Court: Real estate law not applicable to evictions
Tenderloin Housing Clinic considering appeal
By Julia Cheever
June 9, 2007
A lawyer for a group of San Francisco apartment tenants said
yesterday they are considering appealing a ruling that barred
them from using a real estate subdivision law to challenge their
Dean Preston, a lawyer with the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, said,
"We are definitely considering petitioning for review in
the California Supreme Court."
The tenants in five of the six units in a building on Francisco
Street are opposing their landlords' bid to evict them under the
Ellis Act, a state law that allows property owners to go out of
the rental business.
The building owners are four partnerships and two individuals
who want to divide the property into tenancies in common and eventually
The tenants claimed in a San Francisco Superior Court lawsuit
that the owners violated an unrelated law, the Subdivided Lands
Act, by failing to obtain a public report on the property for
A trial judge agreed and blocked the eviction on that basis.
But in a decision filed in San Francisco on Wednesday, the Court
of Appeal said the tenants couldn't use the subdivision law to
challenge the eviction because they weren't directly harmed by
the alleged violation.
Justice William McGuinness wrote, "Allowing tenants to challenge
Ellis Act evictions on the basis of violations of unrelated laws
frustrates the purpose of the act, which is to permit landlords
the right to go out of the rental business."
Andrew Zacks, a lawyer for the building owners, said, "The
court reaffirmed the central purpose of the Ellis Act - that the
government cannot force people to be landlords."
Preston said that in addition to a possible appeal, the tenants
will continue to oppose the eviction with several other claims
that are still pending in Superior Court.
The tenants' lawsuit had claimed the alleged failure to comply
with the subdivision law was a violation of the state's Unfair
Competition Law, which bars unfair and illegal business practices.
In 2004, California voters in Proposition 64 amended that law
to say that only plaintiffs who were directly harmed could sue
for unfair business practices.
The appeals court said the tenants couldn't sue under the amended
business law because they did not lose money or property from
the alleged subdivision law violation.
McGuinness wrote for a three-judge panel, "The tenants are
not among the class of persons the Subdivided Lands Act was intended
to protect and they have suffered no harm as a result of any violation
of its provisions."
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