monopoly_money.jpgBack in August, we talked about proposed legislation introduced by Supervisor John Avalos, which would enforce fees on landlords who neglect to take action on their tenants’ unhealthy living conditions. A recent vote suggests that this legislation isn’t going away any time soon, much to the dismay of some landlords.

As an addition to or replacement for the current remedy of taking their landlord to court, under this legislation, tenants would first file a complaint with the Department of Public Health. Inspectors would then look at the problem and decide whether it is serious enough to fine landlords for their inaction, which could cost them as much as $1000/day.

In addition to enforcing new requirements on the landlords themselves, the legislation would require building owners to register with the city and hand over all needed contact information to the Department.

The San Francisco Apartment Association, a group representing landlords, is not keen on the proposed legislation. “They don’t need this. It’s just a piling on by the Department of Public Health,” said Janan New, the executive director said. “Bed bugs are a national epidemic. They can’t be the sole responsibility of rental-housing providers.”

However, Dr. Rajiv Bhatia, San Francisco director of environmental health, argues that under the legislation, both the tenant and the landlord could be held responsible for unsafe conditions.

In some situations, for example, tenants don’t allow exterminators to enter the unit to eradicate bugs, or tenants themselves could have brought in the intruders. There are also cases when landlords refuse to take action (our Tenant Troubles column certainly overflows with examples of that behavior).

“We’ve got 99 percent of landlords fixing things in a timely way. We got 1 or 2 percent who are not. We’ve got to hurry them up,” Bhatia said.

The Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee approved the legislation in a 2-1 vote (Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi and David Chiu supported it. Supervisor Sean Elsbernd opposed it) yesterday. The full board is expected to vote on the bill later this month.

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