Thursday, March 5, 2009

Another Brick

This is not the place to discuss why SF Rent Control laws do more harm than good. That's the conventional wisdom among the Econ 101 set, not to mention private property advocates. But that doesn't matter because the people who count never fail to keep trying to impose increasingly technical rules on some of the most basic contractual rules of society. 3 new S.F. rent laws in the works

One proposal would allow a tenant to file a "financial hardship" claim to the Rent
Board's administrative law judge if rent is being increased to more than 33
percent of the tenant's gross income. If the claim is granted, the increase
would not go into effect until it no longer caused financial hardship to the
tenant or until it could be proved that the decision was causing greater
hardship to the landlord than to the renter.

That is simply ridiculous. Since when is it the landlord's problem if the tenant's income fluctuates? And how do you deal with tenants who work on commissions or in seasonal jobs like construction?

Another law would allow renters to add roommates - even if their lease prohibited it- without the landlord increasing the rent. The number of people living in a unit,
however, could not exceed certain numbers: two people in a studio and four
people in a two-bedroom unit, for example. Currently, additional roommates have
to be approved by landlords unless they are family members.

Obviously, landlords should be unable to have any say in who lives on their property. Sounds "fair"

The third law would limit the total amount of rent increases every year to 8 percent
of the tenant's base rent. Advocates said it is common to see banked rent
increases when a property changes hands and the new owner realizes he or she is
entitled to a number of years' worth of increases.

If the proponent of this proposal can find a landlord who doesn't get his measley 1-2% annual increase, I would like to meet him.

The best part of stories like this are the obligatory "hard luck cases" that accompany such stories, and which are meant to demonstrate the injustice of it all. But that only works if you don't have a brain. The "hardlock stories" are almost always full of holes, but City policy is pretty much made based on these bogus tales of woe.

Some tenants said renegotiating their lease is not an option. One 60-year-old Western Addition tenant said she could be forced to move in April, when her landlord plans to raise the rent by about $60. It doesn't sound like much, but the tenant, who was forced to leave her job three years ago because of a back injury, brings in just $800 a month in income - and her rent would top $1,000 come April.

"I've been in San Francisco for well over 20 years, and I worked for more than 30 years - it was a freak accident that devastated me. I feel like the rug was pulled out from under me," said the woman, who did not want her name used because she is in a legal battle with her landlord. "I'm trying to figure out what I am going to do."

OK, so you have $800/month income, but a $60 increase in your rent will leave you short every month because now your rent is $1000. But, uh, doesn't that mean your current rent is $940? How can you afford this now? And, have you ever considered moving and/or finding a roommate?

Then there's this from a professional mooch:
"So many tenants are already living on the edge in terms of their housing being even remotely affordable. They are paying 70, 80 percent of their income already," said Sara Shortt, executive director of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco. "In many cases, if the rent keeps getting higher and higher and at the same time tenants lose their job or are furloughed, then they are going to be forced to leave their homes."

"70, 80 percent of their income" to just pay rent is, of course, completely unsustainble. I know there are a lot of people who come to SF from all over the world and will make a lot of sacrifices to be able to live within the boundaries of the Special City. I have met plenty of college graduates who have paid hundreds of dollars to live in a converted walk-in closet. But, using 80% of your income to pay rent is financially suicidal (what are you eating?). Any law, or tenant's advocate that abets this sort of behavior is not doing the tenant any favors.

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