August 22, 2014

Judge expedites trial in PLF’s challenge to San Francisco’s tenant payment ordinance

By Judge expedites trial in PLF’s challenge to San Francisco’s tenant payment ordinance

As reported, PLF Principal Attorney David Breemer went to court this morning in San Francisco for a hearing in Levin v. City and County of San FranciscoThis is the case challenging San Francisco’s new Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance.  Under this law, property owners who wish to stop being landlords must pay their tenants the difference between the tenant’s annual rent-controlled rate, and the amount it would cost to rent a comparable apartment at open market rates, and then multiply that amount by two.  For Daniel and Maria Levin, one of the parties in the case, they must pay their single tenant over $117,000 in order to withdraw the lower half of their duplex from the rental market so they can use that space for their own family.  Because of the massive amount of financial liability at stake for the Levins, and the several other property owners whom PLF attorneys represent, Mr. Breemer asked the court for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction to halt the City’s enforcement of the law during the duration of the lawsuit.  While Judge Charles Breyer denied the TRO, he postponed making a decision on the preliminary injunction until the trial, for which he set an expedited date because of the case’s importance, and the law’s immediate and troubling impacts.  “By setting an early date for a trial on our lawsuit,” said Mr. Breemer, “the judge recognized that important legal questions are at stake.  We agree, because San Francisco is shaking down rental-property owners for outrageous sums of money, in flagrant violation of the Constitution’s protection for property rights.”  The trial will begin on October 6.

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Levin v. City and County of San Francisco

Dan and Maria Levin live in the upstairs unit of their two-story home in San Francisco, California. They would like to use the lower unit for friends and family, but a city ordinance required them to pay their tenant $118,000 to withdraw the unit from the rental market. This amount represents the difference between the tenant’s existing, rent-controlled rate and the cost of acquiring a comparable unit at open market rates, for two years. Representing the Levins and others, PLF successfully sued to strike down this ordinance as an unconstitutional taking in violation of the Fifth Amendment and violation of California’s Ellis Act, which guarantees to property owners the right to take property off the rental market.

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