Tenant Troubles: My Erratic Landlord Is Asking For An Illegal Rent Increase

I have a question about rent increases. My girlfriend and I live in a rent controlled 12-unit building in Nob Hill (built in 1907). We recently received a 30-day notice to increase our rent from our landlord. He is trying to increase our rent by 3.8% (1.9% for 2012 and 1.9% for 2013).

While I know it’s perfectly ok for them to bank increases, we haven’t lived in the unit for two years yet. We moved in on August 1st of 2011. He stated in his notice that the rent increase was to take place on 7/1/2013, which would only be 23 months of tenancy.

This compounded by the fact that he said he wouldn’t raise our rent when we moved in as it just “pisses people off” leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth… I have tried to reason with him before on certain things and he has responded in a completely erratic way due to the fact I think he’s strung out on drugs most of the time to the point my girlfriend is afraid of him. He lives in our building so I don’t want to make it an unbearable living situation but given how crazy rents are getting these days we don’t really have too many options.

Tenant Troubles Archives

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.

Uh, oh, you broke one of the cardinal rules of renting an apartment in San Francisco. If the landlord lives in the building, take a pass, keep looking. I talk about this all the time. Landlords, especially those who live with their tenants, think they own their tenants. They think they’re helping when they illegally enter your unit to express your new puppy’s anal glands. Most of the time, however, they simply believe that your apartment is an extension of their house and they want to monitor and control your behavior.

Your rent increase is technically illegal. “Banking” rent increases is a well-established and legal practice, San Francisco Rent Ordinance §37.3(a) provides in part, “A landlord who refrains from imposing an annual rent increase or any portion thereof may accumulate said increase and impose that amount on the tenant’s subsequent rent increase anniversary dates…” As you stated, a rent increase of 1.9% could have been imposed in August 1, 2012, but the second increase cannot be imposed until August 1, 2013. I’m sure you understand that his prior “promise” to refrain from increasing the rent could never be a defense to refusing to pay the increase.

Politely inform the landlord, in writing, that you will begin to pay the increase on August 1, 2013. (You should establish a practice of written communication with your landlord despite his proximity in the building.)

Then wait for all hell to break loose.

You think your landlord is strung out on drugs. He may be, but sometimes the behavior one ascribes to drugs can simply be a syphilitic dementia-like, Caligula-style obsession for control commonly found in landlords.

I hope your landlord doesn’t have a problem waiting for his increase for a couple months, but your description reminds me that some landlords can turn into trolls at the first hint of “defiance” from their tenants.

If your landlord starts to get nasty, make sure you document the behavior and, if necessary, call the cops.

I truly understand your conundrum. Two years ago, rents in San Francisco were, what, a tenth of what they are now? 😉 But do you really want to live in fear? How much is that worth? I think you should consider moving.

You should also consider volunteering to strengthen rent control, devoting the same amount of time you might spend worrying about your dickhead landlord. Call the San Francisco Tenants Uniion or Tenants Together.

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.

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!
  • Forthright

    That landlord’s name wouldn’t happen to be Robert Simpson, would it?!?!?

  • Forthright

    That landlord’s name wouldn’t happen to be Robert Simpson, would it?!?!?

  • Renter’s Rule Number 1 – Never live in the same building as your landlord! I’m so glad that you put that reminder here. you can avoid a lot of headaches if you keep your land lord as far away from you as possible!

  • Renter’s Rule Number 1 – Never live in the same building as your landlord! I’m so glad that you put that reminder here. you can avoid a lot of headaches if you keep your land lord as far away from you as possible!

  • stop complaining, 3.8 percent increase over 2 year is less than inflation. You basically got an discount.

    • njudah

      So illegal behavior is ok then? I’ll remember that next time I’m at the bank lol

      • Read the article, the practice is legal. The landlord just can’t start on 7/1, has to start on 8/1.

  • stop complaining, 3.8 percent increase over 2 year is less than inflation. You basically got an discount.

    • njudah

      So illegal behavior is ok then? I’ll remember that next time I’m at the bank lol

      • Read the article, the practice is legal. The landlord just can’t start on 7/1, has to start on 8/1.

  • Stephen Gatto

    I made the mistake about 10 years ago of moving into a building where the land lady lived in the building. It was by far one of the most miserable experiences of my life. She was constantly spying on me and meddling in my business.
    True Story: One day I was home and really was not in the mood to deal with her nagging so I ignored her and didn’t answer my door or phone. When she couldn’t get my attention ..she called the fire department and had them LITERALLY break my door down. I am still not sure what she told them to convince them to do that.

  • Stephen Gatto

    I made the mistake about 10 years ago of moving into a building where the land lady lived in the building. It was by far one of the most miserable experiences of my life. She was constantly spying on me and meddling in my business.
    True Story: One day I was home and really was not in the mood to deal with her nagging so I ignored her and didn’t answer my door or phone. When she couldn’t get my attention ..she called the fire department and had them LITERALLY break my door down. I am still not sure what she told them to convince them to do that.

  • Ross Adams

    I also think that moving is a good solution to this problem. I suppose you’re good tenants, so you deserve to rent the property from good landlord. Yes, housing in SF in expensive nowadays. However, there are always options to negotiate the rental price with property owner. If your screening shows a good results, you will be in better position to negotiate the rent. The platform https://rentberry.com/custom-offers allows tenants to submit their offers to homeowner. So, you may offer your price without meeting landlord in person.