San Francisco has some of the highest rents in the country. However, this has been somewhat tempered during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has opened up the possibilities for landlords and tenants to work out payment plans or otherwise just lowering the rent. In a city like San Francisco that has rent control for some tenants, it's wise to get a handle on the difference between temporary rent reductions and permanent ones.
The pandemic has provided many tenants with an opportunity to change the terms of their rental agreement. Sometimes they have successfully worked with their landlord to terminate their lease early because they want to move to a more affordable neighborhood, or they want to leave the Bay Area entirely. And other times it's an negotiation for a reduction in rent. Then the issue is making the distinction when the reduction should be a permanent one or is temporary.
For rent-controlled units, the San Francisco Rent Board regards temporary rent reductions permissible if the rent is reduced because of a legitimate financial hardship that is specific to that tenant's personal or specific housing situation. For instance, you approach your landlord and tell them that you're having difficulty meeting your rent because you were laid off or your work hours were reduced because of Covid. Maybe you've experienced unexpected expenses due to having to care for your sick relative. They agree to lower your rent, so that you can actually pay it. In these cases, you should have a written record that details the economic hardship, the amount of the reduction, the reason that the reduction is being granted, and the length of time for the reduction.
Under the SF Rent Board, a rent reduction is permanent and can't be rescinded or cancelled if the rent reduction is made because of the market conditions. For example, if your landlord authorizes a rent reduction based on the presence of a vacant comparable next-door unit that is being offered at a lower rate than your apartment, then this rent reduction is permanent. Why? Because it's based on market conditions and not on any personal need or economic hardship that you've suffered. This means that any future rent increases must be based off of the new lower rent amount, which now becomes the new base rent. In these cases, the property owner is probably not permitted to cancel or withdraw the reduction further down the line.
Sometimes property owners will offer you a month free, gift certificates, vouchers or other gimmicks to prevent tenants from leaving so that they don't have to fill up a vacancy. If the landlord has the tenant sign a lease with a higher rent than what the market would warrant just to persuade them to sign the lease, the rebate wouldn't be temporary. This is because it was given due to a soft rental market and not because of the tenant's specific situation. The rebates or incentives are treated in the same way as the straight-forward rent reduction.
It can be difficult to ascertain whether a rent reduction is based on your economic troubles or market conditions. That's why it's crucial to put everything in writing to know where you stand. If you have rent reduction questions or other issues with your landlord, then talk to a Wolford Wayne tenants' rights attorney who can guide you through this complex subject area. Contact us to get started.
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
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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.