Here’s the thing – if you’re renting a place in San Francisco and you’re paying your monthly rent to your roommate, chances are that you could be considered a subtenant and your roomy the “Master Tenant.”* Particularly when the rent for your unit is way undermarket, due to rent control let’s say, you might end up spending more for your space than the Master pays for the Master’s part of the apartment.
So if you’re paying $900 a month for your half of a two-bedroom and your Master Tenant in the other room is only kicking in $100 (to pay $1000 total to the landlord for the whole place), then you can take steps to get some of that money back and lower your rent to boot.
“A subtenant who believes he or she is paying more than a proportional share of the total rent may file a Tenant Petition against the master tenant on that basis. If the subtenant prevails, the Administrative Law Judge will adjust the rent to the proportional share and order the master tenant to refund any rent overpayments.”
Is this a perfect system? No, but it’s what you end up with when your city has rent control.
Your San Francisco Rent Board just dealt with a subtenant/Master Tenant proportionality case. The names of the people involved aren’t important, but the situation is noteworthy, IMO. Let’s check it out.
Now, if you don’t like how the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) dealt with your case with your roomie, you can appeal to the board. As here, from the meeting of August 4, 2009:
“The subtenant’s petition alleging that he paid a disproportional share of the rent pursuant to Rules ß6.15C(3) was granted and the Master Tenant was found liable to the subtenant in the amount of $10,800.00. On appeal, the Master Tenant alleges that he was unaware of the requirement that the amount of rent paid must be proportional; that the decision will present him with a financial hardship; and that the subtenant is going to be evicted due to his uncooperative behavior.
MSC: To deny the appeal on substantive grounds but remand the case for a hearing on the Master Tenant’s claim of financial hardship. (Gruber/Crow: 5-0)”
See? The sub won big-time, to the tune of five figures because the rent split determined by the Master Tenant wasn’t proportional according to a judge and the full board.
But the master came back to say the ruling would be a hardship for him. From the meeting of November 17, 2009:
“The subtenant’s petition alleging that he paid a disproportionate share of the rent was granted and the Master Tenant was found liable to the subtenant in the amount of $10,800.00. The Master Tenant’s hardship appeal was granted and remanded for hearing. In the remand decision, the ALJ finds sufficient hardship to order a repayment plan in the amount of $150.00 per month. The Master Tenant again appeals, claiming that even the reduced amount will cause him severe hardship and possibly result in both tenants’ eviction from the premises.
MSC: To deny the appeal. (Mosbrucker/Gruber: 5-0)”
Is this what you might call a Phyric victory? Maybe. It’s probably too early to tell. Oh well.
Check the San Francisco Rent Board website for deets on the rules, or see you after the jump.
*The County of Los Angeles doesn’t want to buy equipment that has the term “master” written anywhere on it, like on a hard drive, a DVD burner or a brake cylinder. But in San Francisco, we freely label people “Master Tenants.” It’s our thing.