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Landlord Of San Francisco 'Hacker' Homes Responds To KPIX 5 Investigation

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- Last month, KPIX 5 first reported on San Francisco's latest housing trend: a bunk bed for $1,800 a month. Despite phone calls and door knocks, we weren't able to get ahold of the landlord, until now.

After seeing our investigation he agreed to sit down with KPIX 5's Mark Kelly in order to, as he put it, set the record straight.

"I have zero to do with any of that," said Fergus O'Sullivan.

The landlord says he knew nothing about what was going on in his own building in San Francisco's Mission District, until he saw our report.

KPIX 5 found 30 people bunking together in tight quarters, many four to a room. The building department's Rosemary Bosque told us she couldn't confirm whether the rooms were legal size or not, because inspectors can't go in to check unless there's a complaint from inside, and so far there hasn't been.

"Whenever we do an inspection it's a consensual inspection," Bosque said.

O'Sullivan himself said the number of tenants is above the legal limit. "For San Francisco housing guidelines, that is above, that is not within their housing guidelines," he said.

The landlord said he's going to see to it that his tenant, Victor, who advertises the bunk beds on Airbnb, removes any excess beds.

KPIX 5 wanted to ask Victor about that. But he wasn't home, and no one could tell us where to find him.

So what about fomer resident Tarin Towers? She blamed O'Sullivan for forcing her out on the streets when he bought the building.

"There is clearly no reason why this lady should be homeless," O'Sullivan told KPIX 5. He said he paid her and her two roommates the highest real estate buyout in San Francisco history.

"She was fully aware of her rights. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and she clearly, clearly got the grease," he said.

It's something Towers did not argue with. "I wasn't going to hightail it out of there for nothing," she said.

O'Sullivan said other tenants left much faster. "Some of them were happy to take it, to move out of town, to even buy a house in another part of town, it would help their down payment," he said.

They debated over time and in the end, on many occasions they would come back and say 'Fergus, we want this,'" he said.

Jennifer Fieber with the San Francisco Tenants Union disagreed. "Tenants take buyouts because they feel like they have no more options," Fieber said. "We have heard a lot of stories about just harassment, bullying tactics from him," she said.

Fieber estimates Fergus's multiple real estate transactions have displaced more than 100 lower-income residents.

Back in the Mission, O'Sullivan said he expects to have no problem renting out the last three units in Towers' old apartment building, for $10,000 apiece.

"Would they be kids? I don't know. 20-something? I assume they would. We don't discriminate, anyone can rent it," he said.

How much money is the landlord making off the hacker house? $30,000 a month. And once those last three units are rented out, he will be making $60,000 a month in rent on that building alone.

The city's new Office of Short Term Rentals tells Mark these so-called "hacker" homes don't have to abide by the city's short term rental ordinance because most require 30-day minimum stays. After 30 days it's considered residential.

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