The sound of pens clicking and the scent of freshly made pizza permeated the air in the Rosa Parks event room in the Cesar Chavez Student Center, as students trickled in to hear a lecture and Q&A on tenant and landlord rights and laws at the annual SF State Legal Resource Center “Know Your Tenant/Landlord Right” event on Monday.
The main speakers of the event included Ora Prochovnick, who is a law professor at John F. Kennedy University and the co-founder of Bayside Legal Advocates, a female run community practice that focuses on tenant advocacy and Marissa Jimenez, a member of the San Francisco rent board.
Before the event got started, Prochovnick, who is also the Legal Resource Center’s consulting attorney, said the main goal of the lecture was to stress that it is important for students to know their rights and thoroughly read their lease agreement, even if the document is long and monotonous.
“There are a lot of protections for tenants in California and particularly in San Francisco, but your rights are only as strong as you stand up for them. If students are not aware that they have protections and are willing to assert them on their behalf, they will have less ability to be able to maintain the crucially human necessity of housing in a very challenging environment,” Prochovnick said.
Anna Navaro, a second-year U.S. history and health education major said that she was looking forward to learning about the rights that students have as tenants and the other resources that the Legal Resource Center offers.
“Most of the time students come out of living with parents from out of town not knowing their rights. So it is important to know, so you’re not abused,” Navaro said.
Jimenez shared this sentiment and said that the key importance of having this event is so students can walk away with a solid knowledge of tenant rights, since knowledge is power.
“It is vital to know this information because the housing market is so tight and competitive and people who aren’t aware of their rights may be taken advantage of. Information is power and education is power,” Jimenez said.
The corpus of information and rights that were explained and discussed during the lecture included the laws related to rent control- what buildings in San Francisco are under rent control and what services the San Francisco rent board can provide.
Since the laws and ordinances can be confusing, according to Jimenez, Prochovnick laid out the most basic elements of the rent control law that students should know.
“If you are month-to-month tenant, then your rent can be changed at any time with 30 days notice, or any of the other terms of your tenancy can be changed at any time with 30 days notice,” Prochovnick said.
Jimenez further helped to explain the rent control ordinance, discussing what it stipulates and what buildings are and aren’t protected under the rent control law.
“Under the rent ordinance, not all residential units in San Francisco are covered. If your building was built before June 13, 1979, you are covered under the rental ordinance, which is part of the local San Francisco law and prohibits most rent increases for 60 days,” Jimenez said
Jimenez encouraged students and renters with lease or ordinance questions to reach out to the San Francisco Rent Board, which offers phone counseling Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
“We try to help people and help people understand the rent ordinance no matter who they are, tenant or landlord,” Jimenez concluded.
According to Julia Tapia, the director of the Legal Resource Center, on average around 30 people come to the yearly event, a much larger turnout than what Monday’s event saw.
“Students come to us who say they agreed to a certain contract, but then were evicted after prices were raised and students seek help. So working with the San Francisco rent board is super helpful,” Tapia said. “And students can also schedule a 30-minute appointment with our attorney if they have a problem.”
Appointments are $10 and be can be arranged at the legal resource center in room 133A on the mezzanine level of the student center. San Francisco Rent Board counseling can be reached at 415-252-4602, or at their office on 25 Van Ness Avenue, suite 320.