Ordinance 216-20 (2020): San Francisco Prohibits Recovering Possession of Rental Units During Pandemic

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San Francisco landlord-tenant relationships have been anything but predictable in the last year. Governor Newsom enacted Executive Order N-28-20 on March 16, 2020, which suspends certain state laws to open the field for local regulation on evictions. Mayor Breed declared a local state of emergency on February 25, 2020 (with several dozen supplements through the rest of the year) seeking to curtain efforts to recover possession of rental units, other than for health and safety reasons or pursuant to the Ellis Act (which the City can’t prohibit). The California Judicial Council even stepped in (arguably in excess of its authority or even any authority that Gov. Newsom could delegate under the Emergency Services Act) to prohibit the issuing of summonses in residential eviction lawsuits through August of 2020.

California enacted AB 3088 on September 1, 2021, as a comprehensive scheme to address the patchwork efforts of the different branches and different levels of government. It prohibited cities from adopting, extending, renewing local regulations protecting tenants from evictions, imposing its own.

Not to be deterred, the Board of Supervisors passed Ordinance 216-20 (known colloquially as “Preston 2” following the supervisor’s previous legislation prohibiting evictions for non-payment of rent at the local level). Ordinance 216-20 prevents landlords from recovering possession of a rental unit “on or before March 31, 2021 unless necessary due to violence, threats of violence, or health and safety issues”. The restriction even applies to owners who rent out individual rooms in their homes. Deferential to (some of) AB 3088, the ordinance acknowledges that it does not apply to “evictions due to unpaid rent or any other unpaid financial obligation of a tenant under the tenancy that came due between March 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021” or evictions under the Ellis Act, but it otherwise fails to address the comprehensive prohibition on local eviction regulations imposed by AB 3088.

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Justin Goodman’s Column “Surreal Estate” Featured in SF Apartment Magazine January 2021 Issue

Justin Goodman’s quarterly column Surreal Estate was featured in the January 2021 issue of SF Apartment Magazine. This installment, titled “The Laws of Unintended Consequence” considered the practical effect of our local housing laws as measured against their stated intent.


SFAA is dedicated to educating, advocating for, and supporting the rental housing community so that its members operate ethically, fairly, and profitably. SFAA’s is a trade association whose main focus is to support rental owners by offering a wide variety of benefits that address all aspects of rental housing industry.

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Graylee v. Castro (2020): Liquidated Damages in Stipulated Judgment Unenforceable Unless They Bear a Reasonable Relationship to Anticipated Damages Flowing from Breach

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“Section 1671, subdivision (b), provides that a liquidated damages clause ‘is valid unless the party seeking to invalidate the provision establishes that the provision was unreasonable under the circumstances existing at the time the contract was made’. Under this subdivision, a liquidated damages clause becomes an unenforceable penalty ‘if it bears no reasonable relationship to the range of actual damages that the parties could have anticipated would flow from a breach’. The amount set as liquidated damages ‘must represent the result of a reasonable endeavor by the parties to estimate a fair average compensation for any loss that may be sustained’. Absent a relationship between the liquidated damages and the damages the parties anticipated would result from a breach, a liquidated damages clause will be construed as an unenforceable penalty’. In the context of a stipulated judgment, the amount of the judgment must reasonably relate to the damages likely to arise from the breach of the stipulation, not the alleged breach of the underlying contract, because it is the breach of the stipulation that allows the plaintiff to enter judgment against the defendant. Thus, we analyze the damages flowing from the breach of the stipulation itself, not any damages that may have arisen from the tenants’ alleged breach of the underlying lease agreement.”

In Graylee v. Castro, a landlord served a three-day notice to pay rent or quit, contending his tenants owed $27,170 in unpaid rent for a house they leased, and filed an unlawful detainer action when they failed to cure the notice. The tenants answered and disputed the amount claimed in the notice. The parties settled prior to trial, pursuant to Section 664.6 of the Code of Civil Procedure, which allows parties to pending litigation to enter a settlement contract that calls for entry of a stipulated judgment (sometimes, as in this case, only in the event of breach).

Continue reading Graylee v. Castro (2020): Liquidated Damages in Stipulated Judgment Unenforceable Unless They Bear a Reasonable Relationship to Anticipated Damages Flowing from Breach

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Justin Goodman’s Column “Surreal Estate” Featured in SF Apartment Magazine October 2020 Issue

Justin Goodman’s quarterly column Surreal Estate was featured in the October 2020 issue of SF Apartment Magazine. The October column looked at the expanding use of “parklets”, as local restaurants and other businesses work to recover from the impacts of the pandemic amid continued and onerous regulation.


SFAA is dedicated to educating, advocating for, and supporting the rental housing community so that its members operate ethically, fairly, and profitably. SFAA’s is a trade association whose main focus is to support rental owners by offering a wide variety of benefits that address all aspects of rental housing industry.

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AB 3088 (2020): The COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020

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In the face of a global pandemic affecting all levels of economic activity and threatening massive tenant displacement, it was no surprise that existing law was unfit to the task of moderating the deluge of unpaid rent by residential tenants who were ordered to shelter-in-place at the cost of their paychecks.

Patchwork laws emerged from the California Governor and , San Francisco’s Mayor and even from the Federal Government. The Judicial Council’s freeze on unlawful detainers was set to thaw at the end of August, so Sacramento finally passed a long-awaited answer to months of open questions.

Among other things, AB 3088 enacted the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act of 2020. The CTRA makes comprehensive changes to state unlawful detainer law, it supersedes many local ordinances and orders addressing COVID-19, it excuses certain tenant nonpayment of rent during the covered period, and it expands non-eviction remedies for collection of rent.

First, for non-payment of rent evictions, the CTRA covers what it calls the “Covered Time Period” (i.e., March 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021), which encompasses the “Protected Time Period” (March 1, 2020 through August 31, 2020) and the “Transition Time Period” (September 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021).

During the entire Covered Time Period, a tenant still owes their rent, however, most of it will become a form of consumer debt, as the CTRA significantly alters the unlawful detainer statutes in issuing rent default notices and prosecuting evictions. If a tenant owes rent during the Protected Time Period, they can cure a “15-day notice to cure or quit” by paying the full amount due, quitting the property, or merely by signing a declaration stating that they’ve suffered “COVID-19-related financial distress”. The same scheme applies in the Transition Time Period, except that the tenant must also pay at least 25% of the rent due for each of the five months in this period before the end of January of 2021. If they do, they have cured the eviction notice.

The CTRA also significantly expands small claims jurisdiction (the obvious purpose being to lower the transaction costs for landlords in collecting this consumer debt). Formerly, a small claims plaintiff could seek $10,000 in damages (or $5,000 if they are a fictitious entity), and they may bring two such lawsuits per year. The CTRA removes the dollar limit, as well as filing limit. However, landlords cannot avail themselves of this expanded jurisdiction prior to March 1, 2021.

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San Francisco Legislative Update (2020) COVID-19 Edition: Ordinance 158-20 Continues Suspension of Rent Increases Pending Eviction Moratorium

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San Francisco has enacted its third emergency rent increase freeze. Like the previous one, Ordinance 158-20 was meant to apply (retroactively) upon the expiration of its predecessor.

However, Section 2.107 of the San Francisco Charter dictates that emergency ordinances are effective immediately upon passage, not “whenever the Board of Supervisors feels like”. Therefore, the previous ordinance (probably) expired later than it claimed to, which makes it unclear when the Board believes the 60 days of emergency Ordinance 158-20 is supposed to start running.

According to the Charter, its passage on August 25, 2020 means that it will expire October 25th.

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Small Property Owners of San Francisco Urge Voters To Vote “No on Prop. 21” This November

The Small Property Owners of San Francisco asked two of its board members, Paul Utrecht of Utrecht Lenvin, LLP and Costa-Hawkins.com’s own Justin Goodman of Zacks, Freedman & Patterson, PC, to discuss November’s Proposition 21 – a statewide ballot initiative to effectively repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act and allow cities to impose vacancy control.

Paul and Justin discussed existing law and the nuances of Proposition 21 – this year’s effort to repeal the operative provisions of the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (succeeding a previous effort by Michael Weinstein in 2018, and a legislative effort in 2017).

Paul and Justin also contemplated the likely unintended and perverse consequences of once again allowing the vacancy control that Costa-Hawkins eliminated at the state level back in 1996. We at Costa-Hawkins.com rarely take political stances on potential changes in law, but if for no other reason than we would need a new domain name (and that the change in law would authorize misguided rental housing policy statewide), we urge you to donate and vote!

SPOSF’s mission is to provide owners of small rental properties in San Francisco with the tools and information necessary to conduct business successfully in a difficult regulatory climate, through educational programs, publications, and workshops that seek to help members better understand their rights and obligations, how to work constructively with city and state officials, and how to deal effectively with their tenants. SPOSF also seeks to protect the rights of small property owners against unfair and burdensome regulations through legal advocacy.

SPOSF holds monthly meetings at St. Mary’s Cathedral, located at 1111 Gough Street in San Francisco. You can join SPOSF by clicking here. Members have access to the full monthly newsletter.

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San Francisco Legislative Update (2020): “Intermediate Length Occupancy” Now Regulated

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Ordinance 78-20, sponsored by Supervisor Peskin, amends the Planning Code to regulate “intermediate length occupancy” of residential dwellings. The Planning Code now defines intermediate length occupancy as “A Residential Use characteristic that applies to a Dwelling Unit offered for occupancy by a natural person for an initial stay, whether through lease, subscription, license, or otherwise, for a duration of greater than 30 consecutive days but less than one year”.

Intermediate length occupancy is now prohibited for buildings with three or fewer units. It is a principally permitted use for buildings with four to nine units, provided that no more than 25% of the units are occupied in this manner. And for buildings of ten or more units, conditional use authorization is required. Further, only 1,000 of these uses are allowed in the City, and rent-controlled units may not but used this way.

Finally, Ordinance 78-20 prohibits “non-tenant uses”, which is when “the landlord is allowing the unit to be occupied by a person or entity who is not a “tenant” as defined in [the Rent Ordinance]”. Given the broad definition of “rental units” in the Rent Ordinance (i.e., all dwellings in the City), this would appear to prohibit the use of dwellings by a property owner’s family members, and many other common sense uses that most property owners would assume to be lawful.

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Residential Rent and Eviction Control Resources