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Tenant Rights During Building Construction Projects

Tenant Rights During Building Construction Projects

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            Bogaards Davis LLP represents Tenants and we have successfully resolved a number of cases where Landlords have demanded/ required them to relocate and taken away housing services on a temporary and permanent basis during remodel and other types of construction projects. We herein briefly review some of the statutory protections available to Tenants in San Francisco.

Who can benefit?

            The San Francisco Rent Ordinance (Chapter 37A of the San Francisco Administrative Code) applies to rental property with the City and County of San Francisco that received a certificate of occupancy prior to June 13, 1979. 

What if my Landlord Asks Me to Temporarily Relocate?

            Sometimes when Landlords undertake large building rehabilitation projects, it is not possible or safe for Tenants to remain in their units.  The San Francisco Rent Ordinance outlines the rights of Tenants when they are asked to relocate during construction. 

Tenants can only be asked to vacate their units under the following circumstances:  (1)  The Landlord must act in good faith in order to carry out capital improvements or rehabilitation work after obtaining all necessary permits without ulterior reasons and with honest intent.  (2)  Tenants must be given written notice at least 60 days prior to commencement of the work, and be advised of their right to reimbursement.  (3)  A Tenant cannot be required to vacate their unit for a time period of longer than 3 months unless extended by the Rent Board or a judge.  (4)  For displacement of less than 20 days, the Landlord is required to pay the Tenant $320 per day plus actual moving expenses.  As an alternative to providing compensation, a Landlord may provide displaced Tenants with a unit in comparable size, number of bedrooms, accessibility, type, and quality of construction. But this option is only available for displacements less than 20 days (5). For displacements longer than 20 days, the Landlord is required to pay each Tenant $5,890.  Seniors (over the age of 60), disabled persons or children under the age of 18 are each entitled to an additional payment of $3,927.  Relocation fees are capped at $17,670 per unit.   

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What if my Landlord tells me to vacate my Garage or Storage Space?

            The Rent Ordinance prohibits Landlords from taking away certain housing services without notice and compensation.  Garage facilities, parking facilities, driveways, storage spaces, laundry rooms, decks, patios, or gardens on the same lot, or kitchen facilities or lobbies in single room occupancy hotels, supplied in connection with the use or occupancy of a unit are considered “housing services” which require the Landlord to follow the guidelines in the Rent Ordinance.     

            These housing services may not be severed by a Landlord without “just cause.”  Just cause has been defined as a good faith effort to carry out capital improvements or rehabilitation work after obtaining all necessary permits without ulterior reasons and with honest intent.  Tenants must be given written notice at least 30 days prior to commencement of the work. 

            Any severance, reduction or removal permitted by such “just cause” shall be offset by a corresponding reduction in rent.  Either the Tenant or the Landlord may file a petition with the San Francisco Rent Board to determine the amount of rent reduction. 

What about Mandatory Earthquake Seismic Retrofit Work?

A Landlord may temporarily sever one or more housing services in order to perform seismic work required by Building Code Chapter 34B Mandatory Earthquake Retrofit of Wood Frame Buildings if (1) the Landlord has given 30 days written notice to temporarily sever as required by Administrative Code Section 65A.2, accompanied by payment of ½ of the Tenant’s compensation payment, if applicable; (2) the Landlord has obtained all necessary permits on or before the date the notice to temporarily sever is given; (3) the housing service(s) will only be severed for the minimum time required to complete the mandatory seismic work and in no event for a longer period than provided by Building Code Section 106.A.4.4, Table B; and (4) the housing service(s) will be fully restored immediately upon completion of the mandatory seismic work. 

For such temporary severance of one or more of the specified housing services due to mandatory seismic work required by Building Code Chapter 34B, Tenants will not be entitled to a reduction in rent, but Tenants shall be entitled to either compensation or a substitute housing service as provided in Administrative Code Chapter 65A.   The amount of compensation is the lesser of either (1) the cost of obtaining substitute housing services in the area or (2) no more than 15% of total monthly rent pro-rated on a daily basis.  The Tenant or Landlord can petition the Rent Board to determine the amount of compensation. 

Legal Counsel can Protect Your Rights

If you are a Tenant and facing any type of demand or action by your Landlord that may negatively affect your home, please contact Bogaards Davis for a free initial consultation.