Tag Archives: rent

Respect the Tech

A quick look at real estate listings in San Francisco is enough to send most people running for the hills (or away from them in this case, and often to the increasingly gentrified East Bay). An average rent of $1,463/month is considered pricey to most, unbearable to many, and is in fact the highest average of any city in the nation.

Faron Stalker is freshman and an English Literature major.

Faron Stalker is freshman and an English Literature major.

The influx of the tech industry to San Francisco bears a lot of responsibility for the rapid and dramatic rent increases that have evicted many low-income individuals and infuriated countless San Francisco natives. The divide between housing activists and tech workers has deepened in recent weeks when attempts to work together — including meetups at Mission District bars between housing activists and members of the tech community —  have turned into heated debate infused with accusation.

At one such meeting, activist Alicia Garza stated that those responsible for the “flavor” in San Francisco are “the folks who were living here before.” Another woman recently interviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle said that all of the tenants of an apartment complex ignored their new neighbor, a tech worker, after she moved into the apartment that had belonged to an elderly woman before she was evicted.

And so should we evict the tech? No. TIME published an article entitled “8 Solutions to the Housing Problem in San Francisco” and not a single suggestion proposed kicking out the tech industry that has recently branched into the city from its roots in Silicon Valley. Just a few of the solutions proposed by TIME and currently in the works with San Francisco government officials include building the promised 30,000 new units (1/3 “permanently affordable”) by 2020, legitimizing the tens of thousands of in-law suites in the city as housing stock, and eliminating the buy-out program currently in place that allows developers to pay a fee to opt out of the city’s requirement that 12% of units new builds with 10+ units must be priced below market rate.

And are the tech critics and housing activists just ignoring all of the headlines boasting the large and charitable donations these tech companies are giving to our beloved San Francisco? Twitter recently promised $388,000 to Tenderloin schools and charities, the founder of Salesforce.com donated $100 million to children’s hospitals, while Google coughed up $6.8 million to provide MUNI passes for low and middle-income youths ages 5-17 for two years.

That is just the beginning of Google’s philanthropic efforts in the city. There was the transformation of the formerly afflicted 6-block Mid-Market corridor that had suffered for years and finally saw improvements as tech giants like Twitter moved in and started investing in the area.

In the city famous for welcoming those scorned elsewhere, our focus should not be on forcing these newcomers out, but collaborating with them and with lawmakers to assure that housing costs are brought down so that San Francisco’s Golden Gate can continue to welcome and provide safe haven for members of the LGBTQ community, hippies, activists, and tech workers alike.

Knowing Your Rights as a Renter Can Help to Reduce Headaches, Landlord Woes

Here are some SF rent laws and tips that all students need to know before the renting season begins:

-Be sure to get everything written down in paper. Make photocopies of all checks, leases, or letters. Anytime you notify your landlord of something, follow up with a letter so you have proof of a request.

-Be cautious of the postings on Craigslist. Bring a parent with you when checking out the properties. Ask to speak to the previous renters or neighbors for more insight into the property and landlord.

-If you are already living in an apartment, the annual allowable rent increase amount effective March 1, 2009 through Feb. 28, 2010 is 2.2 percent. Your landlord may not increase rent more than 2.2 percent than what you are currently paying for it.

-There is an entire eviction process. Landlords cannot simply evict you and expect you to leave immediately. You have the right to challenge the eviction in court. If the landlord wins, the sheriff will post the final eviction notice and evict tenants at the end of notice period. Only the sheriff has the right to remove you from your property. If you win, you can continue to stay in your place. Landlords cannot remove any of your belongings, lock you out of the building, or turn off your utilities. This is a violation of the California Civil Code Section 789.3.

-However, if you are being evicted due to no fault of your own (the owner wants to move in or the building is being significantly improved or demolished), Proposition H allows tenants to receive $4500 in relocation fees, plus an additional $3,000 for seniors or disabled tenants or families with children.

-By law, your landlord is obligated to keep your home in habitable condition. Your landlord must provide adequate heat, weatherproofing of the doors, windows, and roofs, reasonable amount of hot and cold running water, housing free of garbage, rats, and other vermin, as well as working plumbing and gas. You should write your landlord a letter immediately requesting any repairs. Failure to act on your landlord’s behalf can result in penalty fees. Landlords cannot raise your rent because they fixed something in your home.

-Landlords must provide you heating. Section 306 of the Housing Code says landlords can be fined up to $1,000 or imprisoned for up to six months if they do not provide you adequate heating.

-Landlords are required to do a pre-move-out inspection with you. Landlords must also give you the opportunity to fix anything that is wrong. The landlord can only hold your security deposit for “reasonable” cleaning charges, unpaid rent, and extreme damage beyond normal wear and tear. Landlords must give you an itemized receipt of all the deductions from your security deposit. Security deposits must be accounted for or returned in 21 days. Your landlord must also pay interest on your security deposit. The 2008-2009 interest rate for your security deposit is 5.25 percent.

-Landlords cannot enter your home without your consent or the court’s approval. Landlords can only enter your home with your consent if they give you written notice 24 hours in advance in only some circumstances like fixing a repair you both agreed on, to show your home to prospective buyers, renters, contractors, repair persons, if you have already moved out, or if they received a court order.

-Proposition M prohibits landlords from harassing you even if you have not paid rent on time. Prop. M also allows tenants to get rent decreases if they are harassed. Landlords are not allowed to harass you physically or verbally nor can they retaliate by raising rent, ignoring requests for repairs, eviction, or withholding your security deposit if you sue them or report them to the SF Rent Board.

-Landlords cannot block you from entering your own home. They cannot lock you out, change your locks, or remove your door or window. If the landlord does this, call the police. The landlord is violating Penal Code 418.