Rent Board Must Implement Changes
For more than a year, Mayor Trish Spencer and the City Council have insisted that the Rent Review Advisory Committee (RRAC) is to play a key role in easing the rent crisis in Alameda.
In response, in late October and early November of this year, the Alameda Renters Coalition proposed a series of RRAC reforms to the Mayor, Council and to the RRAC itself. Implementing these reforms is critical if the RRAC is to be successful and if the Mayor and Council hope to ever win the trust of renters with regard to the RRAC.
1. Rent increases. The RRAC’s 10 percent annual increase target is too high and is not rationally related to any reasonable economic metric, such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
2. Resolved and withdrawn complaints. The RRAC must retain ‘jurisdiction’ of complaints once filed and particularly when complaints are withdrawn because of settlement or when complaints are referred to an outside mediator before being heard. The parties must be required to appear at the RRAC and disclose the terms of agreements.
3. Mediators. Use of outside mediators must be disclosed and made part of the public record — currently they are not. The RRAC must provide over-sight of mediators and impose accountability on outside mediation to ensure the mediation process is fair, unbiased and carried out in an equitable and even-handed manner. Timely written reports must be required regarding the progress and results of mediation including the mediated rent increase amount.
4. Compliance monitoring. Follow-up reporting is necessary every 90 and 180 days and with yearly reports to ensure landlords and tenants are adhering to mediated agreements.
5. Written policies and formulas. Written policies and formulas must be developed and implemented as they relate to a tenant’s monthly rent. “Rent” is to be defined as all costs paid to the landlord or shifted from the landlord to the tenant such as:
- Capital improvement pass-through
- “Banking” of rent increases
- Shifting utility costs to tenants.
- Changes in parking fees.
- Changes in pet deposits or charging pet rent.
6. Composition of the RRAC. The composition of the RRAC must represent the broadest possible cross-section of the employment, educational, socio-economic and racial backgrounds of Alameda residents.
7. Maintenance and repair. Data on maintenance and repair complaints that accompany many rent increase complaints should be captured and reported.
8. “Problem” landlords. Data should be captured and reported for landlords and properties that are consistently the subject of rent increase complaints and properties that are consistently subject to maintenance and repair complaints.
Even with these reforms, for as long as RRAC decisions are non-binding and compliance is voluntary, we will remain skeptical about the future of the RRAC. These concerns aside, the Mayor and Council should quickly implement the reforms.