Wherever it Exists, Rent Controls Create the Same Inequities

When rent control fails – San Francisco edition

October 9, 2012  |   Posted by: 

Rent control exists to protect the San Francisco apartment renter – who lives in an older apartment building – from price gouging by greedy landlords out to make a buck.

But as we all know, sometimes the best intentions do not produce the desired results. And though rent control has been a very successful protection method for renters for many years, more often than not these days it’s the landlords who are getting gouged by their renters.

It seems that one of the failures of rent control is the possibility of a non-finite leasing arrangement.  Renters who started in an apartment a decade ago, grew successful and prosperous and even moved out into a house or a bigger, better apartment, never ended the lease at their rent controlled place. Instead, they kept renewing it, kept paying rent, and didn’t live there.

Maybe they illegally sublet it to someone who isn’t on the lease at all. Maybe they used it for an office or a secret hideaway where they could escape from their spouse. Or maybe they moved to Marin and used it only on the occasion when they came into the city – and also sublet it for weekends to their friends.

These situations are all too common in the San Francisco rent controlled housing market, which is why some residents – and tenants rights advocates – are calling for an overhaul to rent control. Policing offenders who are abusing the system for their own personal gain should be the job of the Rent Control Board, but they lack the manpower and resources to check up on each and every tenant. And plus – that shouldn’t be necessary. Residency checks for tenancy sound like something out of a totalitarian regime, not live-and-let-live San Francisco.

The SF Chronicle reports that there are still more than 183,500 rent-controlled units, out of 222,165 apartments, in San Francisco. That’s a huge percentage of the housing stock, and gaming the system is patently unfair. How can we better self police the way rent controlled units are being used?


Source: Rent Cafe

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