In San Francisco, and pursuant to the San Francisco Rent Ordinance, both landlords and tenants are permitted to petition the Rent Board for determinations on certain issues affecting the landlord-tenant relationship. The same is true in other cities with rent control. The vast majority of the claims involve rent, either whether a landlord can increase the rent being charged or whether a tenant is entitled to a reduction of rent as established by the lease. Either party filing the petition with the Rent Board initiates the petition process. Once the petition is filed with all necessary supporting documents and notices, it will generally be scheduled for a hearing or mediation session. There is no charge for filing a petition, and the hearings are less formal than typical court proceedings. Although it is not required that either a landlord or tenant has an attorney or other authorized representative, they are permitted.
If you are a landlord, we believe that it is most always advisable to have representation if a tenant files a petition against you. Depending on the underlying claim, a landlord could be held liable for possibly thousands of dollars in overcharged rent, could lose the exempt status of a rental unit, or any other number of unfavorable consequences. At Zacks, Freedman & Patterson, PC, we have extensive knowledge and experience representing landlords and tenants at rent board hearings as well as appeals. We have the background and familiarity with local rent ordinances to ensure that our client's rights are represented to the fullest extent possible.
Tenant petitions that can be filed with the local rent boards generally seek a reduction in rent or protection against allegedly unlawful landlord action. Those claims include:
- Substantial decrease in housing services
- Failure to repair and maintain the premises
- Unlawful rent increases or the request for a determination of lawful rent
- Improper utility pass-through
- Reports of alleged wrongful eviction
In addition to responding to tenant-filed petitions, there are also a number of situations in which a landlord can petition the local rent board to better their rights or obligations with respect to particular tenancies and/or properties. Some of the landlord petitions generally covering issues are related to:
- Capital improvement pass-through
- Operating and maintenance increases
- Utility pass-through
- Substantial rehabilitation exemption
- Requesting a determination of permissible rent increases pursuant to state or local law
Knowing how and when to use these petitions, and how best to respond to them, requires analysis of the specific facts of each case.
If you are considering filing a petition based on the any reason, including those mentioned above, or if you are a landlord and a petition has been filed against you, contact Zacks, Freedman & Patterson, PC to discuss how we may assist you in advancing your landlord and business interest and representing and protecting your rights at a San Francisco Rent Board hearing.