The Election Day showdown is still days away, but some rental
industry experts say a push to expand rent control already is
impacting a handful of Bay Area tenants — and not in the way
proponents are seeking.
Some landlords, worried Californians will vote to allow cities
to cap rents on more homes, are rushing to raise rents before the
new regulations can take effect. Much of the anxiety is rooted in
uncertainty, landlords and their lawyers say, because they don’t
know whether the measure will pass or how their properties would be
impacted by the change.
Voters on Nov. 6 will weigh in on Proposition
10, which would repeal Costa Hawkins, a 1995 state law
limiting rent control. If passed, the ballot measure would open
the door for cities to expand rent control to previously exempt
properties — single-family homes, condos and apartments built
after 1995. And cities would be allowed to impose vacancy control,
which would prohibit landlords from raising rents to market rate
after tenants protected by rent control move out.
“It’s just reacting to the fear — the possibility of
Proposition 10 passing,” said Eduardo Torres, Northern California
regional coordinator of Tenants Together, who said he’s seen
landlords preemptively raising rents over the past few months.
Daniel Bornstein, a lawyer who represents Bay Area landlords,
has helped dozens of clients raise rents in anticipation of Prop.
10 passing and recently wrote a
blog post advising landlords who currently are exempt from
rent control to consider rent increases before any rule change
takes effect. The goal is to protect landlords, especially those
who haven’t been raising their rents regularly, from getting
locked into below-market prices, he said.
“Being proactive is good legal counseling,” Bornstein said.
“So rents have been imposed — reasonably, you know, market-rate
rents — in anticipation of potentially being regulated in the
Even so, many landlords are keeping rents as is and waiting to
see what happens Nov. 6.
“I don’t know that there’s anything you can do proactively
to get yourself ready for it if it does pass,” said Santa
Clara-based landlord attorney Todd Rothbard.
Rosemary Esmedina, a 72-year-old retired restaurant hostess, was
hit by a pre-Prop. 10 rent increase last month. Esmedina, who has
lived in a two-bedroom single-family home in Alameda for 20 years,
was paying $1,000 a month — far below market rate — and last
received a rent hike in 2014. As the election approached,
Esmedina’s landlord announced the rent would jump to $1,500 — a
50 percent increase.
During a meeting last month before the city’s Rent Review
Advisory Committee — a volunteer group that helps mediate rent
disputes — Esmedina’s landlord said the threat of repealing
Costa Hawkins was part of what motivated her to raise the rent. The
landlord, who asked not to be named during a brief interview
following the hearing, also cited financial troubles and the need
for her family to collect more income from the rental property,
which serves as her disabled sister-in-law’s only source of
As a compromise, she agreed to raise the rent 30 percent
instead, to $1,300, effective Oct. 28. But it’s still more than
Esmedina, who receives $1,222 a month in Social Security, can
“Right now I’m living off a little bit of my 401K that’s
left over and my annuity, but that’s very minimal,” she said.
“So I might have to look for work.”
That’s not the first pre-election rent increase tenants’
rights activist Brad Hirn has seen. Hirn works as a lead organizer
with the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco and volunteers
with the Alameda Renter’s Coalition.
“It seems widespread to me,” said Hirn, who worked on
Esmedina’s case. “Sometimes we hear landlords say, ‘With the
election coming up, we don’t know what’s going to happen, so
here you go.’ ”
In the Los Angeles area, the owner of an apartment complex who
recently raised rents told residents Prop. 10 was to blame for the
increases — and promised to rescind the rent hikes if the ballot
the Los Angeles Times reported in September.
If Prop. 10 passes, rent control won’t immediately expand to
cover previously exempt properties in California. Cities that want
to expand renter protections would first need to approve changes to
their individual rental ordinances.
And once the ballots are counted, Prop. 10 may be moot anyway.
Last month, just
25 percent of likely California voters said they would vote for the
measure, down from 36 percent who supported it the month
before, according to a poll by the Public Policy Institute of
But even if Prop. 10 falls flat next week, the rent control
debate likely is far from dead.
“If this does not make it, we will try again,” Hirn
When more than two dozen residents were
displaced from their Concord apartment complex earlier this
year, and the building’s new owner announced plans to renovate
the units and raise rents, blame quickly fell on Prop. 10.
“They wanted to beat the Costa-Hawkins repeal, which is the
only reason they issued all of the units the notice, almost
immediately on the close of escrow,” Andrea Ouse, Concord’s
director of community and economic engagement, wrote in a September
email sent to city officials. According to the email, Ouse based
the statement on a conversation she’d had with Peter Wilson,
president of building owner PTLA Real Estate Group.
Prop. 10: California’s rent-control ballot measure
More than two dozen East Bay residents displaced as housing crisis
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In an interview with this news organization, Wilson said the main
reason tenants were forced to move out of the Parkside Gardens
apartments was to complete needed renovations, not the upcoming
election. But he acknowledged it would be easier to carry out his
plans for the property without the uncertainty of rent control
“It is certainly easier operating in a known environment than
an unknown,” Wilson said.
Even so, after protests from displaced tenants, Wilson’s team
extended the move-out date from October to the end of the year and
offered residents $5,000 to cover their relocation expenses. But
most of the tenants have moved out already, and PTLA has started
Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
As Prop. 10 looms, some landlords raise the rent