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Alamo Square Man's Rent Soars 55 Percent After Partner's Suicide

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Master tenant loophole strikes again

The price of housing in San Francisco is hard on everyone, but it’s been especially trying for local social worker Christopher Holden.

As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, the price of Holden’s formerly rent-controlled apartment will soon increase a jarring 55 percent, from $1,390 to $2,150. Since Holden was previously splitting the rent, his share will more than triple.

The reason he’s paying the rent alone now is the same reason it’s going up: His partner committed suicide in May.

Holden's devastating loss was compounded by the fact that the late Jonathan Conte was the master tenant on the lease. Since San Francisco law doesn’t extend the old deal to other residents when the master tenant leaves, this allows landlords to swap in a new lease at market rates.

North Beach resident Neil Hutchinson told Curbed SF that a similar master tenant shuffle is what exposed him to a stunning $6,200 rent hike last month. (Not quite the highest in city history, but a contender.)

It’s a common hazard for renters, but the cut is particularly deep in this case, given the tragic circumstances and the fleeting sense of security that comes with rent control.

Paying a bit more than two grand in Alamo Square isn’t remarkable these days, but Holden’s apartment is only a studio. Indeed, that’s why he’s stuck with the full bill himself: Splitting a studio is feasible with a romantic partner, but less so with a regular roommate.

As a final stroke of noxious irony, Holden’s job is helping seniors avoid losing their homes.

The management company handling the property, Murphy Investments of Valencia Street, has not returned our calls for a comment.