City Rent Ordinance Is Doing Its Job

 

The Rent Review Advisory Committee (RRAC) is the body designated by the City Council to resolve rent disputes between residents and landlords. It is the first line of defense for residents facing excessive rent increases and the forum that landlords are required to present their cases in to get city approval for rent increases of more than 5 percent. 

There is no minimum rent increase required for a resident to file an application for rent review. RRAC recommendations more than 5 percent are binding and enforceable in multifamily units. Alameda has approximately 16,000 rental units with about 4,000 exempt units subject to advisory decisions of the RRAC. 

In November, the Housing Authority submitted six cases to the RRAC, and only one case was actually heard by the committee. This case involved a resident who had been living in a two-bedroom unit of a triplex for 10 years and was paying $1,395 a month. The landlord notified the tenant of a rent increase of $500, 35.8 percent. The resident countered offering a $69, 5 percent, rent increase. 

The resident indicated that the landlord’s increase was not justified without an increase in services or amenities. The landlord supported the increase by showing that the current market rent was $2,200 and that the proposed $1,895 was under market and still a reasonable increase.

The landlord offered no information regarding increased costs and refused to consider allowing the resident to have a roommate to help cover the cost of any increased rent. The parties could not come to an agreement, and the RRAC made a unanimous recommended of a $69 increase as proposed by the resident. 

The remaining five cases involved rent increases at one complex. The complex offered both one-year rent increases at 5 percent or less and month-to-month rent increases more than 5 percent. Since one of the rent increase options was more than 5 percent, the rent ordinance required the landlord to file an application for each unit and get approval for the increases from the RRAC. 

If a resident wished to dispute the proposed rent increase, they had the option to attend the meeting. If a resident did not appear, then the increases went into effect. None of the residents who received these rent increases appeared at the RRAC meeting to contest the increases. The property manager said that a number of residents had signed or were in the process of signing leases. 

These cases demonstrate that landlords are respecting the 5 percent threshold, and that when a landlord attempts to raise rents based solely on the market, residents can effectively challenge large rent increases. The excessive rent increases of the past that displaced long-term residents have stopped under Ordinance 3148.

 

 

Jeff Cambra is a community mediator and former assistant city attorney.