Foster v. BrittonAnnotate this Case
A regulation promulgated by San Francisco’s Rent Board provides that notwithstanding any changes to the terms of a tenancy under section 827, a tenant may not be evicted for violating an obligation that was not included in the tenant’s original rental agreement unless the change is authorized by San Francisco’s rent control ordinance, is required by law, or is accepted by the tenant in writing. (Rule 12.20.) The issues this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review centered on: (1) whether section 827 preempted Rule 12.20; (2) whether the Rent Board exceeded its powers when it adopted Rule 12.20; and (3) whether it exceeded its powers when it adopted Rule 6.15C, which limited the rent a master tenant may charge to a subtenant but provided that a violation of that limitation was not a basis for eviction. Plaintiff Margaret Foster lived for more than 40 years in an apartment in a multi-unit building now owned by defendant and cross-complainant John Britton and managed by defendant and cross-complainant W.J. Britton & Co., Inc. (collectively, “Britton”). After buying the building in 2011, Britton served the tenants, including plaintiff, with “House Rules.” The document setting forth the new “House Rules” stated that the rules superseded all previous house rules, that they went into effect 30 days from receipt, and that “Tenant accepts the House Rules by remaining in possession after they come into effect and paying rent each month. If Tenant does not accept the House Rules, Tenant may opt to give 30 days’ written notice to Landlord to terminate his or her tenancy and move out.” Plaintiff responded that the longstanding terms of her tenancy (that the House Rules effectively prohibited) included garbage service, two parking spaces, an assigned area in the back yard, specific storage spaces, and the use of her service porch for laundry and storage. She informed Britton she did not agree to any unilateral changes to her rental agreement. In the ensuing dispute, Britton took the position that section 827, subdivision (a) preempted Rule 12.20. The Court of Appeal concluded that section 827 did not preempt Rule 12.20 and that the Rent Board did not exceed its powers in adopting the challenged regulations.