Dave’s here to answer your questions every Wednesday, so send them to him at tenant@sfappeal.com, here’s what to make sure to include in your letter.

rental-agreement.jpgRecently my boyfriend moved in. I asked him after several months of coping with a debilitating injury. I asked the landlord several times to fix the intercom which she never did and I was unable to get groceries or answer my door.

I live on the fourth floor of a walk-up. I told her he was coming in writing and why. She responded by saying i had to keep her informed of my condition. I have kept her up to date on a regular basis but it is a tendon injury and can take six months to initially recover and even longer before I can lift heavy things. She also prohibited me from giving the door code to anyone and basically made me a prisoner. No laundry service. No ability to live.

My boyfriend and I were broken up. But after one long night of crying and feeling like my stomach was going to implode from hunger, I begged for him to come stay here and help me out. Now, since she spies on everyone in the building, she is threatening to evict me because he is here. Even though being here has allowed me to rest and recover. And I am slowly getting better.

I am lucky that I have a job that does not require any walking or standing, and which pays enough to pay the 3500/mo I pay for this 2 bedroom apartment. Trust me, he would not have been invited if I didn’t absolutely need a caretaker. I have mounds of doctor bills to prove my injury and she won’t budge. Is there nothing I can do?

To paraphrase David Mamet, the landlord business is a people business, a fucking people business. I’m sure your landlord understands this, but $42,000.00 in annual rent just isn’t the market rate any more. Your landlord must be suffering from compassion fatigue.

Does your boyfriend pay you any rent? If he does not, he cannot be characterized as a subtenant. Does he maintain his own residence despite staying with you much of the time? If he does, you should give the landlord a copy of his lease to show that he is not a subtenant.

If your boyfriend pays your a portion of the rent and he does not live elsewhere he is a subtenant subject to San Francisco Rent Board Rules & Regulations ??6.15A. This section is applicable to absolute prohibitions on subletting.

Take a look at your lease and see if it includes these items as stated in Rules & Regulations ??6.15A (a)(1-2):

(1) The prohibition against sublet or assignment is set forth in enlarged or boldface type in the lease or rental agreement and is separately initialed by the tenant; or

(2) The landlord has provided the tenant with a written explanation of the meaning of the absolute prohibition, either as part of the written lease or rental agreement, or in a separate writing.

Then take a look at your original letter to the landlord. Did you ask her to add your BF to the tenancy. If you did and she didn’t respond in the negative, the landlord may have waived her right to refuse the subtenancy by not responding in 14 days.

I also noticed that you live in a two-bedroom apartment. If you had a roommate in the past, to add your BF to the tenancy you can simply go through the rest of the steps as outlined in Rules & Regulations ??6.15A. The rules allow a one-for-one replacement despite an absolute prohibition on subletting.

Intercom systems are integral to multistory buildings. You should call a housing inspector from the DBI to inspect the intercom and any other potential violations in your unit or the building. Then file a petition for substantial decreases in services at the Rent Board.

I also did a little research to determine if you could request a reasonable accommodation to allow your BF to stay with you pursuant to the Americans with Disability Act. While this is not my area of expertise, I found this from the Disability Rights California website:

The length of time that an impairment affects major life activities may help to determine whether the impairment substantially limits those activities.

Even so, the law expressly states with respect to those “regarded as having such an impairment” that protection under the ADA shall not be given to “impairments that are transitory and minor.” “A transitory impairment is an impairment with an actual or expected duration of 6 months or less.”

Readers: The next time some free-market wanker starts moaning about market rate rents, give them this example. This is the market, jackwad–$42,000 per year for a fourth-floor walkup with no doorbell and a three-headed bitch (Cerberus was a hound) guarding the gates of one’s own personal Hades.

Dave Crow is an attorney who specializes in San Francisco landlord tenant law. However, the opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author, do not constitute legal advice, and the information is general in nature. Consult the advice of an attorney for any specific problem. You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Dave Crow or his firm, Crow & Rose unless they have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this site with any information that you believe is highly confidential.

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the author

Dave Crow is an attorney who specializes in San Francisco landlord tenant law. However, the opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author, do not constitute legal advice, and the information is general in nature. Consult the advice of an attorney for any specific problem. You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Dave Crow or his firm, Crow & Rose unless they have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this site with any information that you believe is highly confidential.

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  • cedichou

    If the landlord fixes the bell after the tenant issues a NoV, then the case for having the boyfriend in (to respond to the door) falls apart.

    The whole problem is that tenant has a foot injury, so cannot walk down the stairs to open the door, nor carry stuff up with her crutches or without putting weight on the ankle. If she can open the door, then she can get stuff delivered or let people in.

    It’s not clear why the boyfriend has to live in to carry stuff up. He can help with the shopping and not stay there permanently.

    Anyhow, I find it disingenuous to call the boyfriend a “live-in caregiver,” that’s stretching definitions a bridge too far. For a foot injury. Dave has strong words for the landlady (who is just enforcing a lease that the tenant signed!) but the tenant looks like she’s taking advantage of her injury way beyond what’s reasonable.

  • cedichou

    If the landlord fixes the bell after the tenant issues a NoV, then the case for having the boyfriend in (to respond to the door) falls apart.

    The whole problem is that tenant has a foot injury, so cannot walk down the stairs to open the door, nor carry stuff up with her crutches or without putting weight on the ankle. If she can open the door, then she can get stuff delivered or let people in.

    It’s not clear why the boyfriend has to live in to carry stuff up. He can help with the shopping and not stay there permanently.

    Anyhow, I find it disingenuous to call the boyfriend a “live-in caregiver,” that’s stretching definitions a bridge too far. For a foot injury. Dave has strong words for the landlady (who is just enforcing a lease that the tenant signed!) but the tenant looks like she’s taking advantage of her injury way beyond what’s reasonable.

  • Al

    In response to your last paragraph: free-market wankers don’t like paying $42,000 a year for a fourth floor walkup. They just think your alternative is worse.

    It sucks if your family has to illegally share a house in order to afford to live in the city. So you’d make the house affordable to a single modest-income family, so they can live an acceptable lifestyle– and then the other family who’d have shared it gets to wait 30 years until the first gets tired of it. Or they get to submit their applications to a surely-impartial board which gets to determine who’s worthy of living in the city. And of course is that you check incomes, so you know only low income folk benefit. You can make sure by checking their tax returns, which no one would dare lie on, especially for something as trivial as getting a roof over your head…

    But of course it won’t matter, because the city will build so many apartments that there will be one for everyone who needs one. Never mind that they won’t even permit enough just for the people who can afford slightly-less-absurd-than-existing rents, and who are actually willing to pay for the land and the construction themselves.

    Look, I’m sorry for being sarcastic, but there are two possibilities I see: build so many units that everyone can afford a place (in which case, let’s open the freakin’ floodgates and let everyone build as much housing as possible, because there are obviously people who want it); or keep the supply limited but assign housing not by ability to pay but by some other mysterious metric, leaving everyone else in the cold (it’s totally affordable–just not for you).

    Or suggest something better. Seriously! I’ve lived in Sweden, where you’d think they’d be able to pull it off, but they didn’t. They had waiting lists over a decade long.

    But what do I know, I’m just a free-market wanker, or something…

  • Al

    In response to your last paragraph: free-market wankers don’t like paying $42,000 a year for a fourth floor walkup. They just think your alternative is worse.

    It sucks if your family has to illegally share a house in order to afford to live in the city. So you’d make the house affordable to a single modest-income family, so they can live an acceptable lifestyle– and then the other family who’d have shared it gets to wait 30 years until the first gets tired of it. Or they get to submit their applications to a surely-impartial board which gets to determine who’s worthy of living in the city. And of course is that you check incomes, so you know only low income folk benefit. You can make sure by checking their tax returns, which no one would dare lie on, especially for something as trivial as getting a roof over your head…

    But of course it won’t matter, because the city will build so many apartments that there will be one for everyone who needs one. Never mind that they won’t even permit enough just for the people who can afford slightly-less-absurd-than-existing rents, and who are actually willing to pay for the land and the construction themselves.

    Look, I’m sorry for being sarcastic, but there are two possibilities I see: build so many units that everyone can afford a place (in which case, let’s open the freakin’ floodgates and let everyone build as much housing as possible, because there are obviously people who want it); or keep the supply limited but assign housing not by ability to pay but by some other mysterious metric, leaving everyone else in the cold (it’s totally affordable–just not for you).

    Or suggest something better. Seriously! I’ve lived in Sweden, where you’d think they’d be able to pull it off, but they didn’t. They had waiting lists over a decade long.

    But what do I know, I’m just a free-market wanker, or something…

  • Me

    This is awesome. Beautiful. My sons dad is his caregiver through the county. My son has been diagnosed with autism and needs care when not in his programs or therapy. They’re going to attempt to evict me. He’s not on the lease and has his own address. He’s here all the time though.