Tommi Avicolli Mecca protesting evictions outside City Hall. Photo by Andy Mannix. Housing advocate Tommi Avicolli Mecca helped found the city's first LGBT adult homeless shelter. Photo by Andy Mannix.

San Francisco tenants who accrued thousands in rent debt during the pandemic cannot be kicked out onto the street yet, The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously announced on Tuesday. 

“There are many unresolved issues about the rent relief program, but what’s absolutely clear is that we need more time before the protections lapse,” said District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston, who proposed the legislation. “I want to thank my co-sponsors for recognizing the urgency of the moment.”

As statewide eviction protections expire at the end of the month, local housing and tenant advocates worry that thousands of San Franciscans who failed to pay rent will quickly lose their homes. Compelled by the same fear, Preston introduced two-part legislation that seeks to extend local eviction protections through the end of the year. 

He presented part one on Tuesday, which shields renters from nonpayment evictions for 60 days and prohibits late fees or other punishments landlords might impose on tenants. Preston said he’ll pursue more encompassing legislation in the coming weeks. 

In the past, Preston has mentioned copying the pre-existing language of the state moratorium. This keeps tenants safe from nonpayment eviction if they agree to pay 25 percent of their outstanding pandemic rent debt to their landlords. 

Preston said rent protections shouldn’t be eliminated as long as thousands of people are still suffering financially. On Tuesday, the supervisor estimated San Francisco’s rent debt as anywhere between $160 million and $400 million.

Roughly 63 percent of San Francisco residences in 2020 were occupied by renters, making it the city with the largest percentage of tenants in the Bay Area, a report found

With the need so vast, leaders are looking for solutions. A few weeks ago, Mayor London Breed announced $90 million in federal rent relief funds to help dig constituents out of debt, which build upon other city rent relief initiatives. 

“This is a time of tremendous need, and to be sure. But at the same time, we know that help is on the way,” Preston said, referring to these funds. 

Still, only a fraction of San Francisco tenants have actually received any city or state rent relief. 

“Job loss is a major driver of homelessness,” said Jennifer Freidenbach, the executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness. She agreed that local protections should last the year, and then officials could reassess afterward. “You certainly want enough time for the economy to get back on its feet.”

Passage was expected — nine of the supervisors were listed as co-sponsors — and quick. Preston promised that part two of the legislation will “be before us in the coming weeks.”

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Annika Hom

Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused...

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7 Comments

  1. Sure keep extending the moratorium to protect the squatters destroying apartments, those breaking leases, and those who aren’t even financially affected by covid. All landlords want is a chance to protect their property. Allow evictions for nusiances and property damages. Allow them evictions so landlords can move into their own home. Some landlords are currently homeless because they cannot do an owner move in. They even have to pay for poeple to live In their home. At the end of this, renters aren’t going to back pay the rent. They woild probably ask for a “settlement” for the landlord to get their own home back. Which will probably include forgiving back rent and even paying the renter to leave. No one ever thinks of the consequences of extending these policies to others. When this is over, small landlords are going to have high standards for rentals. They aren’t going to take a chance on people with blue collar jobs or restaurant workers.

    1. True that for Mom and Pop landlords.
      Formal evictions rarely happen in the real world.
      In almost all cases a settlement is paid to the Tenant along with a stipulation that nothing negative can be said about the Tenant should future Landlords inquire.
      It is quite expensive for a Landlord to hire an attorney to conduct the process of an eviction.
      Here’s what you, as a Tenant, have going for you:
      1) Free or low cost legal representation.
      2) Call DBI (or threaten to – check with counsel first) – a Landlord’s worst nightmare – every building of a certain age has some type of code violations that can be ferreted out meaning potentially big expenses.
      3) Counter sue for discrimination – Discrimination? Anything you can think of. It’s all good.
      4) Use DBI code violation findings to bolster the habitability argument if calling DBI was recommended by counsel.
      5) Landlord’s counsel will argue strenuously that a jury trial should be avoided at all costs. Not only because of the expense but the sketchy odds a San Francisco jury will find in favor of an evil Landlord no matter what the evidence.
      6) Just before a trial date is set, a settlement conference will be initiated. The City does not want to book up court time with this kind of stuff.
      7) This is when the Tenant’s demands will be met for the reasons that the Landlord just wants the thing to be over with, is already facing a stiff legal bill for representation and is scared sh**less of what DBI may find.

      Yeah – you’ll have to move out but could end up with a chunk in your pocket and any back debt forgiven. Don’t forget to use the DBI gun to the head for bolstering the settlement amount.

      On the flip side – if the unit is rented out again (good chance it will be left vacant), as implied by Cp, the landlord will hire a rental agency to heavily scrutinize prospective tenants. Full credit check, extensive/continuous highly paid employment history, contacts with previous Landlord’s, etc…
      Meaning a tech person of a certain cultural stripe.
      That’s where we’ll end up when the dust from all this settles.
      Ugh.
      The odds of The City actually making the rent relief program a square deal for all parties concerned in a timely manner is slim.

      1. Heavy scrutiny is meaningless. You don’t really know what people are like or will do. Higher income people can be just as rude at paying people they owe. Heck, a good portion of landlords themselves are crooked.

    2. Don’t Classify all hard working (Blue Collar) people as Squatters who don’t have jobs because of the covid-19 pandemic Maybe you’ve never can understand that and maybe you never had such a hardship Show some positive suggestions suggestions instead of making such negativity

      1. Higher income poeple cane be as rude as lower income poeple. Correct. Bad poeple both ways. BUT, if i take a higher income person to court, and get a judgement back. He will have money to pay me back, albeit only part of it after taking into consideration lawyer fees and time wasted. High income will actual care about their credit scores and know how financials work. Sure they could take advantage, but at least i would have a proof they are high income. Also rental asistance don’t apply to high income, only if you make 80% AGI or below. thats around 72k-104k for a family 1-4. So if the tenant makes more than that, they don’t get assistance.

        Low income earners, some are good as well. BUT what makes you think they can back pay the rent? Some don’t want to apply for rental assistance or don’t even qualify. Landlords have to pay the bill for almost an entire year paying, mortgages, insurance, taxes, repairs, and maintence without income. What landlords want is court to open to cases regarding subtenants breaking apartments, nuisances, property destruiction to move forward. OR even for the landlord to do an owner-move in to live in their own home. Why delay cases that have not even had a COVID impact. First the arguement was so poeple won’t crowd together because of COVID. The vaccine is widely available now. Now they switch the reason to homelessness? Well if thats the reason they could extended indefintely then. Claiming…evictions will cause homelessness…..Forcing small landlords to act as public housing without any payment in return and little way to fight for their rights to their own home.

  2. The socialist Preston wants all rental housing to be public housing. Why doesn’t the socialist Preston propose mortgage payment and utility payments like the SF Water Department, property insurance, etc moratoriums? How are property owner suppose to maintain the buildings, pay their mortgages and taxes if the tenants aren’t paying rent?

  3. Of course poeple will still be suffering financially…unemployments benefits are too good. Not required to pay rent? Stimulus checks? Small Landlords have not been paid for over a year and are required to pay property tax, utilities, insurance, and repairs throughout the pandemic. The rental assistance you talk about only help some poeple. Only if you make 80% or below the AGI in San Francisco. If you make above that, you don’t get any assistance. BUT you still can’t get evicted. So basically the landlords won’t get any money from them, or the State programs, and are requried to house them for free. These tenants aren’t going to back pay the rent.

    CP is right, they are just going to hold out as long as they can. Tenants get a free lawyer and they will just drag on cases and request JURY trials. Landlord attorney fees will pile up and landlords will just “Settle” with tenants, forgiving over a year of back rent and giving tenants money to leave. How is this fair for landlords?

    And even if you do get a court date, it will be WELL into the next year and landlords would have been out 2 years of rent and expenses.

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