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Programs to protect tenants advance — over landlords' opposition

Original post made on Jun 1, 2023

It's an idea that city leaders and advocates for Palo Alto's tenants say is long overdue: a registry of the roughly 11,400 apartments scattered throughout the city. Many landlords, however, aren't convinced it's needed.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, June 1, 2023, 8:59 AM

Comments (11)

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Jun 1, 2023 at 10:15 am

MyFeelz is a registered user.

Every time this subect comes up, it's under a different guise designed to frighten landlords and they, in turn, try to frighten their tenants into thinking that THEY will end up on the registry.

That is not the case. The landlord registry was adopted into the city code, along with instructions about fees landlords would have to pay to tenants for 'no cause' evictions.

Every renter is eligible for a renter's tax credit. The FTB already knows who is renting in Palo Alto. What they DON'T know is who would have to pay the tenant relocation fees that have been in the City Code, for decades.

Under PAMC Section 9.72.050, there was just supposed to be a list of who the City can enforce the no-fault eviction relocation fees against a landlord. A tenant COULD go to small claims court to demand $10k, but in many cases the relocation fees are more than that. Tenants shouldn't have to sacrifice relocation fees just because the City has failed, for over two decades now, to implement and enforce their own codes.

Posted by Smrty
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 1, 2023 at 12:27 pm

Smrty is a registered user.

At first glance it appears this 'could' be a good tool for information to inform future housing plans and tenant protections for Palo Alto. However, if I were a tenant, I would want the choice as to whether my information was given to the city or not. A document should be provided to all tenants explaining the program and which gives them the choice to opt in or out. My two cents.

Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 1, 2023 at 1:25 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

How would it be determined if the information provided by the landlords was factual? Showing all the lease agreements they have with their tenants would be one way. If it was good substantiated data I think it would help prospective renters and save them the time of visiting apartments to check them out, only to learn the rent is well above their means. Landlords are under pressure, too, because a lot of them might still be paying off the loans they got to buy the rental properties. The landlords who have owned their properties mortgages for years...are reaping the benefits of having the apartments built years ago when real estate and building costs were much lower. And if they shirk on maintenance or upgrades, then that's more money in their pockets.

One thing I'm pretty certain of; the Registry won't accomplish what some people are hoping for...reducing rental rates. That will only happen with the basic law of and demand...and the need for occupants to rent the apartments to support an income stream for the landlords to be able to make mortgage payments.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 1, 2023 at 2:32 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Doria Summa, thank you for continuing to push for this. Maybe you can also light a fire under the City Council to get that "long-awaited" business registry showing the number of employees so A) employers start paying their fair share of a business tax, B) so they start giving parking permits to their employees rather than pushing them into our neighborhoods and forcing US to pay for parking permits and inconveniencing all of our visitors and C) saving us $275,000 in absurd expenses (1 $175,000 city employee to try to hand out $100,000 in public transit passes.

Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 1, 2023 at 2:59 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

Well, big surprise. The landlords and realtors don't want anyone knowing how much they are charging (gouging?) renters in Palo Alto. Boo Hoo.

Posted by Ron Jensen
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 1, 2023 at 3:49 pm

Ron Jensen is a registered user.

Sounds like a good idea as more transparency is needed. It is understandable that realtors and landlords are reluctant to divulge this information. This directory should be required of all CA cities depending on population.

Posted by Hinrich
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2023 at 5:32 pm

Hinrich is a registered user.

Palo Alto meddling in the rental market sounds like a perfect plan to reduce the number of available rental units and force DEI and ESG mandates. Gosh, what could go wrong? Big brother managing the private (!) rental market is terrible news for renters. Renters should not be pushing local government to reduce their rents - leave free markets alone.

Posted by Marie
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 1, 2023 at 7:05 pm

Marie is a registered user.

I’ve been a landlord in Palo Alto so for 27 years and have no problem with a landlord registry or revealing the rent I charge. Actually, I think there is one. There was no cost to me and I think I just gave the address. But I remember renting when I first lived in Palo Alto. My goal as a landlord is to treat my tenants fairly and fix things quickly, the opposite of what I experienced as a tenant. So I support the registry even if it will cost me something. However, I agree with the comment above asking the city administration to enforce the business registry. Unless the council can get the city administration to enforce the ordinances passed by the council, this too will be a waste of time. The city administration once again is not enforcing the requirement of a theatre at Palo Alto Square. So frustrating.

Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2023 at 10:55 am

Christopher Chiang is a registered user.

Free markets are most efficient when information is most readily available to all sides. When you buy a home or stocks, you have a wealth of price data and history available. Renters historically have little data in making one of the most expensive decisions in their lives. They have no info if the landlord historically keeps rent fair or has history of increasing rent dramatically, all the while landlords require a great deal of renter data from applicants (information asymmetry is bad for healthy markets).

If the city does this well, it is not onerous for landlords to report their rent annually, nor should it be costly for the city to collect and report the data once a database is setup. The city should setup the data to be open to third-party websites like Zillow and Trulia's rental sites, using an Open API policy like Open Data NYC Web Link and Open Data SF Web Link If the city only posts the data on its own website, it won't be useful.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 4, 2023 at 11:10 am

Anonymous is a registered user.

Illogical thinking:
From the article
“Focusing on the pain of the property owners completely glosses over the fact that many renters would love to own their own homes but can’t afford to own their own homes when homes in Palo Alto start in the millions of dollars, meaning that every renter is experiencing a severe power imbalance that can potentially leave them homeless,” Bigelow said.
- umm, many of us owned cheaper homes before working our way up to owning a home in Palo Alto.
- inflation, mortgage rates - many factors including employment occur with timing or choices with respect to home ownership.
- there are MANY communities in addition to Palo Alto where homes cost in the millions of dollars.
- there are higher cost places I’d love to own a house but cannot afford to, at least not currently.
- there are many choices in this world; some choose to own “status cars” that cost 3X mine while living in a less expensive apartment, home or location, for example. You don’t know how others spend their total budgets.
- I hardly find the option is to be left homeless. In fact, There are lots of options.
- property owners’ pain (!?) - what.

Posted by casey
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2023 at 12:53 pm

casey is a registered user.

"Commissioner Cari Templeton noted that information about home prices is already publicly available. As such, providing information about rental properties would not be overly burdensome, she said."

I believe that home price data comes from purchase agreements filed with the county recorder's office and collected by a third-party data provider. There is no additional regulatory burden because neither the buyer nor seller is required to submit any document in addition to what is ordinarily required as part of the sales transaction.

"In fact, it would be very liberating for this kind of information to be available in the registry to see who is being fleeced," Templeton said, "because I sure would want to know that."

Is there a legitimate governmental purpose for collecting rental data? The city cannot require such disclosure just so city employees or commissioners can look up how much their friends or neighbors are paying in rent. Also, some people interviewed in the article, as well as commenters, believe they will have some access to this data? Will it be publicly accessible? Because I haven't found any publically accessible portal to access Mountain View rental data. Has any of the local press filed a Public Records Act request to collect rental data from any of the local cities with rental registries?

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