Court of Appeal upholds rent control protections for lawful occupants

Mosser Companies v. San Francisco Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Board, (1st Dist. Ct. of App.) 2015 DJDAR 878, (January 21, 2015).

Upholding the trial court’s denial of a landlord’s petition for writ of mandate, the Court of Appeal held that San Francisco’s rent control ordinance limiting rent increases for “original occupants” of a unit under a rental agreement protects any lawful original occupants, including minors.

The case involves a landlord’s attempt to nearly double the rent on a unit when the original signatories to the lease vacated the unit, but their son remained. The son was 13 years old when the family took possession of the unit ten years before and had lived in the unit continuously since his parents entered into the rental agreement. The case hinges on the definition of “occupant” under both the rent control ordinance and the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act, which prohibited vacancy control ordinances that limited a landlord’s ability to set rental rates for new tenancies. The court found that in both laws, occupant meant lawful occupant and the son was a lawful, original occupant of the unit and entitled to protection under the ordinance. The court was careful to note that its ruling did not establish a right to inherit a parent’s tenancy, rather the son in this case had his own personal right to occupancy as he had been a continuous, lawful occupant since the family moved into the unit.