Recovered on behalf of a group of 30 tenants living in an SRO in San Francisco who were living with horrendous conditions in their rent controlled apartments, including rodents, bedbugs, mold, water leaks and harassment.Read More
Recovered on behalf of three families living in a building in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood who were forced to live with substandard conditions for years as a result of their landlord’s negligence, including issues with lack of heat, lack of hot water and cockroach/rat infestations.Read More
Recovered on behalf of a couple living in a rent-controlled home in the outer Sunset neighborhood. Our clients were forced to vacate after the landlord served them with an Owner Move-In Eviction Notice. After the landlords failed to move into the property, our clients filed suit for wrongful eviction.Read More
Recovered on behalf of a San Francisco tenant in Russian Hill. Tenant was forced to vacate her illegal apartment in retaliation for reporting unlawful rent increases to the San Francisco Rent Board.Read More
Recovered for a single long-term tenant in San Francisco. Our client was forced to move out of his apartment as a result of extreme landlord harassment.Read More
Recovered on behalf of three long-term tenants in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood who were constructively evicted due to noise and nuisance conditions created by their downstairs neighbors, which the owner refused to address.Read More
Recovered on behalf of elderly, disabled tenant who was forced to move out of her rent-controlled San Francisco apartment of 50 years after landlord/owner failed to resolve numerous building code violations that remained outstanding for over a decade.Read More
Recovered on behalf of seven tenants living in a makeshift boarding house in East Palo Alto.Read More
Recovered on behalf of two former San Francisco tenants who were evicted via an Owner Move-In Eviction and owner failed to occupy the unit as her primary place of residence.Read More
Recovered on behalf of an elderly long-term tenant who was forced to vacate her long San Francisco apartment as a result of her landlord’s refusal to address longstanding defective conditions, including lack of heat, mold, rodent infestations, and defective plumbing. Read More
Recovered on behalf of a San Francisco tenant who was forced to vacate his home as a result of ongoing, disruptive construction and the owners’ refusal to provide him with alternative housing. Read More
Recovered on behalf of a San Francisco family that was constructively evicted from their home in the Richmond District as a result of unlawful rent increases, defective conditions and tenant harassment.Read More
Recovered on behalf of a tenant living in an illegal “in-law” unit. In this case, a new owner purchased the building and then demolished our client’s unit without permits while she was displaced for seismic retrofitting.Read More
Recovered on behalf of two long term San Francisco tenants who were fraudulently evicted from their home of over twenty years under the pretext of an owner move-in eviction.Read More
Recovered for tenant who was injured when their stairway railing collapsed at the tenant’s Mission District apartment building.Read More
Recovered in action for a group of tenants forced to vacate their San Francisco apartment house due to severe habitability defects including mold and water leaks.Read More
Not all landlord-tenant issues are between landlords and tenants. If you think you are being overcharged by your roommate you may have a claim at the rent board. There are a number of different terms that get thrown around in the context of landlord/tenant relationships and landlord/tenant law.
However, each of these terms carries with them different rights and obligations.
years of experience in representing tenants.
Housemates who have equal rights in their relationship with the landlord are “co-tenants.” Co-tenants have a direct relationship with the landlord. Most commonly this is reflected in the form of a written lease agreement which lists all co-tenants and the landlord/s. Co-tenants also pay rent directly to the landlord. They cannot evict one another, and are “jointly and severally liable,” which means, among other things, that each of them is legally responsible for paying the entire rent if the other tenants can’t–or won’t–pay, or cause damage to the apartment
A master tenant/subtenant relationship, by contrast, is typically created when one or more housemates move in before the other/s. The most common situation is one in which someone on an existing lease moves out and the others stay and replace the outgoing tenant. This person is commonly referred to as a subtenant. Master tenants are therefore typically named on the written lease (if there is one) and are responsible for writing rent checks to the landlord. Most landlords will only deal with a master tenant and refuse to engage with subtenants as a means to avoid creating a landlord/tenant relationship with the sub-tenant and thus entitling the subtenant to rent control when the last original occupant vacates (See article on Costa-Hawkins for more information).
Because a subtenant has no direct relationship with the landlord, the master tenant steps into the role of landlord in relation to any subtenants they may have. This means that the master tenant takes on many of the basic responsibilities and duties of a landlord, including the right to collect rent and to evict a subtenant
In practice, this often works out smoothly among housemates, with the master tenant simply acting as the point person in communications with the property owners. However, just like with landlords, situations sometimes arise where a master tenant has abused their power or neglected their duties. To avoid a messy situation for all involved, it’s important that both master tenants and subtenants be aware of their rights and responsibilities to one another
To prevent subtenants from getting pushed around, Section 6.15C of the San Francisco Rent Board Rules and Regulations clarifies certain rights
First, just like all San Francisco tenants in buildings built prior to June 1979, San Francisco subtenants whose tenancies began in May 1998 or later cannot be evicted without just cause. However, in a sublease agreement, a subtenant is not entitled to just cause from eviction if the master tenant gave him notice in writing prior to commencement of their subtenancy. (See Section 6.15C(1) of the Rent Ordinance.) If a sublease specifically states that a subtenant is not entitled to eviction protection, that subtenant can be evicted by the master tenant without any reason provided, upon proper notice.
Just like any tenant, subtenants can petition the Rent Board in cases of illegal rent increases, decreases in housing services, or failure to maintain or repair the unit. The only difference? Subtenants who don’t have a relationship with the property owner will affix the relevant petition to a “Subtenant Petition,” and name their master tenants (rather than the owner) as landlord.
When the master tenant and the subtenant(s) are housemates, the Rent Ordinance is clear: the master tenant can charge each subtenant “no more than the subtenant(s)’ proportional share of the total current rent paid to the landlord by the master tenant for the housing and housing services to which the subtenant is entitled under the sub-lease” h3(Rent Ordinance Rules and Regs Sec. 6.15C(3)). For example, a tenant renting a bedroom in a three-bedroom flat should be paying close to one-third of the total rent. The share should be based on square footage, but extra amenities may also be considered. For example, a master tenant is entitled to charge a larger share for a room with a private bathroom, or a parking space. And if the master tenant provides, for example, furnishings or kitchenware, or is solely responsible for dealing with rent and utility bills, these could be considered extra “housing services” that might justify higher rent payments for subtenants.
To protest a disproportionate share of rent or unlawful rent increases by the master tenant, subtenants may file a petition with the Rent Board. The subtenant should provide the total rent for the unit (if known) and the amount paid by each housemate.
Following the subtenant’s filing of this petition, a hearing will be scheduled at which the master and subtenant will get the chance to provide additional evidence and argue their respective sides. If the subtenant prevails, the Administrative Law Judge may adjust their base rent and order the master tenant to refund back rent. Each party may retain an attorney to represent them at the hearing if they so choose, though representation is not required
When a subtenant first moves in, the master tenant is obligated to disclose the unit’s total rent to any subtenants. In order to file a Subtenant Petition with the Rent Board to dispute their share of the rent, a subtenant must know both the rent that the master tenant pays the landlord and the rents of all other subtenants in the unit. If you don’t have that information, and your master tenant refuses to disclose it, your first step would be to write your master tenant a letter citing the h3Rent Board’s Rule 6.15C(2).
For more information or to discuss your legal situation, call us today at (415) 649-6203 for a phone consultation or submit an inquiry below. Please note our firm can only assist tenants residing in San Francisco, Oakland & Berkeley.