Legislation that went into effect November 9, 2015 allows tenants covered under rent control to add occupants, if reasonable, despite restrictions in the rental agreement. The legislation has been allowed to remain as intended despite attempts by the landlord commissioners and initially the “neutral” commissioner (all appointed by the Mayor) to limit the legislation to new tenancies only, after protests by tenant advocates including the San Francisco Tenants Union.
Adding More Roommates than Allowed in Rental Agreement
- The additional number of occupants would need to comply with all occupancy limits, which generally limit the total number of occupants to 2 persons in a studio unit, 3 persons in a one-bedroom unit, 4 persons in a two-bedroom unit, 6 persons in a three-bedroom unit, or 8 persons in a four-bedroom unit.
- The additional occupant may not be for less than 30 days (transient use).
- The tenant needs to request in writing the landlord’s permission to add the occupant.
- If the landlord fails to respond to the tenant in writing with a description of the reasons for the denial of the request within 15 days of receipt of the tenant’s written request (start counting the day after the receipt so really 15 days), the tenant’s request shall be considered approved except:
- If mailed, the request is considered received 5 days after the postmark date.
- If the last day is a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, the time for the landlord to respond is extended to the end of the next business day.
- If the proposed occupant is not required to pay some rent to the landlord, the landlord may not refuse the proposed occupant due to lack of creditworthiness. The landlord may refuse the proposed occupant and state the reason in writing because:
- The proposed occupant is a threat to the health or security of the other residents or the property.
- The landlord shares the rental unit.
- The additional occupant would cause a financial hardship to the landlord.
- The landlord has 5 days (except if the last day is a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, the time for the landlord to respond is extended to the end of the next business day) after receipt of the tenant’s request for the additional occupant to request the standard application form and credit or income information (credit or income information may only be requested if the new occupant will be paying some rent to the landlord).
- The tenant has 5 days (except if the last day is a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, the time for the tenant to respond is extended to the end of the next business day) after receipt of request for the standard application form and credit or income information to provide the information.
- The new occupant needs to agree in writing to be bound to the current rental agreement if requested by the landlord.
- See San Francisco Rent Board Rules and Regulations 6.15E for more information.
The rights for adding a family member are the same as for adding nonfamily members except:
- Children under the age of 6 do not count towards occupancy limits. (SF Police Code Section 103)
- The additional occupant allowed for less than 30 days (transient use allowed) if the law for short-term rentals is followed.
- The tenant needs to state the relationship to the tenant in the request to add the family member.
- Minor children do not need to fill out an application form and do not need to agree to be bound by the current rental agreement.
- Anti-discrimination laws for families give additional protections.
- See San Francisco Rent Board Rules and Regulations 6.15D for more information.
For replacing a tenant where the other tenant remains, the procedure is the same as for adding a nonfamily member except:
- The remaining tenant cannot replace the departing tenant more than once every 12 months without good cause.
- The replacement tenant is allowed for less than 30 days (transient use allowed) if the law for short-term rentals is followed.
- If the rental agreement absolutely prohibits subletting or assignment, see San Francisco Rent Board Rules and Regulations 6.15A for more information.
- If the rental agreement requires permission for subletting or assignment, see San Francisco Rent Board Rules and Regulations 6.15B for more information.
If Landlord Refuses New Roommate
When a landlord refuses consent for a new roommate, the tenants can petition the Rent Board for a significant rent reduction on the grounds that the landlord has decreased their housing services. The petition process is safer than fighting the landlord over what is reasonable or not since the landlord may decide to try to evict the tenant. If you lose a case in eviction court due to a bad judge, you will lose your home!
If you did not follow the proper procedure for a new roommate, the landlord must give a 10 day notice to cure (correct the problem) or quit (move out) and the tenant may cure the breach by sending the request for the new roommate and following the procedure as described above.
Rent increases are not allowed solely for adding an occupant, but the landlord may petition to raise the rent for increased operating expenses.
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