Judge’s decision a victory for S.F. landlords

Apartment owners in San Francisco found themselves victorious yesterday when a federal judge struck down the city’s effort to block evicted tenants from increasing rents by hiking relocation fees that landlords who go out of the rental business must pay to such tenants.

That law took force in June. It mandates that property owners must pay displaced tenants the difference for two years between current rent and the money required to rent a comparable unit in the city at market rates. In most court cases, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, that amount exceeds $100,000.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said that was a violation of property rights because it means owners are paying for conditions that they didn’t cause, primarily the gap between market rates and maximum charges under rent control as well as the rapidly increasing price of rent. During the one-day trial of the case this month, Breyer said (as quoted by the Chron) that the ordinance “seeks to force the property owner to pay for a broad public problem not of the owner’s making. A property owner did not cause the high market rent to which a tenant who chooses to stay in San Francisco might be exposed, nor cause the lower rent-controlled rate the tenant previously enjoyed.”

He added that the ordinance did not require tenants to spend fees on replacement San Francisco housing – or housing anywhere else. The ruling was stayed until Friday so that the city has time to request a federal appeals court to intervene. City Attorney Dennis Herrera is said by a spokesman to be “very disappointed” by the ruling and in the next few days will decide whether to appeal.

Dreaming of San Francisco? Cece Blase offers local advice to San Francisco buyers, sellers and owners– and feeds the dreams of those who wish they could live in Tony Bennett’s ‘City by the Bay.’ Call 415-577-0809 or email cblase@paragon-re.com. www.ceceblase.com