San Francisco tenant shocked by massive but legal rent hike

It is a story that has become all too common during the current housing crisis in San Francisco where another tenant faces having to leave their home after a huge but completely legal rent increase.

"I understand this building is owned by someone else but it is my home," said Deb Follingstad, who lives at 355 Bocana in Bernal Heights.

The house has been her home for the past ten years. Now, Follingstad says she's being forced to look for a new place to live because of the massive rent hike.

"That's why I'm packing already. I need to be ready," said Follingstad.

At the beginning of the month, she received a notice of the rent increase from her landlord's attorney, Denise Leadbetter,

The notice stated that the rent will increase from $2,145 to $8,900 effective May 5, 2015.

"I'm kind of sick to my stomach. There is a word for's shocking," said Follingstad.

In order to stay, the 46 year old will also have to pay a $12,500 security deposit. Follingstad says she cannot afford the huge increases.

She works as an acupuncturist who treats cancer patients. At the beginning of this year, the ownership of the home changed from the man she rented from who's now deceased to his daughter.

Folllingstad said rent control does not apply because the new landlord converted the building into a single family home by getting rid of the downstairs in-law unit.

"This loophole needs to be closed," says Follingstad.

But Denise Leadbetter, the attorney for the new landlord, told KTVU the rent increase is due to added space.

In a written statement, she said in part, "The $2,145 Ms. Follingstad currently pays represents only a portion of the single family home in which Ms Follingstad resides. The entire property --approximately two thirds more than her current apartment -- will be available for Ms. Follingstad to rent."

San Francisco realtor Kevin Ho with Vanguard Properties agreed the increase was unheard of, even in the city's booming rental market.

"It's an amazing rent increase. I've never heard of that before," said Ho.

The San Francisco realtor is not involved in this case. Ho told KTVU the rent increase appears to be legal, but he questions whether it's moral.

"Though it might be legal, it seems like they've done a lot of gymnastics and fancy footwork to get to this outcome," said Ho.

Follingstad says tenant advocates also advised her that the increase appears to be legal. But she hopes attention on her case will bring about new legislation to protect others.

"It won't change anything for me, but maybe it'll change something for someone else," said Follingstad

The tenant is consulting with an attorney. In the meantime, Follingstad has been looking for another place to live on her $2,500 rent budget.