08 March 2012
This year, not unlike last year, will push our members to the edge. Most of the bills we will work on this year, will be adverse to the industry.
Already this year we successfully fought back two remarkably bad bills.
Rent Control: SB 184 (Leno)
The bill would have guaranteed that every local government could enact and enforce residential rent control on newly constructed units and price controls on newly constructed ownership housing. Cities would have been authorized to do this through "inclusionary housing" policies and ordinances.
Housing advocates, sponsors of SB 184, argued SB 184 is "exempt from rent control, and SB 184 does not change that." Let's take a look at the actual language of the bill and you can decide if the sponsors were correct. All cities and counties could "establish, as a condition of (all) development, inclusionary housing requirements, which may require the provision of residential units affordable to, and occupied by, OWNERS AND TENANTS (emphasis added) whose household incomes do not exceed the limits for lower income . . . households." There is only one conclusion: the bill authorized price controls, otherwise known in our industry as rent control for all rental housing.
The dispute over price control of privately owned housing is not over; in fact it is far from over.
Proponents need additional low-income housing and there are few avenues left. The federal and state government tax credit, grant, and voucher programs have been reduced. Redevelopment agencies have all but disappeared, which has placed a serious strain on local government low and moderate income housing programs. Housing construction is a fraction of what is necessary to meet the demands of household formation. So, what is left? Expansion of rent control or whatever housing advocates choose to call it.
Unlawful Detainers: Mandatory Reinstatement AB 265 (Ammiano)
The final bill to die in January that we actively opposed was AB 265. The bill would have required a court to grant a tenant a right to remain in the rental unit or right to regain possession of the unit if the tenant paid back due rent and nominal legal costs up to and including "lock-out."
Tenant rights advocates still maintain that many tenants have fallen on hard times and to that end, they need additional time to pay rent, they should not be forced to appear in court defending their decision not to pay rent, they should not be compelled to answer an unlawful detainer and they should be given every opportunity to regain possession of their rental unit once they pay back due rent.
Does that sound fair? Well, we are told the bill may be back this year in a modified form.
While we successfully opposed two bills this past year, we have been told by proponents of those measures that they will be back.
SB 744 (Wyland) would have shifted criminal liability and created new civil liability to a landlord if a water sub meter failed to operate properly. The sponsors are in the process of rewriting the measure. They have reported to us that the "new" bill will be written to help water sub meter manufacturers deliver new meters into the state by modifying existing law relating to liability of the manufacturer. They claim they will not change criminal or civil liability of the landlord when a water sub meter fails to operate.
AB 19 (Fong) will be re-introduced this year and will be sponsored by the Sierra Club. At one time, this measure was heavily opposed by AACSC. For many months that measure would have, among other things, prohibited a landlord from evicting a tenant who did not pay his or her water bill. This year, the author and sponsor will try to narrow the scope of the bill and require newly constructed dwellings in a common interest development to have separate water meters and ban the use of water sub meters in those developments.
Special Access: ADA Compliance
Assembly Member Don Wagner has introduced a measure that would require a notice be given by an aggrieved party before bringing an action against any business for an allegation of a violation of the ADA. The notice that would be required would be delivered to the owner of the property or his or her agent where the alleged violation occurred. The owner or agent would be required to respond within 30 days providing a description of the improvements to be made or rebut the allegations. This has been tried before and has been successfully defeated in the Legislature. Opponents have successfully argued that federal or state law does not permit this form of notice and response prior to litigation.
This year a measure will be reintroduced to increase the threshold from $300 to $700 when a public sale and other requirement is imposed on landlords when tenant property is abandoned upon vacating the unit. Today, a landlord is authorized to retain or dispose of unclaimed personal property if the landlord reasonably believes that the property has a resale value less than $300. If the bill is signed into law, it will be the first increase since 1982. A few years ago, a similar measure was defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Opponents successfully argued that the monetary amount should not change. $300 was and still is a lot of money to low income residents.
Payment of Rent
Senator Ted Lieu introduced SB 1055, a bill that would prohibit a landlord from requiring an electronic funds transfer (EFT) as the exclusive form of payment or rent or deposit of security. Any landlord that offers the option of payment of rent or deposit of security online would be required to accept payment for rent or the security deposit by another form of payment, which would be at the election of the landlord. The bill would apply to all rental and lease agreements that are entered into on or after January 1, 2013.
Smoke Detector Retrofit
Contrary to claims by others, a bill will be introduced this year that will require battery powered smoke detectors to have a battery that is claimed by manufacturers to last ten or more years. The bill will not mandate tamper proof smoke detectors or require every battery powered smoke detector to be replaced with a new device. Further and close analysis of this measure will follow this article. Over the next several monthly articles, we will devote our attention to many bills that have been introduced affecting our industry.