big.cockroach.jpgThe taco shop around the corner with the heartburn-inducing combination of carne asada and chili cheese fries, along with their generous “B grade” hanging proudly in the store window, aren’t the only ones that should fear the Department of Public Health. If legislation introduced by Supervisor John Avalos is approved, landlords who don’t take action when notified of health hazards within their spaces could be subject to up to $1,000 in fines.

Known legally as nuisances, these unhealthy conditions are problems many of us have experienced at one time or another, often highlighted by our Tenant Troubles column – that continuous roach infestation that gave you unwanted roommates in your studio apartment, pigeon feces that blew in every time you opened a window for fresh air, and mold on your walls and carpets, that had you thinking your chronic breathing problems was more than just SF’s gift of seasonal allergies.

If the legislation is passed, tenants would have the ability to file a complaint with the Department of Public Health for these and other health hazards their landlords aren’t taking suitable action on. Health inspectors would then take a look at the alleged problem, and decide on a case-to-case basis whether or not the situation could be considered a nuisance, and worthy of enforcing fines upon the negligent landlord.

Owners of residential hotels, which don’t often find themselves face-to-face with the Department of Public Health, would be held accountable for issues within their buildings, such as bed bugs and unpleasant trash situations.

These changes to the health code would be made in an effort to 1) open the lines of communication between the City and SF landlords and 2) encourage landlords to take action on their tenants’ issues, with the levying of fines pushing them further than a simple complaint would.

A hearing for Avalos’ legislation is expected next month, at the Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee meeting.

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