Sunday, January 23, 2011

Some People Really Need To Get Their Priorities Checked

I was at a gathering of attorneys the other day. Since a number of them were either tenants' rights attorneys or sympathetic to tenants right, the topic turned that way when someone brought up an interesting quirk of San Francisco law.

Under San Francisco's Housing Code, specifically section 701, states that landlords have to provide heat to the tenants so that the temperature of the unit reaches 68F. However, a quirk of the law is that the landlord must only provide the heat for 13 hours during the day. The ordinance further states that those hours 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and 3p.m. to 10 p.m.

Apparently, San Francisco does not require heat at night. Because, I guess, someone decided that tenants don't need heat after 10 p.m. at night. Or maybe someone believes that its warmer during those late night hours? If so, perhaps they should tell that to the homeless on the streets.

Now, to further muddy the water, there is a state law called the Uniform Housing Code. Under the UHC, a landlord has the duty to provide heat 24 hours a day such that a residential unit is heated to 70F. Somehow, San Francisco and other municipalities have rules which contravene this. On at least one occasion, the local rule was struct down by the appellate court, yet San Francisco's rule remains in effect.

Heat, especially in San Francisco where it can get pretty cold at virtually any time of the year, is an important topic. In my time as a tenants' rights attorney, I've seen more than one landlord let the heating unit "mysteriously" stop working and expect the tenant to provide the heat with a space heater (something which is verboten under both San Francisco and California law).

So where is this all going? Well at this little confab that I was at, this topic came up. And I was gobsmacked to hear this as the first comment was "Should we really be advocating for this? I mean, asking for more heat for tenants is not an evironmentally sound thing especially with global warming."

And what was worse, a fair number of the people were taking her position. This is lunacy. People need heat. They may not need to be heated to 90F or whatnot, but when its cold, they need heat. And the idea that we need to put something ahead of people without adequate heat is absurd. The priority needs to be people, not something as amorphous as "environmentally sound".

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