San Francisco voters approved Proposition M in 2008. The measure amended the San Francisco Rent Ordinance to ban bad faith or “harassment” actions conducted by the landlord or their agents. The San Francisco Superior Court upheld the measure. Landlords appealed to the court of appeal which reversed part of the trial court’s ruling.
Section 37.10B of the Rent Ordinance codifies parts of Proposition M allowed by the court of appeal. It is considered to be tenant harassment to fail to perform repairs and maintenance required by state or local housing laws, to “abuse the landlord’s right of access” into an apartment, or to refuse to cash a rent check for more than 30 days. Harassment of a tenant also includes any action by the landlord that substantially interferes with or disturbs the peace and quiet of any tenant, any request for information that violates a tenant’s right to privacy, or any interference with a tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment of her home.
Violation of section 37.10B is considered to constitute a significant reduction in housing services, and the tenant may file a petition with the Rent Board. Alternatively, a tenant may file a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court, seeking an injunction against the landlord. Any person who is found to have violated Section 37.10B is liable for three times actual damages suffered by the tenant, if the jury finds that the landlord acted “in knowing violation.” The section also allows for the plaintiff to receive reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. In addition, the jury is allowed to award punitive damages or damages designed to punish the landlord for his actions against the tenant.