-1

I live in a rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco. After my wife and I moved in 22 years ago, the (then) owner/landlord and I came to an agreement that allowed me to use the basement storage rooms for the duration of my tenancy, at no cost to me, in exchange for doing a huge amount of debris haul-out, replacing doors and rotten sheetrock down there, building a fence, etc. He hand-wrote that agreement, and I still have it. The agreement was honored by the next four owners, but the building was sold again 9 months ago and the new owners seem to want me out. I suspect that this is because (thanks to rent control) my current rent is about 1/3 the market value, and because they think they can rent out the storage rooms.

Six weeks ago the (off-site) Property Manager brought a locksmith with him, had him remove the locks on four of the doors to the storage rooms and install their own locks (without giving me keys, obviously). Said Property Manager claims that since I am not paying rent on the storage rooms, I cannot use them and must vacate.

I was issued a "3-Day Notice to Cure or Quit" last month. The landlord's attorney claims that I "have committed or permitted to exist a nuisance...in and about the common areas of the complex...creating a substantial interference with the comfort, safety or enjoyment" of my neighbors, that the "nuisance behavior is severe, continuing and/or recurring in nature". It specifically claims "You interfere with your neighbors' safety, comfort and quiet enjoyment of their homes with your hoarding and cluttering (sic) conduct. You accumulated an excessive amount of clutter, personal possessions, and/or debris...which created a fire, safety and/or tripping hazard...Your clutter prevents your landlord from performing accessing (sic) the premises' utility rooms to perform necessary maintenance and/or repairs. You must remove your excessive amount of clutter such that it no longer presents a safety, fire, and/or tripping hazard. You must clear out your possessions and/or debris such that your landlord has unfettered access to all areas of the building's utility rooms..."

As it happens, there is no "clutter", nor any safety, fire or tripping hazards. The vast majority of items in the storage rooms are books that are boxed-up and stacked, and there are clear aisles at least 18" wide throughout. But the day before the Property Manager unlawfully opened the doors, I had moved some items to just inside the doorways, in preparation for taking them to a local flea market to sell on that Sunday. So it's not surprising that it looked like there was a lot of stuff.

Regardless, I responded to the landlord's lawyer within 3 days of receiving the Notice, saying that I wanted to make a good faith effort to comply with their demands, but that I would need specific guidance, such as the required width of aisles, etc. He never responded.

The Property Manager contacted me a week later and said he wanted to come inspect the rooms on Friday (two days later). I agreed. Then, an hour ahead of when we were supposed to meet, he texted me to say that he couldn't make it. He hasn't contacted me since then. Four weeks later, I was served with an Unlawful Detainer.

It seems to me that their 3-Day Notice is faulty. It lacks specific instructions, and instead uses subjective words like "excessive". How is a tenant supposed to know if they have met a standard that is never defined? And how can a landlord be held to account if they are able to simply move the goalposts to declare that the tenant didn't "cure" the problem?

The Notice also lacks information about how the tenant can demonstrate that they have "cured" the problem. No mention was made of having the rooms inspected, nor of my taking photographs, nor anything else that would allow me to show that I had complied.

I managed the building for 14 years, and I occasionally had to issue a "3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit". Those have VERY specific requirements (exact dollar amount, for what time-frame, what forms of payment are accepted, where payment must be tendered, etc.) If it lacks any of that info, it's faulty. How specific is a 3-Day Notice to Cure or Quit required to be for the nuisance, the cure, and the proof of compliance?

Am I correct in thinking that if the 3-Day Notice is faulty, that the U.D. which is predicated upon it, is also faulty?

The U.D. makes it clear that they intend to evict me from my apartment, due to the (alleged) problems described above in the basement. But since the storage rooms are never mentioned in my rental agreement, can they actually link my tenancy to supposed problems in the storage rooms?

I know for a fact that they can only have seen inside of the storage rooms that one time that they (unlawfully) broke into them. So even if they took photos of the stuff just inside the doors, is it possible for them to demonstrate that it is "continuing and/or recurring in nature"?

It's a small building (15 units) and I know all but the 3 most recent tenants quite well, and am liked and respected by the tenants in those 11 units; many of them have said that they will either write a letter supporting me, or would like to testify on my behalf at the jury trial that I have demanded. If I can get sworn/notarized statements from every unit stating that I haven't "interfered with (their) safety, comfort and quiet enjoyment of their homes", will that negate that half of the complaint?

Finally, I was diagnosed with PTSD, Major Depressive Disorder (both due to witnessing the violent death of my wife 3 years ago), and with Hoarding Disorder -- all three of which are in the DSM-5, and protected disabilities under the Federal Fair Housing Act. Would the fact that I was diagnosed with having Hoarding Disorder help defend my case, since it would require the landlord to make "reasonable accommodation" for my disability, and it would explain the quantity of items I have?

Thank you in advance for any advice you might be able to share!

1

Contact the San Francisco Rent Control board and file a complaint IMMEDIATELY, as in FIRST THING IN THE MORNING. And I'm not certain why you have not contacted them yet. You need to contact the board as soon as you get a 3-day notice.

That said, reasons for eviction in San Francisco that fall on the tenant's duties:

  • Non-payment of rent or habitual late payment of rent;
  • Breach of a rental agreement or lease;
  • Creation of a nuisance or substantial interference with the landlord or other tenants in the building;

And they are also serious about penalizing landlords for false evictions:

If a landlord evicts or tries to evict a tenant unlawfully, the landlord is subject to civil and/or criminal liability. The tenant may bring a civil action for an injunction, as well as actual and treble damages, and attorney fees. The landlord could also be found guilty of a misdemeanor, with a fine of not more than $1,000 and/or imprisonment in the County jail for up to six months.

The SF RB website is:

https://sfrb.org/CONTACT-US

They can help refer you to a lawyer, and if you have waited this long and now have a UD properly filed against you, you must be VERY PROACTIVE and fight this without delay. Based on your description of the circumstances, you should retain an attorney. If yor are low income or disabled, there are free legal services that can help you, the rent board should be able to refer you.

Best of luck.

  • Thank you! I've been making regular trips to the SF Rent Board for the past few weeks, but I didn't think about filing a complaint. Would that complaint reasonably be? (I mean, everything they've done so far is worth complaining about...) I've also been around to the 4 or 5 tenants' rights groups, and the Eviction Defense Collaborative helped me file my "answer" to the UD, which I submitted before the deadline. So now I wait for the court to schedule the settlement hearing and trial. Frankly, I'm hoping for the trial; I don't think it will go well for their side. Thanks again! – RCH Jun 25 at 7:11
  • @RCH Best of luck ! here in LA the board will (mostly) go to bat for you, and they can be aggressive. I'd think SF would be similar (YMMV) — When you go to trial, remember to have LOADS of PHYSICAL evidence — take color PHOTOS in print form of everything, especially ensure the pics so everything is in compliance. Document all the dates and times things happened, in printed form. get written statements for all your supporting witnesses even if they say they will come to court. GOOD LUCK! – Myndex Jun 26 at 11:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.