Rental property may seem like a simple way to secure additional income, and it often is, but it also comes with a huge legal responsibility. As a rental housing provider, to protect your investment you need to be proactive.

San Francisco is a fantastic location to own rental property; however the city is extremely tenant friendly. To get the most out of your investment in San Francisco, owners and/or their property managers should conduct annual unit evaluations. When a tenant authorizes an annual unit evaluation to be performed, this permits the rental housing provider to be able to document the unit’s condition and schedule routine maintenance. This is a successful preventive measure to ensure no small or large issues go ignored that may have gone unreported by the tenant.

Properties require regular upkeep and often times, tenants are unable to make accurate assessments regarding maintenance or safety issues. For this reason, be proactive and don’t wait for your tenant to contact you. It is in the best interest of both tenant and landlord to address problems the moment they happen. For example, a small leak under the sink can quickly become an expensive repair if not dealt with immediately. It is the rental housing providers responsibility to ensure that the property is in compliance with all housing codes and habitability issues. During the evaluation, look for multiple extension cords that may be overused, missing batteries in smoke detectors (test with canned smoke and document results), windows open and close and that window locks are functional.  Additionally, make certain plumbing is working properly by flushing all toilets, turning on tubs and showers, and checking all faucets for leaks. Other items landlords must maintain and meet by San Francisco law include:

  • Adequate and safe heat.
  • Effective weatherproofing, including doors, windows, and roofs.
  • Housing free of garbage, cockroaches, rats, and vermin.
  • Gas facilities in good order.
  • Reasonable amounts of hot and cold running water.
  • Adequate electric plugs and phone jacks.
  • Stairs and common areas maintained in good order.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors are in working condition (Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010).

How can this affect you as the rental housing provider?  If a tenant notifies you of needed repairs and the item goes unfixed, the rental housing provider risks legal ramifications under the San Francisco Rent Control Ordinance.  Tenants have the ability to file a petition with the Rent Board claiming a “Decrease in Housing Services.” According to the San Francisco Tenants Union, this permits tenants to ask for rent reductions to help compensate for their reduced habitability.

Don’t take shortcuts when protecting your investment. Provide tenants with a quality home and perform regular annual unit evaluations. When tenants know you are active in managing your rental property, they usually will be sure to properly take care of the unit and property as well.