Anti-Ellis Act bill heading to Housing Committee


A bill that could strip San Francisco landlords of their freedom to leave the rental housing business heads to a key senate committee next month.

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco

On Tuesday, April 8, state Sen. Mark Leno’s SB 1439 goes before the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing.

SB 1439 is a direct assault on the Ellis Act, a law passed in 1985 that bars local governments from making landlords stay in the rental housing business.

Ellis especially protects owners of rental properties in rent controlled cities, where landlords can find themselves operating at a loss.

EllisActImageUnder Leno’s bill, San Francisco would be authorized to place the Ellis Act out of reach for newer property owners. For example, someone who purchases a rental property in San Francisco would have to wait at least five years before removing his or her rental units from the market.

Leno’s bill is one of two with the Ellis Act in its crosshairs. The other is AB 2405 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, who, like Leno, is a Democratic legislator from San Francisco.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano

Ammiano’s bill would convert all Ellis Act court filings to general civil actions, meaning that if a tenant challenges an Ellis eviction in court, the process could take years to finalize.

The next committee hearing for AB 2405 has yet to be scheduled.

In their own ways, both Leno’s and Ammiano’s bills could leave financially distressed landlords trapped in the rental housing business for years on end.