PART 10 - TENANT PETITION FOR ARBITRATION

Section 10.10 Decrease in Services

(Amended March 7, 1989; Subsection (e) adopted February 7, 1995; amended April 25, 1995; effective February 1, 1995; amended August 20, 1996)

(a) A tenant may petition for a reduction of base rent where a landlord, without a corresponding reduction in rent, has (1) substantially decreased housing services, including any service added after commencement of the tenancy and for which additional consideration was paid when it was provided, or (2) failed to provide housing services reasonably expected under the circumstances, or (3) failed to provide a housing service verifiably promised by the landlord prior to commencement of the tenancy.

(b) A petition for arbitration based on decreased services shall be filed on a form supplied by the Board. The petition shall be accompanied by a statement setting forth the nature and value of the service for which the decrease is being sought, and the date the decrease began and ended, if applicable.

(c) No rent decrease as requested in the tenant's petition will be allowed prior to one year preceding the filing of the petition except where one or more of the following is found:

(1) extraordinary circumstances;

(2) where the tenant establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that there has been long term notice, oral or written, from the tenant or other reliable source, regarding such decrease occurring in the interior of the tenant's unit, or where such condition existed in the interior of the unit at the commencement of the tenancy and the landlord had constructive notice of same; or

(3) where the tenant establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that there has been actual long term notice, oral or written, from the tenant or other reliable source, and/or constructive notice regarding such decrease occurring in any common area.

(d) For the purposes of this section, notice is defined as follows:

(1) Actual Notice: Actual notice occurs when the tenant or any reliable person or entity informs the landlord, or the landlord's agents, orally or in writing, of a decrease in housing services as defined in the Rent Ordinance at Section 37.2(g).

(2) Constructive Notice: Constructive notice occurs when a decrease in housing services exists and the landlord should have known about the condition. (For example, constructive notice may be found when a reasonable inspection would have revealed the condition in the common area at any time or in the unit prior to the commencement of the tenancy.)

(e) With respect to Newly Covered Units, the earliest permissible effective date for any rent decrease allowed under this Section 10.10 shall be December 22, 1994; provided, however, that the initial base rent, as defined by Section 37.12(a) of the Rent Ordinance shall include all housing services provided or reasonably expected on May 1, 1994, or as of the commencement of the tenancy, whichever is later.

(f) Except where a failure to repair and maintain results in a substantial decrease in housing services, any relief granted by the Board under this section shall preclude relief under Section 10.11 below. This provision shall not limit any civil remedies that would otherwise be available to a tenant or landlord.

Section 10.11 Failure to Perform Ordinary Repair and Maintenance

(Amended March 7, 1989)

(a) Up to 60 days following receipt by the tenant of a notice of rent increase, a tenant may petition for a denial of any increase (except certified capital improvements, rehabilitation, and/or energy conservation work) if the landlord has failed to perform requested repair, replacement or maintenance, as required by state and local law.

(b) Petitions based on the above grounds must be accompanied by a copy of the notice of rent increase, a statement of the nature, and extent of the necessary repairs and/or maintenance together with supporting documentation.

Section 10.12 Documentation of Gas and Electrical Increases

(Amended August 24, 2004)

The following provisions shall apply to utility passthroughs where the notice of rent increase for the utility passthrough was served prior to or on November 1, 2004:

(a) A tenant may petition for an arbitration hearing if the landlord has failed to provide the tenant with a clear explanation of the charges for gas and electricity on which an increase is being based.

(b) The landlord shall have the burden of proving the calculations upon which this increase is based.

(c) A petition based on this section shall be accompanied by the notice of increase.

Section 10.13 Improper Utility Passthrough

(Added August 24, 2004; Amended December 16, 2008, effective January 1, 2009)

(a) The following provisions shall apply to utility passthroughs where the notice of rent increase for the utility passthrough was served after November 1, 2004 where a Petition For Approval Of The Utility Passthrough was required to be filed under Section 6.16 of these Rules:

(i) A tenant may petition for an arbitration hearing if the landlord has increased the tenant's rent based on an increase in utility costs, but (1) has failed to file a petition for approval of the utility passthrough pursuant to Section 6.16 of these Rules, or (2) has failed to discontinue the utility passthrough after twelve months.

(ii) The landlord shall have the burden of proving that the utility passthrough has been approved and/or imposed in accordance with Section 6.16 of these Rules.

(iii) A petition based on this section shall be accompanied by the notice of increase.

(b) The following provisions shall apply to utility passthroughs where the notice of rent increase for the utility passthrough was served after January 1, 2009 where a Petition For Approval Of The Utility Passthrough was not required to be filed under Section 6.16:

(i) A tenant may petition for an arbitration hearing if the landlord has increased the tenant's rent based on an increase in utility costs, but (1) did not file a Utility Passthrough Calculation Worksheet with the Rent Board pursuant to Section 6.16 of these Rules; or (2) did not serve the tenant with a copy of the Utility Passthrough Calculation Worksheet, date-stamped by the Rent Board, with the notice of increase for the utility passthrough; or (3) did not properly calculate the utility passthrough or used an incorrect room count; or (4) did not discontinue the utility passthrough after twelve months.

(ii) The landlord shall have the burden of proving that the utility passthrough has been approved and/or imposed in accordance with Section 6.16 of these Rules.

(iii) A petition based on this section shall be accompanied by the notice of increase.

Section 10.14 Improper Water Revenue Bond Passthrough

(Effective July 20, 2005])

(a) Within one year of the effective date of a water revenue bond passthrough, a tenant may petition for an arbitration hearing on the following grounds;

(1) The landlord has not properly calculated the passthrough;

(2) The passthrough is calculated using an incorrect unit count;

(3) The landlord failed to provide a clear written explanation of the charges and the calculation of the passthrough;

(4) The unit is not in compliance with applicable laws requiring water conservation devices;

(5) The tenant requested a copy of the applicable water bill(s) and the landlord has not provided them;

(6) The tenancy began during or after the billing period(s) included in the passthrough calculation;

(7) The landlord failed to discontinue the passthrough after it was fully paid.

(b) The landlord shall have the burden of proving the accuracy of the calculation that is the basis of the water revenue bond passthrough, and that the unit is in compliance with applicable laws requiring water conservation devices.

(c) A petition based on this section shall be accompanied by the notice of the water revenue bond passthrough.

Section 10.15 Tenant Financial Hardship Applications

(Added July 12, 2016, effective August 13, 2016)

A tenant may seek relief from payment of the following types of rent increases or passthroughs on the grounds of financial hardship by filing a Tenant Financial Hardship Application with the Board: Capital Improvement Passthrough; Water Revenue Bond Passthrough; Utility Passthrough; and, Operating and Maintenance Expense Increase. The Rent Board shall prepare a hardship application form and make it available in multiple languages.

(a)  Applicability and Time of Filing

(1) With respect to any Capital Improvement Passthrough certified pursuant to Section 37.7 of the Ordinance, a tenant may file a Tenant Financial Hardship Application with the Board at any time after receipt of the notice of rent increase or decision of the Administrative Law Judge, whichever is earlier. Payment of the capital improvement passthrough(s) set forth in the hardship application shall be stayed from the date of filing until a decision is made on the Tenant Financial Hardship Application. 

(2) With respect to a Water Revenue Bond Passthrough or a Utility Passthrough based on a Utility Passthrough Calculation Worksheet filed with the Rent Board, a tenant may file a Tenant Financial Hardship Application with the Board within one year of the effective date of the passthrough. Payment of such passthrough(s) set forth in the hardship application shall be stayed from the date of filing until a decision is made on the Tenant Financial Hardship Application.

(3) With respect to an Operating and Maintenance Expense Increase or Utility Passthrough based on a Utility Passthrough Petition, a tenant may file a Tenant Financial Hardship Application with the Board within one year of the effective date of the increase or passthrough. The hardship application cannot be filed until the tenant receives the notice of rent increase or decision of the Administrative Law Judge, whichever is earlier. Payment of the operating and maintenance increase or utility passthrough set forth in the hardship application shall be stayed from the date of filing until a decision is made on the Tenant Financial Hardship Application.

(b)  Tenant Financial Hardship Application Standards and Process

(1)  Standards for Establishing Financial Hardship.  A tenant will qualify under Section 10.15 for relief from payment of a certified Capital Improvement Passthrough, Water Revenue Bond Passthrough, Utility Passthrough and/or Operating and Maintenance Expense Increase if the tenant demonstrates that one of the following financial hardship situations applies:

(A)  Tenant is a recipient of means-tested public assistance, such as Social Security Supplemental Security Income (SSI), General Assistance (GA), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), CalFresh (SNAP/Food Stamps) or California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKS); or,

(B)  Gross household income is less than 80% of the current Unadjusted Area Median Income (AMI) as published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the “Metro Fair Market Rent Area” that includes San Francisco; and rent charged is greater than 33% of gross household income; and assets, excluding non-liquid assets and retirement accounts, do not exceed asset amounts permitted by the Mayor’s Office of Housing when determining eligibility for below market rate (BMR) home ownership; or,

(C)  Exceptional circumstances exist, such as excessive medical bills.

(2)  Procedures for Filing.  A Tenant Financial Hardship Application must be filed:

(A) By each occupant in the unit who is 18 years of age or older, except not by any subtenant who pays rent to the master tenant (the gross income of the master tenant must include the amount of the subtenant’s rent payment);

(B)  Under penalty of perjury, stating that the tenant qualifies under one of the standards in Section 10.15(b)(1)(A), (B), or (C);

(C)  With documentation demonstrating the tenant’s qualifications; and,

(D)  With an acknowledgment that the Rent Board will provide a copy of the Tenant Financial Hardship Application to the landlord.

(3)  Hearing Options, Decision.

(A)  A decision on the Application will be issued administratively by a Rent Board Administrative Law Judge unless a hearing is requested by the landlord within fifteen days of the date the completed Tenant Financial Hardship Application is mailed to the landlord by the Rent Board, or unless a Rent Board Administrative Law Judge otherwise determines that a hearing is needed. 

(B)  Landlord Request for Hearing, Procedures.

(i)  A landlord’s request for a hearing on the Application shall specify the claim(s) in the Application that the landlord disputes, and attach any relevant documentation.

(ii)  A Rent Board Administrative Law Judge will review any landlord request for hearing, to determine whether a hearing is necessary to resolve disputed facts.

(iii)  If the landlord’s request for a hearing is granted, it will be the landlord’s burden to demonstrate that the tenant’s financial hardship eligibility under Section 10.15(b)(1) criteria, as stated in the Application, has not been established.

(iv)  If it is determined that a hearing as requested by the landlord is not needed to determine the facts, a decision on the Application will be issued administratively by a Rent Board Administrative Law Judge.

(4)  Term of Relief.  Relief from payment of a certified capital improvement passthrough, water revenue bond passthrough, utility passthrough and/or operating and maintenance expense increase may be for an indefinite period, or for a limited period of time, all subject to the landlord’s request to reopen the case if the landlord has information that the tenant is no longer eligible.

(5)  Change in Tenant Eligibility Status.   If a tenant is granted relief from payment of a certified capital improvement passthrough, water revenue bond passthrough, utility passthrough and/or operating and maintenance expense increase under Section 10.15, and subsequently the tenant is no longer eligible for such relief:

(A)  The tenant shall notify the Rent Board of this changed eligibility status in writing within 60 days, with a copy to the landlord.

(B)  Whether or not the tenant notifies the Rent Board and landlord as provided in Section 10.15(b)(5)(A), the landlord may notify the Rent Board if the landlord has information that the tenant is no longer eligible, with a copy to the tenant.

(C)  Upon receipt of notice under Section 10.15(b)(5)(A) or (B), a Rent Board Administrative Law Judge shall decide whether to grant or deny the previously granted relief.  That decision may be made administratively by a Rent Board Administrative Law Judge without a hearing unless the Administrative Law Judge determines that a hearing is needed, or unless the landlord or tenant requests a hearing.  Any such hearing shall be promptly scheduled.

(6)  Any decision granting or denying the Tenant Financial Hardship Application, or any subsequent decision on a previously granted Tenant Financial Hardship Application, may be appealed to the Rent Board.  Appeals of decisions on a tenant’s hardship application shall be governed by Ordinance Section 37.8(f). The Rent Board’s final decision will be subject to judicial review by writ of administrative mandamus in the San Francisco Superior Court.

(c)  Notice to Tenants Regarding Tenant Financial Hardship Applications

The Rent Board shall provide written notice in multiple languages of the Tenant Financial Hardship Application procedures to each affected unit with a copy of the landlord’s capital improvement petition, utility passthrough petition, and operating and maintenance petition. The Rent Board shall include notice of the Tenant Financial Hardship Application procedures on the utility passthrough worksheet and water revenue bond passthrough worksheet. The Rent Board shall also provide written notice in multiple languages of the Tenant Financial Hardship Application procedures to each affected unit with each Administrative Law Judge decision regarding capital improvement passthroughs, utility passthroughs and operating and maintenance rent increase.