Tag: landlord-tenant law

San Francisco’s Self-Inflicted Housing Problem

Housing is expensive and hard to find in beautiful San Francisco. In today’s New York Times, one would-be housing provider explains why. Scott James writes:

[A]fter renting out a one-bedroom apartment in my home for several years, I will never do it again. San Francisco’s anti-landlord housing laws and political climate make it untenable….

[A] complex legal structure has been created to make evictions for just cause extraordinarily difficult.

At first many of these rules governed only apartment complexes and larger properties with many units. But in 1994 the city applied the regulations to homes if they included just one rental on the property. In other cities, including New York City, such small-time landlords have far more rights over their own homes.

As he goes on to describe his experience with the last tenant in his downstairs apartment—a story featuring a sledgehammer, a flooded apartment, and a plugged-in appliance in an overflowing sink—I was reminded of the 1990 movie Pacific Heights, not coincidentally set in San Francisco.

It’s a thriller that is almost a documentary on the horrors of landlord-tenant law—and that is confirmed by today’s story. A young couple buys a big house in San Francisco and rents an apartment to a young man. He never pays them, and they can’t get him out, and then things get really scary. The lawyer lectures the couple—and the audience—on how “of course you’re right, but you’ll never win.” When I saw it, I just knew this happened to someone—maybe the screenwriter or someone he knew. Sure enough, when Cato published William Tucker’s book Rent Control, Zoning, and Affordable Housing, and I asked Pacific Heights director John Schlesinger for a jacket blurb, he readily agreed to say, “If you thought Pacific Heights was fiction, you need to read this book”; and he told me that the screenwriter had a relative who had gone through a tenant nightmare.

Want to instantly create 10,600 rental units in San Francisco? Reform landlord-tenant law so that small landlords come back to the market. In the meantime, watch Pacific Heights.

Obligatory Charlie Sheen Post

Is this the last blog in America that hasn’t commented on the Charlie Sheen meltdown? There isn’t much of a public policy angle, of course. Oh sure, employment-law analysts are looking at whether Warner Bros. has the right to fire Charlie Sheen. John Stossel and Bill O’Reilly talked about that question Tuesday night. But I’ve got another contribution. If Sheen is gone, Warner Bros. is going to need another actor – and a new “situation” – to keep its hit show “Two and a Half Men” on the air. Here’s my treatment:

A womanizing actor (John Stamos) is delighted to buy a Malibu beach house at a fire-sale price when the owner (Charlie Sheen) suddenly leaves town. Then he’s shocked to discover that the brother and nephew of the previous owner are living in the house, not paying rent, and refusing to leave. He tells them to get out, but Stamos brings in a lawyer (Julianna Margulies) who tells him that under California lawyer-tenant law he can’t evict the people who are living there.

Warner Bros. might want to seek out the writer of  Pacific Heights, a 1990 thriller that is almost a documentary on the horrors of landlord-tenant law. A young couple (Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffith) buy a big house in San Francisco and then rent an apartment to a young man (Michael Keaton). He never pays them, and they can’t get him out, and then things get really scary. The lawyer lectures the couple – and the audience – on how “of course you’re right, but you’ll never win.” I just knew this happened to someone – maybe the screenwriter or someone he knew. Sure enough, when Cato published William Tucker’s book Rent Control, Zoning, and Affordable Housing, and I asked the director of Pacific Heights, the legendary John Schlesinger, for a jacket blurb, he readily agreed to say “If you thought Pacific Heights was fiction, you need to read this book”; and he told me that the screenwriter had a relative who had gone through a tenant nightmare.

Of course, Warner Bros. might prefer to hire that screenwriter for a movie about a company that hires a charming and handsome new employee (Charlie Sheen) who brings in lots of money but turns out to be a nightmare to work with. Can they fire him? Hilarity ensues.