’s involvement are long gone. Many tenants don’t realize this. They think they can simply add a roommate and as long as the rent gets paid, no harm no foul. Or they verbally inform the landlord about new roommates without obtaining a consent in writing.

Over the years, landlords in rent-controlled jurisdictions have increasing relied on “no subletting” clauses to evict tenants. Why? To increase the rent, of course.

Just this week, our office is dealing with a case in which the landlord is threatening the tenants with eviction because roommates were added without written consent. The landlord didn’t give a rat’s ass about that until he decided to sell the building and then raised the issue. Remember, buildings are worth more either without tenants or with tenants who are paying market rate.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to prove that a landlord waived his right to consent to subletting. And it is expensive to prove it because to do so means defending an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit.

If you are living with roommates, you must begin to abide by the Rules & Regulations to avoid eviction.

Ask the landlord for his permission to add you new girlfriend to the lease.

Call the Tenant Lawyers now for a free consultation.
(415) 552-9060

Adding A Roommate, Losing A Garage

Adding A Roommate, Losing A Garage

Adding A Roommate, Losing A Garage

I have been in my current (rent-controlled) two-unit apartment here in San Francisco since September 2008. The property manager states they will not process nor approve any application until they have received a positive verbal or written referral from the prior landlord/property manager/roommate.

I am not aware of any city, state or federal law supporting this requirement and understand that a property manager/landlord may only use personal information from an application to rent to confirm proof of income and credit worthiness, and the approval must be completed within a reasonable period of time (as far as I can tell, five business days).

This requirement by the property manager nearly sabotaged my new roommate when, after almost two weeks, they refused to allow him to move in because his prior landlord/roommate apparently wasn’t returning their calls.

My second question: the property manager has also refused to allow me to remain the master tenant on the lease, but instead insists that the new roommate be a co-tenant despite the fact that I have never been late paying the rent (with and without a roommate) since I moved in.

I would like to remain the master tenant (and the new roommate was aware of this wish and agreed to it prior to applying), but the property manager created a “Modification to Lease” placing my new roommate on the lease as a co-tenant.

Under the lease, I am entitled to park two motorcycles and a vehicle in the garage, and since I moved in, have neatly stored items in the storage area (I essentially have sole access to the garage since the tenant downstairs does not drive). After the new roommate moved in, the property manager sent me a letter stating that we must remove all items in the garage despite knowing of the storage matter and no one (that we know of) complained about our storage. I checked the lease and it states, “storage in unit only.”

Are the first two issues lawful, and do I have to move our things despite their constructive notice that I/we have always stored things in the garage/storage room?

All of your issues involve gray (unclear) areas of the law. By that, I mean that your issues, if litigated, will be subject to administrative or judicial interpretation. All of your issues are interesting. And you should understand that when a lawyer says your case is “interesting” that translates as “expensive.”

Can the property manager refuse to process a roommate application without a reference from a former landlord? Rent Board Rules and Regulations § 6.15A and B govern the process by which a roommate can be added to a tenancy. Assuming you have a clause in your lease that allows subletting with the landlord’s written consent (most leases do) the applicable section is 6.15B(b)(ii):

“The proposed new tenant or new subtenant, if requested by the landlord, has completed the landlord’s standard form application, or, in the event the landlord fails to provide an application or has no standard form application, the proposed new tenant or new subtenant has, upon request, provided sufficient information to allow the landlord to conduct a typical background check, including credit information, income information, references, and background information.”

I imagine that most “standard applications” ask for the name of a former landlord. Read narrowly, one could interpret the rules as only requiring the tenant to fill out the application. However, no one is going to argue that the landlord cannot, upon receiving the application, “conduct a typical background check.” There’s the rub. I would certainly argue that a new roommate should not be penalized by a former landlord’s recalcitrance in providing a reference. What if the guy is on an extended silent meditation retreat in an ashram in India? Or recently deceased? What if the new roommate doesn’t have a former landlord, having just moved out of her parents’ house?

The problem is that there is no clear answer. Would it be worth a shot to litigate this at the Rent Board? Perhaps, but in your case you would not have standing to do so because your roommate was, finally, approved.

Can the property manager insist that a new roommate become a co-tenant? Frankly, I’m surprised that they would want to. Your roommate will have all of the rent ordinance protections you now have. Simply put, the landlord cannot increase the rent to market rate if you move out.

The only advantage of being a master tenant is the ability to evict a subtenant, either with or without just cause. (See Rules and Regulations §6.15C.) If your roommate becomes a co-tenant you would not be able to evict her at all because co-tenants cannot evict each other. Personally, I don’t see a problem because I don’t think anyone should want to be a landlord.

That said, you may not have to sign a new lease with the modification as proposed by the property manager, but the law is not completely clear. Rent Ordinance §37.9(a)(5) provides that a tenant can be evicted if he or she refuses to sign a new lease “under such terms which are materially the same as in the previous agreement.” Your roommate is a party to the lease not a term in the lease, yet the modification itself is, arguably, a material new term.

Finally, the storage issue is also subject to interpretation. Your lease specifically requires “storage in unit only.” Did the property manager “waive” that requirement? Waiver is the intentional relinquishment of a known right. That the property managers knew about your storage in the garage is not necessarily enough to prove their intent.

I think the best strategy is to remove the items from the garage. Then consider filing a petition for decrease in services at the Rent Board. Bear in mind that you will have to show that losing the storage has some monetary value; that losing the storage is a substantial decrease; and that the property managers intended to give up their right to demand that you remove the items. It’s a close call.

When presented with cases like this, I ask my clients to think long and hard before they risk their tenancies based upon unsettled issues in the law. For example, if you were my client, I may have advised you not to allow your new roommate to move in had the property manager refused to accept her based on their inability to contact the old landlord.

Defending evictions is expensive, time consuming and stressful. Often it’s better to make a business decision. Ask yourself, “Is my tenancy going to be worth it after I amortize these costs?”

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My Landlord Wants To Jack Up My Rent Because I’m Getting A New Roommate

My Landlord Wants To Jack Up My Rent Because I’m Getting A New Roommate

My Landlord Wants To Jack Up My Rent Because I’m Getting A New Roommate

Jack up the rent.

I am a tenant in a two-bedroom apartment. There are two units in the building and it was certainly built before 1979. I do not have a Section 8 lease with the Housing Authority. The unit is not a condominium. I have been renting this apartment for 5 years with my housemate. We are both on the lease. My housemate is moving out and I want to have another friend move in. I told my landlords this and they said that they want to jack up the rent from $1700 to $2250. I don’t think this is allowed under San Francisco ordinance.

The landlord insisted that he could increase the rent. I resisted. Now he thinks I have to move out with my roommate, writing:

Per your Addendum to Residential Agreement dated 07/22/2005, provision 4: ‘All tenants shall move in and out together as one tenancy.’ Therefore, per the agreement signed by you and (name redacted), both of you have to move out and the lease is terminated. Please vacate the property within two weeks. Thank you.

P.S. For your knowledge: I contacted San Francisco Housing Authority and it stated that the Landlord can increase the rent if the new tenant/roommate moves in.

Does my landlord have any justification to evict me?

No, no, no!

Before I go off on your landlord I want to point out to my readers that your opening statements about the facts of your tenancy tell me everything I need to know to answer your question. I can tell that you live in a unit that is subject to both the rent control and just cause provisions of the Rent Ordinance. That means the landlord can only increase the rent as much as allowed under the ordinance and that he must have a “just cause” to evict you. I know that you are an original tenant on the lease. I also know that the landlord is not going to get any information from the Housing Authority other than, “Call the Rent Board.”

To be fair to your landlord, if he called the Rent Board and asked the question, “Can we raise the rent for a new tenant moving in?” without anything else, the Rent Board might tell him that he can raise the rent.

But you are not a new tenant. If the landlord forgot to mention that important fact, he is not the sharpest tool in the shed. Of course sending an email with an illegal notice to vacate isn’t very bright either.

The other possibility is that the landlord thinks he can lie about his call and expect you to rely on his information. All in all, I think it might be fair to characterize your landlord as a stupid liar.

What should you do?

First become familiar with Rent Ordinance Rules & Regulations §6.15A and §6.15B. As you may know the Rent Board provides “Information to Go” on subletting and many other topics.

Follow the applicable rule to the letter. Write the landlord(s) to request permission to sublet to your friend before he or she moves in. Your friend should be willing to provide all the necessary credit information to the landlord(s).

If they fail to respond or they unreasonably withhold their consent, you can petition the Rent Board to reduce your rent by half. In this case it might be wise to provide the landlords copies of the applicable laws and procedures.

It’s best not to allow your friend to move in until the dust settles. You don’t want to defend an unlawful detainer (eviction). Even when you are in the right, defending an eviction is often too costly to justify. Landlords rely on that and file meritless lawsuits all the time.

If your landlord insists upon requiring you to vacate, you should point out that the clause in the addendum (likely penned by the landlord and their imaginary lawyer) is void as against public policy. It’s an attempt by the landlord to arbitrarily remove themselves from Rent Ordinance Jurisdiction. It’s like putting a clause in the lease that allows the landlord to raise the rent whenever he wants, regardless of the law.

Join the San Francisco Tenants Union. Bring all of your documentation and discuss the issue with them. They will explain the applicable law in detail and help you draft a letter or letters to your landlord. They can also inform you about filing a petition at the Rent Board.

Readers: This was an easier question to answer because the reader is an “original tenant” named on the lease. The issues get murky when dealing with unnamed tenants, “co-occupants”and “subsequent occupants” as defined in Rent Board Rules & Regulations §6.14 and the Costa Hawkins Act (which should be repealed.) There are many scenarios when the landlord can, in fact, increase the rent to market rate. This is not such a scenario. The point is: don’t read this and assume that your landlord may not have a valid rationale to increase your rent.

Call the Tenant Lawyers now for a free consultation.
(415) 552-9060