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What You Need To Know About San Francisco Rental Unit Registration Ordinance

by | Dec 20, 2021 | Firm News |

On December 18, 2020, San Francisco adopted Ordinance 265-20, which implements the City’s first rental unit registration ordinance. With Proposition 21 on the ballot in November of 2020, the Board of Supervisors was poised to implement vacancy control if the proposition had passed (and had effectively repealed the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act).

Costa-Hawkins survived, as did a modified version of the rental unit registration ordinance. Commencing July 1, 2022 (for buildings with 10 or more units) and March 1, 2023 (for all other residential units), owners must provide the following information to the Rent Board:

  • (A) the name and business contact information (address, phone number, email address) of the owner(s), or of the property manager, if any, designated by the owner(s) to address habitability issues;
  • (B) the business registration number for the unit, if any;
  • (C) the approximate square footage to the best of the owner’s or manager’s knowledge, and number of bedrooms and bathrooms in the unit;
  • (D) whether the unit is vacant or occupied, and the date the vacancy or occupancy commenced;
  • (E) the start and end dates of any other vacancies or occupancies that have occurred during the previous 12 months;
  • (F) for tenant-occupied units, the base rent reported in $250 increments, and whether the base rent includes specified utilities (water/sewer, refuse/recycling, natural gas, electricity, etc.); and
  • (G) any other information that the Rent Board deems appropriate following a noticed public meeting in order to effectuate the purposes of this Chapter 37.

It is important to note that this information is required for all residential units, not merely rental units (although units that are owner-occupied are only required to indicate as much, without providing the additional information).

It may seem bizarre that the City asks for the rent in “$250 increments”, instead of simply asking for “the rent”. This is presumably because the City is trying to avoid creating a “rental registry” within the meaning of the California Petris Act, which exempts landlords who attempt good faith compliance with rent control laws from fines and penalties.

By intentionally circumventing the Petris Act, San Francisco can seemingly leverage the ordinance’s enforcement mechanism – a “license” to impose the annual allowable increase. (San Francisco will “suspend” this newly-minted license for non-complying landlords, preventing rent increases until the landlord complies.) Of course, inflation-adjusted rents are a Fifth Amendment minimum, and it’s unlikely that San Francisco can avoid the federal Constitution merely by evading the Petris Act. But, this confusion may need to e resolved by the courts.

For now, if you need help complying with San Francisco’s rental unit registration ordinance, the attorneys at Zacks, Freedman & Patterson can assist you. Contact us at your convenience to request a consultation.

Neither this website nor this post are intended to create an attorney-client relationship.