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SF Supervisor Proposes Protecting Tenants By Tightening Landlord Buyout Regulations

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- In a bid to tackle the city's housing crisis, San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen is proposing legislation to tighten buyout regulations for landlords.

The legislation aims to keep tenants in their apartments in situations where landlords offer a buyout in exchange for tenants waiving their rights and moving out.

Ronen is set to introduce the legislation at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting.

"Every tenant I know lives in fear of a knock on the door when the landlord tells you that he or she wants you out," Ronen said in a statement.

"Even more intimidating is a letter from your landlord's lawyer, giving you a week to decide between an Ellis eviction and a cash buyout. While the 2014 Buyout Ordinance did a lot to clarify that we are serious about protecting tenants, once again we are seeing landlords and their attorneys finding loopholes to intimidate and force out long-term tenants. We need more effective controls," she said.

In 2014, former Supervisor David Campos authored and the board passed buyout controls, requiring notification, filing and reporting. It also restricted landlords from converting units to condominiums after a buyout agreement had already been filed.

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Despite those controls, tenants are often steamrolled and threatened into making haste buyout decisions, according to Ronen.

Ronen's plan to amend buyout regulations includes requiring landlords to file a declaration under penalty of perjury prior to starting buyout negotiations; requiring a 30-day minimum between buyout negotiations and an agreement; and requiring landlords to clarify whether an eviction settlement agreement filed within 120 days of the start of buyout negotiations is a Buyout Agreement, which is subject to regulation.

"We've intentionally made it hard and expensive for landlords to evict tenants without cause... so we are seeing those types of evictions decrease. Instead though, we are seeing tenants harassed and threatened so that they take a buyout. Ultimately, the result for the tenant is the same--they've lost their home," Sarah Sherburn-Zimmer, executive director of Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, said.

In 2018, the city reported 379 buyouts, with the greatest numbers happening in the Mission District, followed by the Ingleside, Haight-Ashbury and Sunset neighborhoods, Ronen's office said.

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