San Francisco Legalizes Rental of 'In-Law Units'

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted earlier this week to allow property owners to rent “in-law units”—a major policy departure that could add tens of thousands of rental units to the constrained San Francisco real estate market.

Marisa Lagos reports on legislation that could potentially allow an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 existing in-law units to enter the rental market in San Francisco.

Despite the soaring cost of housing in San Francisco, the vote wasn’t without opposition. From the article by Lagos: “On Tuesday, the board voted 8-2 to let property owners voluntarily apply to legalize units built before Jan. 1, 2013. The vote came after more than an hour of debate and several attempts by Supervisor Norman Yee to weaken board President David Chiu's position. At a recent hearing, dozens of homeowners from Yee's district west of Twin Peaks turned out to vehemently oppose any attempts to legalize in-law units.”

The opposition from the west side of the city came from neighborhoods, whose residents have traditionally honored private contracts that detail rental rules for the neighborhood. A provision in the new law states that the city will not interfere with such agreements.

To pass muster for the legal rental market, “[property] owners will be allowed to ask city officials to ‘prescreen’ their units and, if any necessary upgrades are too expensive or difficult, the homeowner could drop his effort to legalize the unit without penalty.”

“To protect renters of the units - many of whom are low-income families and immigrants, according to Chiu - any legalized units would be covered by the city's rent-control ordinance and could not be sold as condominiums. The legislation also bars landlords from passing on to tenants the costs of upgrades to bring the apartments up to code and prevents property owners who have evicted someone in the past 10 years from legalizing their units.”

Full Story: S.F. supervisors vote to bring in-law units out of shadows


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