A Landlord’s Perspective on Rent Control in Alameda
My husband is a third generation Alamedan. His grandparents moved to Alameda in 1953 after his grandfather retired from the U.S. Navy. His parents moved their family here in 1971 after his father retired from the U.S. Air Force. We moved here in 1981 after my husband completed his service in the Air Force.
We’ve been mom-and-pop landlords since 1992. Our rentals are a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment in a duplex building and a three-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath, single-family home. Our duplex tenants have been with us since 2009 and our house tenants since 2007. We raised the duplex rent $200 in 2016. The house rent has been raised $85 in 2009 and $200 in 2015. Even with those increases, the duplex rent is still $808 lower than city of Alameda’s Housing Authority guidelines and the house rent $943 below them. We maintain our properties as such that we ourselves would live in either one. We both work full time. All of our properties have mortgages.
Naturally we’ve been following the rent-crisis issue. We’ve heard plenty about people faced with exorbitant rent increases and the landlords who impose them. We understand why rent control measures are on the November ballot. We were Alameda renters ourselves at one time.
Our concern is that both measures appear to be written with a specific type of landlord in mind, namely corporate out-of-towners, suggesting all Alameda landlords fall into that category. Not true, according to a Jan. 15, 2015, blog by Michele Ellson, former editor of The Alamedan (a now defunct Island community watchdog website), titled “Rents Blog: Who Owns Alameda?” (http://thealamedan.org/news/rents-blog-who-owns-alameda).
Contrary to popular belief, most of the Island’s multi-unit residential properties are owned by Alameda residents and investors. Fewer than 60 of the roughly 2,300 properties surveyed by The Alamedan (not including single-family homes) are owned by entities outside of California. Their research also found that 11 out of 14 cases heard by the Rent Review Advisory Committee in 2014 involved off-Island owners, not Alameda owners.
The definition of “landlord” is very broad in both measures. There should be language that expounds that definition. The rent we charge has always been below market rate. We’ve never had to evict any tenant for any reason, nor do we ever want that to happen. But in the event we had to terminate a tenancy, the requisite relocation fees in each initiative should not be exacted upon us or any other mom-and-pop landlords, especially those who don’t fleece their tenants. Are there any other mom and pops who share our sentiments?
Just as all landlords are not alike, neither are all tenants. Does anyone know how many contented Alameda renters there are? How about the proportion between contented renters and discontented ones? It’d be interesting to see what the comparison looks like.
If either of the rent-control measures passes in November, we suspect that will not be the end of the rent-control issue in Alameda. If a mom and pop wanted to move their family or even themselves back into their own property, they would be penalized for doing so. And please don’t assume all landlords are greedy, rich and uncaring. If you’ve never been a mom-and-pop landlord, you just don’t know.
In a letter to the editor (“Problem solved, make more money,” Sept. 8) the author stated landlords never have to worry about having a safe and affordable place to live. We beg to differ. When you have a mortgage, that’s simply not true. Ask any bank what happens when you default on your loan.
My husband and I work hard for what we have. We are fortunate to be in a position where we can provide affordable housing and it’s our pleasure to give back to our community. But if unforeseen circumstances force us to terminate a tenancy, we shouldn’t have to pay to do it.