Council Tinkers with Rentals Ordinance

 

A contentious 2016 election seasonn pitted Alameda landlords against tenants. A major premise in the heated contest concerned tenants’ rights surrounding evictions. Renters, business owners and homeowners teamed up to form Alameda Renters Coalition (ARC).

The group sought to write tenants’ rights into law as a City Charter amendment and put Measure M1 on the ballot. To give voters an alternative to ARC’s measure, the City put its “Rent Review, Rent Stabilization and Limitations on Evictions Ordinance — Ordinance 3148 for short — on the ballot as Measure L1. 

The voters chose Measure L1. City Council is now working to amend what the voters approved. Councilmembers began discussing revisions at their May 2 meeting. The matter will again come before the City Council on Tuesday, May 16. Eleven pages of suggested tweaks and changes to the ordinance are part of the package for the upcoming meeting. 

In many instances, the Council aims to simply clarify Ordinance 3148’s language. For example changes would include new or revised definitions of terms like housing services, housing unit, a single-family dwelling, condominium, tenancy and tenant. 

Another modification involves changing a section heading to conform to other items in the ordinance. One instance gives the landlords seven days to provide a “notice of intent.” Elsewhere in the ordinance the landlords are given the correct 15 days. The change will have all time frames uniform and correct. 

One proposed change raised eyebrows at the May 2 meeting, when the City Council began discussing whether the ordinance should require landlords to pay relocation fees when tenants vacate as a result of natural disasters or fires not caused by landlords. The discussion at the meeting suggested that landlords pay relocation fees to tenants who lose roofs over their heads as the result of earthquakes. The suggested revisions in the May 16 packet implies that landlords would have no problem paying these fees because earthquake insurance would cover them. 

Marie Kane wrote the Alameda Sun a letter, pointing out to the City Council that “relocation fees are not covered by any insurance.” 

Kane goes on to write, “Even if the property has costly earthquake insurance, which most do not, all insurance policies have a large deductible and most landlords will simply not have the money (to pay relocation fees). Don’t forget the owners will have a vast expense to just repair the building.”

The document in the meeting packet assures landlords that City Council has made no decision on the matter. The matter “requires further analysis due to state law provisions that may bear on the issue,” the document states. “Staff will address (the matter) when additional relocation issues are returned to City Council for further consideration.”