HANC Members Endorse Tenants' Right to Counsel Ballot Measure

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At our December meeting, the HANC members present unanimously voted to endorse a ballot measure informally known as the “No Eviction Without Representation Initiative.” The formal title provided by the City Attorney is “City-Funded Legal Representation for All Residential Tenants in Eviction Lawsuits.” Per the City Attorney’s summary, “This measure would require the City [through the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development] to establish, fund and run a program to provide legal representation for all residential tenants whose landlords are attempting to evict them from where they live.” The full summary can be read at http://sfgov.org/elections/sites/default/files/Documents/candidates/Title_Summary_Eviction_Defense.pdf.

 

The measure was submitted to the Department of Elections on November 1. The proponents need to gather 9,485 verified signatures by February 5 for the measure to appear on the June ballot. We believe the proponents are well on their way to obtaining the needed signatures, but if they do not reach their goal by February 5, then they will have until May 15 to obtain additional signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

Full text of the ballot measure can be found here: http://www.sfrighttocounsel.com/initiative_text.

Meanwhile, at the November 14 Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisors Sheehy and Breed requested that the City Attorney’s Office draft an Ordinance which would provide a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction. The ordinance was introduced by Supervisors Sheehy and Breed at the November 28 meeting and forwarded to the Rules Committee. On December 5, the Rules Committee sent a memo to the Rent Board and to the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, seeking their comments on the proposed ordinance. The Rules Committee next meets on January 17, and the measure could be considered by the Board of Supervisors as early as January 23 .

This website contains links to the legislative summary and the full text of the measure:

https://sfgov.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3268932&GUID=EEA4358C-C18D-4AE9-B682-9295A3AC3FAA

The proposed ordinance could be amended either at the Rules Committee or at the Board of Supervisors. Meantime, two places where the ordinance appears to fall short of the ballot initiative are:

1) The ordinance requires the Office of Tenant Assistance (to be created within MOHCD) to provide representation within 30 days of notification.  The ballot initiative would additionally provide representation when a tenant is served with an unlawful detainer (eviction) complaint.  A tenant could be served with a 3-day notice, and a complaint 4 days later.  If the tenant fails to respond to the complaint within 5 days, the landlord could get a default judgment on the 6th day, only 10 days after the tenant has been notified;

2)  The ordinance provides that program funds may not be used if the eviction proceeding is based "in whole or in part on the tenant having been engaged in an act of domestic violence, elder abuse, child abuse, or harassment."  Although this sounds reasonable, it could lead to landlords simply alleging harassment (or more serious conduct) to prevent tenants from having an attorney.  There is also an exception if a state or federal program provides full scope representation to the tenant, which seems reasonable.

We will continue to monitor the progress of both the ballot initiative and of the proposed ordinance and keep you informed.

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