Chesa Boudin’s Plan to Protect Tenants from Illegal Actions by Unethical Landlords
Chesa Boudin is committed to using the power of the District Attorney’s office to hold the wealthy and powerful accountable, including landlords who break the law. Equal enforcement of the law demands it.
40,000 tenants have faced eviction in San Francisco in the last five years. The majority of evictions are served to at-risk tenants -- low-income, elderly, or those who speak English as a second language. Since Prop F passed in 2018, every tenant facing eviction has the right to an attorney. But more needs to be done to protect tenants against landlords who break the law.
Across our city, renters are subjected to a variety of underhanded and often illegal tactics by landlords. They face unlawful evictions or threats of eviction; unlawful buyouts, where a buyout is coupled with a threat to evict; unlawful rent increases; harassment; habitability issues; unlawful entry; and many others. Others are evicted for owner or relative move-in reasons, and later it is found that neither the owner nor a relative ever moved in.
These tactics have serious consequences. 71% of the homeless people in San Francisco were formerly housed in our city -- meaning that evictions are a primary cause of increasing homelessness.
Though the law does not go far enough, tenants in San Francisco have meaningful protections against mistreatment by landlords. These protections, which flow primarily from the California Penal Code and San Francisco Administrative Code, are aimed at preventing the worst types of abuses that San Francisco tenants face at the hands of unscrupulous landlords.
As District Attorney, Chesa Boudin will commit to using the full menu of options available to prevent crooked landlords -- and their agents -- from harming their tenants.
Under Boudin’s leadership, the District Attorney’s Office will
- Work closely with the City Attorney to develop cooperative strategies to reduce the threat posed by unscrupulous landlords. The City Attorney has won some impressive victories in this fight. For example, in 2015 the office filed a lawsuit against a San Francisco landlord who it alleged “waged a war of harassment, intimidation, and retaliation against her tenants.” The office won a $5.4 million dollar judgment and a five-year injunction against the landlord, requiring among other things that she use an independent property manager for all her San Francisco properties. That outcome is sufficiently protective that criminal charges would be unnecessary. But in cases where a civil judgment has been insufficient, the District Attorney should step in.
- Use provisions of the Administrative and Penal codes to prosecute landlords for breaking the law. Boudin has committed to using jail a last resort, and he believes that principle should guide the District Attorney’s actions even in situations like these. But a criminal prosecution can do more than put someone in jail. And even the mere threat of prosecution may be a powerful deterrent to a landlord who consider civil judgments a cost of doing business.
- Hold unscrupulous landlords accountable when they commit criminal acts. Unlawful recovery of rental units, age discrimination, unlawful rent increases, certain forms of harassment, unlawful entry, and negligent/hazardous maintence of buildings—these are just some of the crimes that will be prosecuted.
- Work with tenant advocacy organizations to make tenants aware that they now have the right to a free attorney when facing eviction. This vital Right to Counsel, passed as Prop F in 2018, can only work if tenants are aware of their rights and know how to obtain legal counsel.
A safer and more just San Francisco means more than just treating people with compassion, addressing the root causes of crime, giving victims a voice, and eliminating racism from the criminal justice system. It also means using the system to protect marginalized groups who the system has historically ignored unless it was turned on them. Protecting tenants is critical to Chesa Boudin’s vision to a San Francisco for all.