San Francisco Yoga Studio Owner Sued by Landlord over Tenancy Regulations Dispute

The owner of a yoga studio in the Mission District is being sued by her landlord over possibly unclear tenancy regulations.

Ngan Pham says her dream store, Yoga Phamily Studio, opened in San Francisco’s Mission District in 2019, but a year later she couldn’t keep up with the pandemic with her $ 6,000 monthly rent.

“I saw no light for me to continue,” said Pham.

She said she consulted with an attorney and sent her landlord a letter informing him that she was taking advantage of the Jan. 11 San Francisco ordinance that allows small businesses to terminate their lease.

This week, she says, he asked to meet her at the studio and someone else showed up and served her papers.

“He filed a lawsuit not only about the rent back, but also about future rent, interest and fees,” said Pham.

Pham says she has no money for a lawyer.

Landlord Jerry Azar said he was a renter himself and was trying to waive her rent payments.

“I understand the fact that I need to be compassionate, and I have been for the past 8 months,” says Azar. “In any case, a lack of income puts my business at risk.”

Azar says when he received Pham’s letter he was concerned that she would not pay the rent back owed.

“You can’t just drop a letter saying goodbye and not committing what you owe,” Azar said.

Tobias Damm-Luhr is a lawyer at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. He says there have been a lot of calls from people wondering about the regulation and payment of rent deferrals.

“Tier 1 tenants with 10 or fewer employees have up to 2 years to repay deferred rents,” said Damm-Luhr. “You also have the right to terminate your rental agreement with 30 days’ notice.”

Damm-Luhr says the dispute between Pham and Azar reveals a murky detail in the regulation. The ordinance does not stipulate whether tenants have to pay the entire rent back at the end of the tenancy or whether they can terminate a lease and still have the grace period to repay the rent.

“I think there should be more education for entrepreneurs because we don’t have access to these high-end lawyers,” Pham said.

Pham says she has no money for a lawyer. Your landlord, Azar, says he is ready to work out an out-of-court compromise.
Some say they hope the city will revise the ordinance to see if they can clarify the language.