SF supes propose law targeting fraudulent evictions

San Francisco lawmakers heard from the public and other city and county officials at a meeting Friday about the growing number of fraudulent owner move-in evictions, which have been hard to prosecute.

As many as 25 percent of owner move-in evictions may be fraudulent, Supervisor Jane Kim said at a 10 a.m. meeting of the Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Oversight Committee meeting at City Hall.

Kim and Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced legislation April 11 that would make it a crime for a landlord to rent a unit for more than the maximum allowed under law following an owner move-in eviction. Kim:

“We do want fraudulent evictions to stop.”

The crime would be a misdemeanor.

An owner move-in eviction, which is legal, occurs when a landlord evicts a tenant so the landlord’s family member or members can live in the unit.

But many claim that some landlords rent to others who will pay more than the previous tenant. Peskin said:

“There is rampant fraud.”

The fraud occurs frequently with rent-controlled units because the landlord can raise the rent to market rate once the rent-controlled tenant is out.

Kim and Peskin’s proposal would require landlords to declare under penalty of perjury that they or their family member intends to make the unit their main place of residence for three years continuously.

The law would also require the landlord to provide yearly documentation of that.

Prosecutors with the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office have not really been able to criminally prosecute landlords for fraudulent owner move-in evictions since a 2007 judgment in a case in Santa Monica.

For the city attorney’s office, it doesn’t make sense for prosecutors to devote resources to prosecuting fraudulent owner move-in evictions unless numerous people may have been harmed.

According to Peskin Aide Sunny Angulo, the proposed law is taking aim at the most egregious fraudulent owner move-in evictions. Angulo said:

“We’ve been meeting with the rent board, the district and city attorney’s offices and tenant advocates on effective solutions to curbing fraudulent OMI evictions, which are the fastest-growing type locally.”

He continued:

“The District Attorney’s office has confirmed with us that this is a critical enforcement tool for them to be able to target the most egregious violators: landlords that displace rent-controlled tenants from their homes to jack up the rent for maximum profit.”

Supervisor Mark Farrell introduced a similar piece of legislation the same day that does not include the opportunity to prosecute landlords criminally.