Rentals in San Francisco>Question Details

Ken, Home Owner in San Francisco, CA

illegal unit san francisco

Asked by Ken, San Francisco, CA Sun Jul 1, 2012

I believe my tenant just reported the illegal unit they have been living in. They have been living in the unit for 12 years but just reported that the unit lacks heat and fans. I received a notice from the Department of Building Inspection and I am supposed to call as soon as possible to schedule an inspection. What are the potential consequences and costs? Is it possible the inspector just requests addition of air and heat if the unit is in good condition?

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You do need to consult with an attorney. There are many issues here that can come up with the worst having you sued for all the rent you've received over the last twelve years for charging rent to the "poor tenant for an illegal, uninhabitable space".
Although the City acknowledges that there are over forty thousand "ancillary units" (the latest term being used in Planning circles) the fact of the law remains that you were charging money for a space that didn’t have a certificate of occupancy and is likely not in an area that is zoned for multiple family residences. In other words you have been breaking the law for at least twelve years.
The best case scenario is the building inspector looks at the property and finds that you meet the main tests of habitability but because of the zoning you have to remove (abate) the unit. If the zoning allows multi-family homes then you might be able to bring it up to code and continue to rent it. Then you are just dealing with this nasty landlord/tenant relationship.
Good luck to you. I know I’m going to add this to my list of cautionary tales for buyer’s who think buying a place with an ancillary unit in it is a good idea. By the way you are not alone in having this happen after a good long run of getting away with it.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jul 2, 2012
Jed Lane; Fog…, Real Estate Pro in San Francisco, CA
I have worked with Mr. Richard Beckman in several occasions regarding tenant and landlord issues in San Francisco. His rates are very reasonable and also the end result is fantastic... Just give him a call at:

Richard Beckman
Beckman Blair LLP
703 Market Street, Suite 1610
San Francisco, CA 94103
tel. 415-495-8500x11; fax. 415-495-8590

Manzar D. Azari, MBA, Broker, Realtor
The Azari Group Real Estate, Inc.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Jul 1, 2012
Rich Beckman is a great attorney who has assisted many of my clients and myself as well. As my dear friend Manzar states, his rates are not only reasonable, he will consult with you briefly gratis.
Flag Wed Jul 4, 2012
You have received some excellent responses from realtors...

No one knows the potential consequences and costs right now because each situation is different and, unfortunately, even similiar cases have different outcomes.

A lot depends on how vindictive your tenant is....

San Francisco has a lot of illegal untis and the City knows this.

Usually, most tenants are happy with illegal in laws and pay rent on time and stay without any complaints.

Some tenants, for one reason or another, report that their unit is illegal for vindictive reasons or for habitability issues.

It is up to the landlord to take this risk and rent illegal units.

I personally advise against renting illegal units.

Peter T. Chin Realtor #01866332
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Jul 1, 2012
Engage an attorney who specializes in landlord/tenant issues right away. Here's the web address for one such group of attorneys in San Francisco.
Web Reference:
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jul 2, 2012
What the building department asks for depends totally on the very subjective opinion of the inspector that comes out, which could be as little as you mention to as bad as owing the tenant back rent for renting illegally even though they have tenant rights - and no, that doesn't make sense but it happens. You need a great attorney - I have had experience with several of SF's landlord attorneys and happy to give you my thoughts off line as we have dealt with this personally and for clients.

Best Regards,

Lance King/Owner-Managing Broker
DRE# 01384425
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jul 1, 2012
Totally agree with Michael Robertson. You need to be in touch with a real estate attorney; Daniel Bornstein is excellent.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jul 1, 2012
No no noooooo..... there are so many better attorneys....
Flag Thu Jun 12, 2014
No, no no no. There are so many better lawyers.
Flag Thu Jun 12, 2014
Flag Thu Jun 12, 2014
Ken, i would consult a real estate attorney who specializes in this. You might want to call Daniel Bornstein at 1-415-409-7611 and tell him that i sent you.

Good luck with this.

Michael Robertson
Pacific Union International'
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jul 1, 2012
Not Bornstein. Read some articles about him. You can do better.
Flag Thu Jun 12, 2014
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