In July 2017, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors amended the Rent Ordinance regarding owner move-in and relative move-in (OMI) evictions. The amendments represent several important changes to OMI evictions. Commencing January 1, 2018, all OMI notices terminating tenancy must include a form prepared by the Rent Board so that the tenant can keep the Board apprised of any future change of address. This way, the Board and the landlord can find the tenant to tell them their rights. A landlord who recovers possession because of an OMI eviction, on or after January 1, 2018, must complete a Statement of Occupancy (SOO) under penalty of perjury on a form prepared by the Rent Board. The SOO must disclose certain information including the date that possession was recovered and proof that the landlord or relative occupies the unit. The landlord must file the SOO with the Board within 90 days after the date of service and shall file an updated statement every 90 days thereafter. Once the landlord has recovered possession, the landlord must file updated statements once a year for 5 years. A landlord’s failure to file a timely SOO carries an administrative penalty in the amount of $250 for the first violation, $500 for the second violation, and $1000 for every subsequent violation. The law has always required that the landlord undertake the OMI eviction in good faith. Good faith is now defined to include the landlord:
(1) not filing the notice of termination of tenancy with the Rent Board, (2) or relative not moving into the unit within 3 months after the landlord recovered possession and then occupying the unit as their principal place of residence for 36 consecutive months, (3) or relative lacking a legitimate, bona fide reason for not moving into the unit within 3 months after recovering possession and/or then not occupying the unit as their principal residence for a minimum of 36 consecutive months, (4) not filing a SOO with the Rent Board, (5) violating the law by renting the unit to a new tenant at a greater rent, and (6) such other factors as a court or the Rent Board may deem relevant. Until now, the statute of limitations for a tenant to sue a landlord for a wrongful OMI eviction was one year from the date the tenant discovered the wrongful conduct. Now, the new law provides that the tenant or Rent Board may bring an action no later than 5 years after the date the landlord files the first SOO, or 3 months after the landlord recovers possession, whichever is earlier. If a landlord re-rents a unit within 5 years after doing serving an OMI notice, the rent is fixed at what the old tenant was required to pay. Previously, there was only a 3 year limitation on adjusting rent to new tenants. For OMI notices served on or after January 1, 2018, any landlord who within 5 years of service of the OMI notice decides to rent again must first offer the unit to the displaced tenant. The landlord must file the offer with the Rent Board within 15 days of the offer. For notices served before January 1, 2018, the offer to the displaced tenant must be made if the unit is offered for rent within 3 years and the offer need not be filed with the Board. For OMI notices filed after January 1, 2018, the Rent Board will send a notice to the unit stating the maximum rent for that unit and updated notices approximately once a year. The purpose of this notice is to let new tenants know if the rent charged following an OMI eviction is proper. It is illegal to charge a tenant an excessive rent within 5 years after serving an OMI notice. A landlord who rents a unit within 5 years of serving a notice is advised to consult with a landlord attorney first. Each month that a landlord charges an excessive rent shall constitute a separate violation of the law! Tenant remedies for violations of the law have increased under the amendment. A tenant is now expressly entitled to injunctive relief and treble damages for excessive rents collected after an OMI unit is re-rented. Perhaps the most disturbing change in the OMI law is a provision that encourages certain tenant law firms - those with a primary mission of protecting the rights of San Francisco tenants - to sue landlords who violate any aspect of the OMI laws. Even without the displaced tenant’s participation or approval, a landlord can get sued by one of these tenant lawyers! It is unclear who is entitled to the recovery of damages in a lawsuit brought by the tenant lawyer. The amendment to the OMI laws will discourage owners and their relative from moving asking tenants to move. Any landlords contemplating an OMI eviction should hire experience legal counsel before serving a notice to vacate and before ever re-renting a displaced tenant’s unit.
© 2017 by Fried & Williams LLP. All Rights Reserved. The information contained in this article is general in nature. For advice on any particular matter, please consult with our attorneys because the facts of your situation may be unique and the law changes from time to time.