Website exposes landlord blunders
October 5, 2010 6:50 PM
Tenants Together, a statewide organization that promotes the rights of tenants, announced the release of the Landlord Hall of Shame on its website Sept. 23. The organization hopes the list will expose nefarious landlords and inspire them to improve living conditions and provide basic rights for paying tenants.
"The idea is to collectively shine the public spotlight upon unfair landlords and place them under public scrutiny," said Gabe Treves, program coordinator for Tenants Together, based in San Francisco. "A lot of tenants feel voiceless and launching the program empowers the affected tenants to stand up for themselves, assert their rights and engage city regulators to fix whatever problems arise."
The list has gained support from key tenant-based organizations like the San Francisco Tenants Union.
"It's a very good thing for tenants," said Ted Gullicksen, executive director of the San Francisco Tenants Union. "There never was a statewide organization for tenants and this list they have is a better way to get the voices heard of current tenant organizations no matter where they are."
Some common problems tenants face in San Francisco are filthy or undesirable living conditions, harassment from landlords and eviction without being notified. According to the Tenants Union, Owner Move In evictions (when a landlord occupies a tenant's room without notification) are routinely abused by landlords, despite the passing of Proposition M in 2008, which prohibits such actions.
"Tenants have every right to an advocacy group, but they must also consider the rights of the person controlling the building," said Executive Director of the San Francisco Rent Board Delene Wolf.
The San Francisco Apartment Association does not support the list and would rather work to improve the landlord-tenant relationship in more constructive ways.
"Instead of creating more adversity and conflict between owners and tenants through lists denigrating one of the two groups, we seek to highlight the positive ways these two groups can work together for the maximum benefit of both parties," said Charley Goss, SFAA community relations coordinator in an email. "We are here to make the landlord aware not only of his rights while managing his property, but also the responsibilities and obligations he has. It is through advising landlords exactly as to what their obligations are that we work to foster a healthy and hospitable landlord/tenant relationship in which the tenant can enjoy their unit and the landlord can manage their investment profitably."
Tenants Together compiled a list of suggested Hall of Shame nominees in San Francisco based on complaints from tenants. The city's top three offenders were developers Laramar Group, Zanco Properties and Stellar Management.
Rogelio Foronda Jr., project coordinator for Stellar Management, whose properties include the SF-State-adjacent Parkmerced, declined to comment on the matter.
Both current and former residents of Parkmerced, a sprawling, suburban complex popular with students and families, have voiced their opinions about living conditions there.
William Sayin, 22, an anthropology major and former resident of the Parkmerced complex, recalled his experience there.
"I'm so glad I don't live there anymore," said Sayin, who moved out in 2007. "I remember mold being on the walls and they (the management) would come by and say it was going to be fixed. But they never came around. I was not going to pay all of that money to not have management listen to me. Tenants should definitely have a greater say when talking to their landlords."
Three years later, residents continue to voice similar complaints.
"It's very dirty," said current resident Jesus Pena, 18, a cinema major. "A lot of the time, there's trash in the hallways and it can be days before anybody comes to clean it up. That and there aren't enough washing machines for all the people that live here."
For some tenants, the experience of living at Parkmerced has been a positive one.
"As a tenant, sure, me and my roommates would love to have more of a say in things," Pena said. "I think the (Landlord Hall of Shame) is a great idea. I don't hate living here, but things could always be better."
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