San Francisco judge upholds eviction ban during pandemic

San Francisco has consistently been in the front lines  fighting for tenant rights.

Now that Dean Preston, long time tenant attorney, is a member of San Francisco’s legislative body the City is taking firm, substantive action to protect tenants.

Preston’s legislation has been affirmed by an Order signed by Judge Charles Haines.

It firmly places San Francisco on the correct side of decency and human rights for tenants.

San Francisco Chronicle 8.3.2020

A San Francisco Superior Court Judge upheld a city ordinance on Monday that prevents landlords from evicting tenants unable to pay rent or penalties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A coalition of real estate industry and landlord groups — including the San Francisco Apartment Association, the San Francisco Association of Realtors and the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute — sued the city in June, claiming that the law was an unconstitutional overreach.

Judge Charles Haines flatly disagreed, ruling that the ordinance, authored by Supervisor Dean Preston, “is a permissible exercise” of the city’s power to regulate evictions “to promote public welfare.” He also ruled that the law did not conflict with state emergency orders, as the landlord and real estate groups contended.

Tenant Court Win I 8.3.2020.jpg
“This is a resounding victory for vulnerable tenants in San Francisco,” Preston said in a statement following the ruling.

“I  have said from the start, we will not stand by and watch thousands of San Franciscans become homeless because of a pandemic they cannot control, and I’m proud that our legislation has been upheld and vindicated in court,” he said.

Preston’s ordinance also prohibits landlords from charging late fees, penalties and interest related to delayed rent. It does not, however, prevent rent payments from accruing.

The organizations that sued the city argued in their suit that Preston’s legislation foisted an undue burden on housing providers, particularly landlords of smaller properties, who’ve also been hurt financially by the pandemic’s economic fallout.

“Small property owners who have not been able to collect rent since April are struggling with their own mortgages and expenses,” the statement read. “We are reviewing our options moving forward. In the meantime we remain hopeful that Congress will pass a relief package which includes meaningful financial support for renters and out-of-work individuals.”

Lawmakers are scrambling in Sacramento to stave off what many are forecasting to be an unprecedented wave of evictions brought on by the pandemic, and several bills are moving through the Legislature to prevent that from happening. An emergency judicial order that largely halted eviction proceedings for the past four months could end as soon as Aug. 14, heightening the sense of urgency in Sacramento.

One in 7 tenants in California did not pay rent on time last month, according a survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, and nearly 1 in 6 doesn’t expect to pay on time in August either.