No Time to Deny

No Time to Deny

Paul, an Alameda renter, has been working hard to save up his money so he can move to a place closer to where he works. However, the past year has been really hard on Paul. He was laid off from his job for a large portion of the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and is only working part-time now that he has returned. To help him come up with rent for his new apartment, Paul recently got on the waiting list for a Section 8 voucher. Section 8 is a rent-subsidy program for lower-income tenants that pays some or all of monthly rent directly to landlords.

Having finally received his Section 8 voucher, Paul has been looking at rental properties in Alameda. Though there aren’t many vacancies, Paul has come across what he believes is the perfect place. Unfortunately, the online advertisement says, “No section 8.” Confused, Paul calls the property management company. They tell him that the owner does not want to deal with all the paperwork involved with Section 8, so they are not accepting the vouchers. Paul calls the City Attorney’s Office for help.

As it turns out, the owner has violated two different laws. In the City of Alameda it is unlawful for any landlord to:

• Refuse to rent to a potential tenant based on their “source of income” — meaning where they get the money to pay their rent. (Muni. Code sec. 6-61.50(a).)
• Advertise a rental that indicates even a preference related to source of income. (Muni. Code sec. 6-61.50(c).)

With the help of the City Attorney’s Office, the owner learns that they must give Paul a fair chance to apply and pay for rent using his voucher. While owners are allowed to check applicants’ credit and their ability to pay rent, this process needs to be fair and not discriminate based on how people pay. Owners need to stay up to date on the local and state laws regarding rental properties in the City of Alameda.

If you have a question about the law or a complaint in the City of Alameda, contact us at 510-747-4775, or email rfenix@alamedacityattorney.org. The Alameda City Attorney’s Prosecution and Public Rights Unit enforces the law and educates the public on issues including tenants’ rights, workers’ rights, and consumer protection.

(The names and facts have been changed, but this story is similar to cases we have handled.)