California Landlords: Stop Anti-Democratic, Retaliatory Prop 10 Evictions

10/9/2018

California Apartment Association, Apartment Association Of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA), San Mateo County Association of REALTORS®, and other groups representing California landlords,

We are calling on you to take responsibility for educating your members on electoral ethics and holding them accountable for grave ethical violations.

There are now a growing number of cases of tenants around the state facing rent increases and evictions where the landlord cites the potential success of Prop 10, the Affordable Housing Act, as the reasoning behind their actions.

We have already seen press coverage of a Los Angeles landlord telling tenants that the company will cancel a new rent increase if a California rent control ballot measure fails in November. In Concord, a building of 29 families was given 60-day notices where Prop 10 was cited as the reason. In Modesto, a tenant was given a rent increase on a single-family home under the assumption that repeal of Costa-Hawkins would mean immediate coverage of these homes under rent control. In National City, we have been informed by press that multiple property owners are issuing building-wide 60-day eviction notices, citing both Prop 10 and the local rent stabilization ordinance on the November ballot. We are hearing new incidents with alarming frequency, and expect to see many more in the coming month.

These fears are unfounded, as cities themselves would have to take local action to pass or expand rent control. Still, landlords are using their position of leverage in providing housing to sway the tenant vote. We make no mistake in calling this what it is: grossly unfair, potentially illegal intimidation of voters.

We know that California landlords have a history of misleading and intimidating voters. During the previous wave of rent control fights in the 1970s, landlords promised that they would not raise the rent if tenants voted for Prop 13. When Prop 13 passed, landlords raised the rent anyway, precipitating dozens of fights for local rent control around the state. There is potential for tenant backlash from this kind of abuse of power to influence voters.

Today, a coalition of community, labor, and tenant organizations are taking the moderate step of removing the state-mandated loopholes in local rent control, leaving cities to decide for themselves what, if any, rent control they want. Yes on 10 and the repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act does not enact statewide rent control.

However, opponents of Prop 10 are spreading lies far and wide that Costa-Hawkins repeal enacts blanket rent control and hurts property owners. If Prop 10 passes, there would be no immediate effect on any property owner in the state. Meanwhile, one of the letters a tenant received states, “Your property is non-rent controlled but may become rent-controlled as early as November 6th, 2018.” This is completely false.

Many of the rent increase notices given by landlords say that they will “revisit the rent increase” if Prop 10 fails to pass. This is an attempt at voter intimidation, pressuring tenants to vote no on the measure in order to not receive a rent increase.

The California Apartment Association code of ethics states that your members “comply with all applicable law and regulations” and that you “commit to honesty, integrity and fair dealing in our capacity as rental housing professionals.” Similar statements exist on AAGLA and SAMCAR’s websites.

Members of our coalition intend to file complaints against landlords who issue these letters, but we are also calling on you to proactively educate landlords throughout the state and voluntarily report violations that you encounter. We believe that fair landlords do not arbitrarily evict their tenants, and that they issue only reasonable rent increases, and make repairs. We also believe that when cities take an active role in protecting residents, that the whole community benefits.

We hope you take seriously the need to intervene and condemn these serious ethical violations, and help ensure that the election is a fair and just assessment of the people’s will for the expansion of rent control.

Sincerely,

Tenants Together

California’s Statewide Organization for Renters Rights