San Francisco rental regs: Government-organized extortion racket

San Francisco rental regs: Government-organized extortion racket

Buy a property here and you might as well paint a target on your back. That’s what Dan and Maria Levin discovered after they bought a two-unit North Beach home in 2008. They moved in to the upstairs one-bedroom apartment and told the downstairs tenant that they eventually planned to use the downstairs apartment for friends and family. (The state Ellis Act allows property owners to evict tenants without cause if they plan to take the property off the rental market.)

Five years later, the Levins served a notice of termination of tenancy and paid their tenant $2,600 — the first half of a city-mandated relocation payment, with the second half due when the tenant moved out 120 days later. The tenant claimed a disability, which entitled her to a one-year extension and an extra $3,500.

Dan Levin told me the couple knew the rules and expected to pay off the tenant. They were OK with that. But the couple didn’t expect what happened next.

In the spring, by a 9-2 vote, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance that “enhanced” the amount landlords would have to pay so it would compensate tenants for renting a comparable place for two years at market rates. Mayor Ed Lee didn’t sign it, but with a veto-proof majority, it went into effect in June, even for cases already in the works. Factor in city rent control and the new ordinance can mean a big chunk of change. Suddenly, the Levins had to pay their tenant $118,000 to leave.

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