Stump the Stammtisch: “Should we tenants be worried?”


I rent an apartment on Grove near Clayton over in the Panhandle/North Park area of the city. Our landlord has recently been bringing brokers by to “view” certain apartments in our 6-unit building. Many properties have been for sale in our neighborhood recently, and everything seems to go like hot cakes. Should we tenants be worried?



Not going to touch this one. The long and short, if you’re worried talk to a good landlord/tenant attorney. In general, tenants have A LOT of rights. Anyone else care to elaborate?

8 thoughts on “Stump the Stammtisch: “Should we tenants be worried?”

  1. I wonder if it is the individual TIC loans that are driving people to buy multi-unit apartment buildings, ellis act them, fix them up, and turn around and sell them as TICs.

    A friend lives in a multi-unit apt on Waller and Cole that just got sold. That’s what the new landlord is doing…

    While buying a TIC in a multi-unit apartment carries a lot of risks, individual TIC loans seem to have the ability to mitigate a lot of the risks, thus spurring Ellis evictions.

    Although a tenant has a lot of rights in SF, when it comes to Ellis act unfortunately there is not much a tenant can do — if a landlord follows all the procedures and time lines there is nothing to stop them.

    Here is some info from SF Rent Board: They are quite helpful and can give you a lot of good information.

    In general, the new landlord will try to use the ‘divide and conquer’ strategy to individually work with each tenant and give them a load of BS to get them to move, or to get them to sign waivers in exchange for some $$. If this happens to you I’d suggest you and other tenants keep each other updated on what the landlord has said to each of you, and organize together to deal with the new landlord as a group.

    Further, during the showings you are free to express your opinion about Ellis act eviction, and your plan to fight any eviction to the end and make it difficult for anybody to remove you. You can display some messaging on your windows, inside your apartment, etc., If you have protected tenants in the building, let the new buyer know they’ll be screwing over somebody who is disabled or mentally ill or whatever the disability is — make the hardships human so the new buyer stops seeing a tenant just as a ‘number’ or ‘roadblock to new profit’, and starts seeing them as a reflection of his own karma. In general, when a new buyer sees that the tenants plan to fight, and they know what they are doing, the potential buyer will be reluctant to move any further.

  2. This is an absurd comment and your strategy nothing more than childish. If real estate transactions and the baggage that goes with them could be minimized the City would be a great place. Property owners have a vested financial interest in making the City the best place possible. Renters are also important (as I am one too); however, when you own the place you should be able to make the decisions that logically go along with ownership.

  3. excuse me anon8, are you from the tenants union, or are you actually pro home ownership? WTF- your description of how bldg’s go to TIC is severly biased. yes, some developers ruh to use the ellis act, but many others do spend a lot of time, effort and money to work things out with the tenants. and what’s wrong with dealing with them individually and working things out to also meet their needs?

    SF has draconian tenant measures- and let me remind you that many acts passed by our board of stupidvisors were actually reversed by state law! so just because ‘it’s the law’ in SF does not mean a) it is actually fair and b) it will not get overturned. the BOS has a history of very agressive, anti landlord and anti homeownership legislation. given this environment, bldg owners also have to get agressive, and if they can’t deal with tenants on a personal level, then using the ellis is their best option. this is accentuated by asinine advise such as getting the tenants to gang up on the owner. and your negative bias towards buy outs. well i have news for you- many tenants actually are totally happy with getting buy outs! there is enough tention in this city with property owners and renters, and unfortunatly, your attitude contributes to the hysteria, leading to a scenario where everyone loses.

  4. Sub market tenants generally will not be bought out. The Tenant’s Union actually does advocate the sort of resistance that anon8mizer mentions. Politicizing individual Ellis evictions is what they suggest.

    Yeah, the cards are stacked against us landlords. I have a submarket tenant myself. waaaaay submarket. There’s pretty much nothing I can do about it. He’s a nice old guy. But he and his boyfriend pay a combined $331 a month. Yean, that’s right. $165 each.

  5. Perhaps I let my personal experiences with Ellis act cloud my reaction to this question, so the response wasn’t as “fair and balanced” — a couple of good friends got Ellis acted the past year or so and now have to move out of SF.

    I have no doubt that there are good landlords who are trying their best to work it out with the tenants. Also it’s correct that the court found landlords to have a constitutional right to ‘go out of the rental business’ if they so choose. That’s why I said if landlords followed the procedures and time lines set out by the law, then the tenants would have no recourse but to move — it’s all legal.

    I wish all landlords who purchased apartment buildings with intent to Ellis act would just follow the procedures and time lines as spelled out by the court. Unfortunately, for some, that’s the ‘worse case scenario’ in their financial model to turn the unit into TICs because the process is very long (it would take 3 mo to a year depending on if there are protected tenants or not), sometimes too long for them to ‘hold’ the property and following the procedures.

    So sometimes they want to expedite the process by attempting ‘buy outs’, or getting tenants to move by mis-informing them. Granted some tenants would be happy to take the money and move, but at least for my friends who got Ellis acted, the landlords were giving them mis information to get them to move out quickly.

  6. anon8- okay, your point taken (from your personal experience.) this is a touchy subject, no doubt! i just wanted to make clear that there are LL/developers out there who do want to be fair to the tenants. actually, if the tenants are open to a buy out, frequently they are paid much more than what the ellis act allows for. the LL saves the time & legal fees, and the tenants get more cash by working directly w/LL. this works best with non protected tenants. clearly, an elderly, protected tenant who does not work and has low rent, will not want/be able to do a buy out. on a personal level, i do not buy bldgs with protected tenants that are this vulnerable- i am not interested in putting anyone like this out on the street. on the other hand, my experience with other tenants and buy outs has been great. they turned out win-win scenarios. i worked hard to be fair to them and not to scare them into something- i made sure they thought it through and felt it was going to work for them personally.

  7. Generally with a 3-6 unit building, you’re going to be fine, but you would likely be screwed if this was a 2 unit building as two unit buildings can bypass the time consuming condo lottery. The owner can only evict one tenant as an owner move-in and then if they choose the buyout option for the rest of the tenants, then every single tenant in the building (submarket or not) must accept the buyout, so one holdout can stop the deal and add up all those buyouts and it starts getting expensive. Whole building Ellis Act evictions for 3-6 unit buildings are now going to be rare due to the fairly recent enactment of the 10-year penalty for Ellis Act conversions from entering the condo lottery (and you are completely eliminated from the condo lottery if any of those tenants are “protected.”) Add that 10 years to a 5-10 year wait to win the condo lottery and it pushes the time frame to eventual condo conversion so far out that it’s not worth it in 99% of the cases (OK, maybe if you are in a primo building in a primo neighborhood). Add that to the fact that 6 unit TICs are less marketable than 3-4 unit buildings as they generally require the more expensive fractionalized TIC loans and it just isn’t worth it for 6 unit buildings with the new legislation in most cases. And yeah, the laws about this are not the most free market (‘yay capatilism”) in nature, but those are the rules now.

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