Landlord Harassment of Tenants

While the relationship between most landlords and tenants is anywhere from cordial to correct, some landlords, unfortunately and for whatever reason, choose to harass their tenants. In the San Francisco Bay Area, with its relatively high-priced, high-demand housing market, there is a built-in incentive for landlords to clear their units of tenants so that they may rent them out for a higher price, convert the units into condominiums or develop the property in some other way. In San Francisco this phenomenon is a particular problem, and the Ellis Act has been a favored legal means for ridding landlords of their tenants. But landlord harassment of tenants is another method, albeit an illegal one, they can employ to move out tenants from their property. However, the San Francisco Rent Ordinance has a special provision, Section 37.10B, that addresses the issue of landlord harassment of tenants. Landlord harassment of tenants can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including the following practices spelled out in Section 37.10B that landlords are expressly forbidden from doing:

  • Interrupt, terminate, or fail to provide housing services required by contract or by state, county or local housing, health or safety laws;
  • Fail to perform repairs and maintenance required by contract or by state, county or local housing, health or safety laws;
  • Fail to exercise due diligence in completing repairs and maintenance once undertaken or fail to follow appropriate industry repair, containment or remediation protocols designed to minimize exposure to noise, dust, lead, paint, mold, asbestos, or other building materials with potentially harmful health impacts;
  • Abuse the landlord’s right of access into a rental housing unit as that right is provided by law;
  • Influence or attempt to influence a tenant to vacate a rental housing unit through fraud, intimidation or coercion;
  • Attempt to coerce the tenant to vacate with offer(s) of payments to vacate that are accompanied with threats or intimidation;
  • Threaten the tenant, by word or gesture, with physical harm;
  • Violate any law that prohibits discrimination based on actual or perceived race, gender, sexual preference, sexual orientation, ethnic background, nationality, place of birth, immigration or citizenship status, religion, age, parenthood, marriage, pregnancy, disability, AIDS or occupancy by a minor child;
  • Interfere with a tenant’s right to quiet use and enjoyment of a rental housing unit as that right is defined by California law;
  • Refuse to accept or acknowledge receipt of a tenant’s lawful rent payment;
  • Refuse to cash a rent check for over 30 days;
  • Interfere with a tenant’s right to privacy;
  • Request information that violates a tenant’s right to privacy, including but not limited to residence or citizenship status or Social Security number;
  • Other repeated acts or omissions of such significance as to substantially interfere with or disturb the comfort, repose, peace or quiet of any person lawfully entitled to occupancy of such dwelling unit and that cause, are likely to cause, or are intended to cause any person lawfully entitled to occupancy of a dwelling unit to vacate such dwelling unit or to surrender or waive any rights in relation to such occupancy.

The penalties and other monetary awards for violating the aforementioned provisions can be substantial. They can include liability for each and every offense for monetary damages equivalent to no less than three times actual damages suffered by the aggrieved tenant, including damages for mental and emotional distress, or for statutory damages in the amount of $1,000, or whichever is greater, and whatever a court deems appropriate. In addition, a tenant who is the prevailing plaintiff would be entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees and costs as well as potential punitive damages.

If you are a renter and believe that your landlord has harassed you in violation of the law, call our office. Gregory J. Brod has been a successful advocate for the rights of tenants for many years and has extensive experience fighting for tenants in San Francisco and elsewhere in the Bay Area who have been harassed by their landlords. Call the Brod Law Firm today for a free initial consultation.

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