San Francisco Rent Board Swamped As Rents, Evictions Rise

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Amid sky-high rents and a flood of evictions, the San Francisco Rent Board is unable to keep up with the overwhelming number of housing complaints.

During the recession, the rent board office was buying billboard space to remind residents that it existed. These days, renters wanting to voice a complaint need to wait in line.

When rent disputes hit a dead end, desperate tenants and landlords come to the Rent Board, which has the final say in all things rent control.

“What brought me here was when they wanted to raise my rent,” said Paul Carey, who went to the rent board back in October after a rent disagreement with his landlord.

Carey told KPIX 5 that it took about four months to be seen by the board. “They told me they were busy,” he said.

The rent board office is swapped: a record number of cases over the past year that have come with skyrocketing rents and a rising number of evictions.

“If you walked in today, you wouldn’t get a hearing for many months. That’s not acceptable to me,” said Delene Wolf, executive director of the Rent Board.

Wolf has worked at the board through the booms and the busts, but said she has never seen anything like this.

“The rent ordinance was passed on June 13th, 1979 to alleviate San Francisco’s temporary housing crisis. It’s more than 30 years later, and I think I’m here to stay,” Wolf said.

Wolf admits her office is behind schedule and she has a file cabinet filled with nearly 600 folders to prove it. They can only hear about 80 cases a month.

She expects more help from the city soon. “I don’t think I have to convince anybody at the moment that we’re having an affordability crisis in San Francisco,” Wolf said.

After four months, Mr. Carey’s day is finally here. And if the rent board judge takes his side it will all be worth the wait.

The Rent Board can only hear cases on existing leases. They can’t help with complaints from apartment hunters.

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