Rents Blog: Head of rent review committee forced to move
Rents Blog: Head of rent review committee forced to move
Updated ay 10:35 a.m. and 2:46 p.m. Thursday, April 23 in BOLD
David Perry was busy when a reporter called him this past Saturday afternoon. He was packing boxes for a move from the Paru Street apartment where he has lived for the past seven years.
In early March, Perry, a mediator and attorney by trade, received a legal notice from an attorney working for his landlord stating that he had 60 days to move out. No explanation was given for the termination of his tenancy, but none is required.
“I made a phone call (to ask), but it wasn’t returned,” Perry said.
The landlord’s attorney could not be reached by a reporter for comment this week, and the owner listed in county assessor’s records did not answer a reporter’s call to his listed telephone number seeking comment.
Perry and others said they believe local landlords’ use of the 60-day notices to get rid of tenants is on the rise. And while he said his receipt of a notice doesn’t make him special, Perry isn’t just another tenant, either: He’s the president of Alameda’s Rent Review Advisory Committee, which hears rent disputes between landlords and tenants.
“I’m absolutely certain the (committee) only sees a small fraction of rent increases. It only sees a small fraction of what’s happening to people,” said Perry, who fears landlords are using the notices to avoid the bad publicity that rent hikes brought to the committee could generate.
Perry, who received a 20 percent rent hike in 2014 after years without an increase, said that with rents reaching new heights, he understands a landlord’s motivation to issue a notice: His apartment, he said, could be rented on the current market for $800 to $1,000 a month more than he’s paying.
Angela Hockabout of the Alameda Renters Coalition said the coalition has been hearing fewer stories about rent increases and more about renters receiving notices to leave. The coalition is conducting a survey to gather data on both increases and termination notices given over the past three years.
“We haven't received many calls to our crisis line in the last month, perhaps because folks know there is little that they can do to fight a 60-day notice, whereas renters can fight rent increases,” Hockabout said.
Don Lindsey, a local property owner who has been working with a community group of property owners, tenants and other stakeholders to address the impacts of rising rents, said property owners have been waiting years for the right time to sell. A representative for the Alameda Association of Realtors, who declined to comment for this piece, said in an earlier interview that homes prices in Alameda are exceeding their 2004 height.
Lindsey said he’s not hearing that the notices are forcing people to leave the Island and that it’s “rare” that renters asked to leave can’t find another home in Alameda.
“In my experience owners and renters here have been able to work things out if they try, and there is housing available,” Lindsey said. “I believe it is a rare situation where someone's rights have been taken advantage of especially, if they were truly in a situation of need.”
State law requires landlords to provide renters who have lived in a home or apartment for more than a year with 60 days’ notice if they want the tenant to move. The notice doesn’t have to offer a reason why the landlord wants the tenant to leave.
While some cities have “just cause” rules that only permit landlords to ask tenants to leave under certain circumstances, Alameda does not – giving renters who can’t convince their landlords to let them stay little choice but to move.
Lindsey said that owners have a right to occupy and use their property as they desire, and that renters know that renting carries risks.
But one renter who recently received a 60-day notice detailed the stress, anxiety and expense the notice – and the way it was handled – have caused him and his family.
Kyle Hansen said he had lived in the same Victorian home for 11 years when he found a 60-day notice taped to his door, in mid-March. He said he had a tough time getting answers about the reason for the notice.
“The owners as well as the property management company refused to give a reason for the notice,” said Hansen, who said the landlords lived downstairs from Hansen and his family for several years before moving out of state. “No one will just look us in the eye and tell us the truth. It’s all very impersonal.”
Hansen, a self-employed IT technician who runs his business out of his home, is also coping with the recent deaths of his father and his day care provider in addition to a move.
“The stress this has caused my family is immeasurable,” he said of the forced move, adding that he is seeing a psychiatrist and taking medication as a result.
The owners listed in county assessor’s records don’t have a listed telephone number and couldn’t be reached for comment. But Victor Jin, whose company manages the property, said the landlords are planning to move back into the property with an eye toward selling. He said aging property owners who are close to retirement often seek to exit the landlord business by selling.
Jin said his assistant personally spoke with Hansen's wife before issuing the notice to give the family a head's up that it was coming and that when the owners learned about the death of Hansen's father, they offered to allow him to postpone his move.
"It's not like we are not sensitive or we don't have a social conscience," Jin said. "(The owners) felt really bad about this."
Hansen said his wife did receive a phone call - an hour before the notice was posted - and that he was only able to get a straight answer on the reason for it after posting his story to the Alameda Parents Network, a popular local listserv.
Hansen said a friend helped him find another place to live in Alameda, but it’s more expensive than where he’s living now.
“Sure, we may be lucky,” Hansen said. “We are able to stay in Alameda, albeit at greater expense for a fraction of the space.”
“Something has to be done,” he added.
Hockabout said that property managers and landlords have “stepped up” to help renters who reach out to the coalition find new housing. Still, she said that landlords issuing the notices should do more to help renters relocate.
“Landlords should consider offering renters moving assistance and full return of their deposits, as well as good referrals to other rentals so that these folks, who are suddenly without housing in the middle of a housing crisis can have even the hope of finding a new home in the Bay Area,” she said.
Perry said he’s staying in Alameda “by the skin of my teeth and with the help of a very good friend.” But others, he said, have not been so lucky, including a 30-year Island resident who was forced to leave Alameda after receiving her own 60-day notice.
Perry said he’s seeking the same “huge population turnover” here that San Francisco experienced during the 1990s dot-com boom. He said the neighbors who once occupied the building next door to his have all been replaced by new residents.
“All the people who once lived there, Alameda folks – they’re all gone, and sort of techy types are moving in,” he said.
While Lindsey said the committee Perry heads has been successful in resolving landlord-tenant disputes and that efforts are being made to strengthen it in order to curtail excessive rent increases, Perry said he’s not sure what, if anything, can be done for renters who receive a notice their tenancy has been terminated.
“I don’t know that there’s any stopping it,” he said. “That’s the world. Sometimes it’s really cruel and sad.”