San Francisco landlord issues apology letter to tenants


First there was a letter sent to residents of 312 Fillmore Street, stating the minimum yearly income of every new or current resident should be at least $100,000.

But housing rights advocates told us the landlord can't do that to existing tenants.

"For existing tenants, they cannot require existing tenant provide income verification or evict a tenant for not meeting certain income thresholds or credit checks," said tenant's rights attorney Jackie Ravenscroft.

So on Tuesday afternoon, the owner of the Fillmore apartments handed out a second letter saying he was wrong.

Residents said it was quite a rude awakening to get the first letter slipped under their door. But most already knew their rights.

"The whole letter is kind of a joke to me," said tenant Ryan Bailey. "I'm a resident, you can't change anything, it doesn't work that way. But it just kinda sets the voice and tone of what's going on in the market right now."

Some tenants complain that it's just another tactic used by the owner, Robert Shelton, to force people out.

For example, Zo McFee has been in her one bedroom apartment for more than 20 years and pays less than $1,000 a month.

If you go across the street, a one bedroom in a newer building rents for more than $3,000.

"It's a problem I guess to him that he could be making a lot more on the rent controlled apartments," McFee said.

We got no response from Shelton. When we tried to approach him, he shut the door in our face.

ABC7 News did, however, get ahold of several letters given to tenants.

For example, one says there could only be one person living in a studio, even though a person has the right to marry and bring his or her spouse along. Another letter says any visitor without proper identification will be escorted and arrested as a trespasser.

Residents also complain that the landlord has entered their apartment without giving them a required 24 hour written notice.

And the buzzer has not worked in a year. Some tenants have to walk down several flights of stairs to open the door for their guests.

"That would be a building code violation, so residents should contact the department of building inspections," said Sara Shortt with the Housing Rights Committee.

Those same advocates say there are many landlords trying to get around the rent control laws.

Ravenscroft said the letter didn't surprise her, since the rental market is so hot right now. She says landlords can make those demands on future tenants.

"For new tenants coming into a building there's nothing per se that prohibits him from requiring certain income requirements and credit level checks," said Ravenscroft.

The attorney says her office has been busier this year than ever before. They want to point out, however, that you can only be evicted for 15 reasons in San Francisco.

This story comes to us from our sister station, KGO-TV, in San Francisco.

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