Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Score One for the Tenants

Even though San Francisco is a city where more people rent than own, its still hard for a tenant to prevail in a unlawful detainer action. There are various theories about why that it is, but for some reason, it seems like landlord attorney tend to prevail, even when the facts should indicate a tenant victory.

Well, today a jury came out with a verdict in favor of the tenant in a issue that, in tenant's right circles, is worrisome. The issue is OMI, which stands for Owner Move-In. What it was really meant for was to allow owners to evict people from their tenancies when the landlord, or their immediate family, wanted to live on the property. To protect the tenants, the board of supervisors, in drafting the San Francisco Rent Ordinance, made it so that an OMI could only happen, anmong other requirements, if the owner did have another vacant property to live in.

In some cases, this has lead to problems of proving intent. And in some cases, litigation to determine whether intent was even at issue in the case. Which is what was at issue in this case.

According to Beyond the Chron, the landlord in question had other properties, including a residential unit which he used as an office, a vacation home outside the city, and was renting an apartment in a different part of the city. Now this was argued to the jury, by Dean Preston and Raquel Fox of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, that this created a presumption of bad faith. Coupled with a previous attempt at evicting the tenants, for capital improvements, and it showed that the landlord was really interested in getting out a long-term tenant who was paying below market rates.

I do not know what the attorneys for the landlord, Dave Wasserman and Daniel Stern of Wasserman-Stern, said to rebut this. Whatever it was, it did not work very well.

The jury came back 11 - 1 in favor of the tenant.

Congratulations to Preston and Fox. They did an outstanding job.

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