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Campos Wants San Francisco to Regulate Tenant Buyouts by Landlords

| July 30, 2014
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Bella stands on the back porch of Stephanie Martin Taylor's Noe Valley apartment. Neither dog nor human wanted to relocate. (Stephanie Martin Taylor/KQED)

Bella stands on the back porch of Stephanie Martin Taylor’s Noe Valley apartment. Neither dog nor human wanted to relocate. (Stephanie Martin Taylor/KQED)

San Francisco Supervisor David Campos has introduced legislation aimed at regulating buyout agreements between landlords and their tenants.

Before we get into some of the details, let me say first that I know a little something about buyouts from personal experience: About two years ago, a landlord offered me money to vacate my flat in San Francisco.

Even before I received the buyout offer, I had concluded that, for a variety of reasons, my rent was simply too high to sustain much longer. For me, accepting the offer was a no-brainer — and extra incentive to make the jump as quickly as possible.

My landlord and I drew up a contract and, after finding the city’s dog-friendly options depressingly limited, I moved to the East Bay. Under the agreement, I would receive the money as soon as my landlord sold the two-unit building, which I assumed would happen quickly in Noe Valley’s red-hot real estate market.

I was mistaken — but more on that later.

Tenant rights groups report that for every eviction in the city right now, there are as many as seven buyouts. But it’s hard to say for sure how accurate that estimate is because the city doesn’t keep track.

Campos says if San Francisco is serious about understanding the scope of tenant displacement, it needs to regulate buyouts, just as it does evictions. Furthermore, he says, tenants who agree to buyouts should be aware of their rights so that no one moves out unnecessarily.

“I think it’s really an effort on the part of the city to regulate something that is completely unregulated right now,” Campos says.

Campos says the legislation he’s proposing would:

  • Require landlords offering buyouts to give their tenants information about their rights well before negotiations begin.
  • Require landlords to submit any written agreement or material terms of an oral agreement to the city’s rent board.
  • Grant the rent board power to initiate administrative action against landlords who fail to comply with either of the above regulations.
  • Give tenants the right to initiate civil action against landlords who begin buyout negotiations without first informing the tenant of  his or her rights.
  • Require the rent board to post buyout agreements on its website.
  • Impose the same condo conversion prohibitions that are already in place for no-fault evictions.

The San Francisco Apartment Association, which advocates on behalf of landlords, opposes the idea.

“We just believe that two individuals have a right to make a contract between one another,” says Janan New, the association’s executive director.

“If the legislation does pass, our biggest concern is paying member dollars to sue the city under the First Amendment. And the unfortunate ramification for taxpayers in San Francisco is that they’re going to have to pay for another lawsuit,” she adds.

In other words, stay tuned for what could shape up to be a big battle over buyouts at City Hall.

Now, back to my own story.

I mentioned earlier that I believed that my landlord’s property would sell quickly, and that I would receive the promised payout within months of my move. Perhaps because my downstairs neighbors refused to budge, perhaps because the property itself was a fixer-upper, there were no acceptable offers. He gave up and took the property off the market.

Yikes, I thought. My buyout contract hinged on the assumption that the house would sell. My landlord, an attorney, had no legal reason to cough up the promised payout. For all I knew, it could be generations before the property changed hands.

Lucky for me, the landlord had a heart — not to mention a big infusion of market rate rent from my old apartment’s new tenants. About two months ago, he left a message on my cellphone.

“I have a check for you,” he said.

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Category: Housing, News

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About the Author ()

Stephanie has been a radio news anchor and reporter at KQED since 2005.  She often marvels at the remarkable places her career has taken her -- from Maya Angelou's art-filled living room, to the dark basement copy room of the West Wing, to the windswept Iraqi desert.  Since early childhood, she has loved travel and exploration.  So far, she's been to 46 states and about 40 countries.  She lives in San Francisco with her husband, David. Reach Stephanie Martin Taylor at smartin@kqed.org.
  • Leslie Nope

    Oakland is getting expensive for some as well. Our City Council is beyond inept in that they are trying to pass legislation that tries to “stem gentrification” by blowing up the required affordable housing units that can be built on any project . They are actually going to CAUSE what they seek to stop which is a rapid increase in the cost of housing. Oakland has built so little, and as the author pointed out…he and people like him who are priced out of SF see Oakland as a viable alternative. The second wave is almost here and our Council people are sleeping on the job

  • frenchjr25

    And don’t forget those landlords that buy out tenants who file complaints about the conditions in their building. It’s fairly common. And the landlords rarely fix the problems in the building. Where I live is currently going through it’s 3rd lawsuit in 15 years because of the state of the building. But lawsuits can’t force the owner to fix up the building. It would be good if they could instead of simply buying out the tenants.

  • RM

    Why is a buyout a bad thing if both parties agree to it? It’s the result of tenant protections and I would think it would be viewed positively. I mean the tenant is literally getting a fat check to leave a property they are only renting. It’s a win-win. If I were a tenant I’d be upset that my ability to negotiate a buyout was about to be severely limited.

    • Harry Mann

      Apparently, Campos is concerned that the former rental apartment might be converted into a condominium, you know, a housing unit that someone might buy. What a terrible thought. He probably rolls over at night in his sleep, drenched in sweat, at the thought of it.

  • ralber

    If this proposal becomes law, the biggest impact on tenants will be the last provision listed above – the application of eviction condo conversion provisions to buyouts. If my landlord can’t convert my rental unit to a condominium for 10 years after the buyout, he’s not going to offer me and other tenants as much to move out. Or he won’t offer a buyout at all.

    Buyouts are not evictions. Is there any evidence that landlords can coerce a tenant into accepting a buyout agreement? If so, then legislate to prevent that – don’t create regulations that will reduce the amount renters are offered.

  • Brad

    Campos wants to regulate everything. Can’t wait to see the backside of him and his dangerous policies. This latest attempts adds yet one more reason why a landlord would want out of the rental business.

  • Stupid_Campos

    I am surprised that Campos is able to waste people’s time and taxpayer money to make such a stupid proposal. Does he have a brain?

    It’s pathetic that such an idiot can even be elected as a supervisor.

  • sfreality

    Regulating this seems stupid. What tenant does not already know these rights. Further more now that this would be public record the landlords would need to 1099 the tenants and they would have to pay tax on the buyout amount.

  • SFCitizensAgainstCampos

    Sad Campos (an ivy league lawyer) is just causing more problems and creating more paperwork — so he and his boyfriend (also a lawyer) can just screw more people. And screw tax paying citizens of SF out of more money, just to line Campost’s own pockets and feed his ego.
    SF needs to kick Campos out of the city and out of the state — back to where he came from.
    No to communism Campos.

    • Harry Mann

      A lot of his ideas are popular in the third world, where envy runs rife and suffocates businesses of all kinds.

  • medalist

    Condo’s are outlawed for 10 years anyways. Prohibiting them completely in buildings where a Buy Out has occurred will only make Ellis and TIC properties more widely and generally accepted. Thus, more property owners and more potential buyers will go by this option. It will also make Condo’s even less affordable due to scarcity. It’s too bad the new home (TIC) owners in this city to be stuck with an inferior form of ownership as the result of politicians policies that their property taxes largely pay the salaries and pensions for. Chui is the lessor to two evils between the two on the board, we should vote for Campos into state assembly just to get him off the board! His brand of policy will be less effective in slightly more moderate Sacramento, and him leaving will leave a vacant seat for Lee to fill in D9. Oh, the irony…

  • ray

    A system where someone’s moved in a year ago and has to get bought out if the landlord wants the place empty shows the system is not in place to provide “affordable housing”. More examples, why does someone with a huge paycheck, other assets, or even owning property (and even in SF), have his apt protected under rent control? A powerful lobby, the tenants union – who doesn’t care about fairness or affordable housing for those most in need, but in anyone whl already has cheap rent, keeping it. Result: over 12% of places sit empty, and more will as these new laws are put in place.

  • Harry Mann

    Most San Francisco landlords are decent people. The media and the Board of Supervisors like to demonize them, for some perverse and sometimes self serving political reasons. You see, you need Campos to hold your hand, look over your shoulder, pat you on the back, as he slowly suffocates you both to death, you and your landlord. But he is just looking to spread regulation where he has noticed the absence of regulation, because we all know that more regulation is better regulation, you have to make sure that suffocating sheet of bureaucratic plastic drapes across as much
    territory as it can. You see, these bureaucrats are your friends. They are only looking after you. They know you cannot look out for yourselves. Be afraid, they tell you. Be very afraid. Meanwhile, they are drafting new rules, regulations and forms of all kinds. Because we all like to be ruled, regulated and conform to bureaucratic pressure.