Rent notices stir fears in East Palo Alto Issues Beyond Palo Alto, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Jul 25, 2012 at 10:14 am
East Palo Alto's largest landlord has issued hundreds of three-day notices to pay rent to its tenants in the Woodland Park neighborhood in recent months, sparking concern among city officials about the prospect of residents getting evicted.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 25, 2012, 9:51 AM
Posted by downtowner, a resident of Menlo Park, on Jul 25, 2012 at 10:22 am
Inflammatory headline here, not responsible reporting. Nothing in this practice is unique to EPA. A simple way to avoid getting a notice is to pay one's rent on time, regardless of where one lives & rents.
Posted by agree with wondering, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jul 25, 2012 at 10:23 am
As wondering said - why is it news that a rental company is notifying residents that they are late in paying their rent? And if you don't pay your rent, you should assume that you will be evicted. If I'm late in paying my mortgage, the bank notifies me. If I stop paying, they can evict me and foreclose.
I find it interesting that Equity has to send the City copies of simple late rent notices.
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Jul 25, 2012 at 10:26 am
It's news because HUNDREDS of the notices are being received by tenants who are paying their rent. You don't really believe this guy's quote, do you? I'm sorry that the article doesn't give more info that shows what's really going on. Besides, believing this guy's quote is part of the game - they want reasonable people to think that they're aboveboard, honest property owners. They aren't.
Many tenants receiving the notices have also unfairly been receiving late fees, which also prompt a cascade of more 3 day notices. IIRC, it's not legal to threaten to evict or give 3 day notices on previous fees not part of rent.
This is news because these issues have only been happening en masse in the past 5 years - first with the despicable Page Mill Properties & now w/the despicable Equity Residential. It's most likely part of their overall scheme.
Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 25, 2012 at 10:47 am
> Many tenants receiving the notices have also unfairly been > receiving late fees, which also prompt a cascade of more > 3 day notices. Again .. why is this news? There are many well-documented occurrences of mortgage service agencies not posting checks received on/before the due-date for the monthly payments so that late fees can be applied. This is hard to prove, but given the massive fraud that has been uncovered in the bank/mortgage/real estate sales industries--this kind of behavior is now known to the public. Is that what is going on here? Is the underlying claim--not documented in this article--about an unfair (and possibly illegal) business practice? Or is the "news" that most people in EPA don't read their leases, and are upset when it turns out that they have to actually pay their rent on time? So .. what's the real story here? "Pay rent notices" because people are late with their monthly rent, or "notices" because people are late paying their late fees? If there is a story here .. it has yet to be revealed by the Weekly.
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Jul 25, 2012 at 10:50 am
I'm not sure why Gennady wrote it this way. There may not have been time for or access to detailed info from tenants who've received these notices. Maybe there will be news coverage during tonight's meeting.
It *is* Yikes time, in a big way. While there will always be scofflaws who don't pay rent & those who have financial emergencies, this IS news because it's unprecedented. This didn't happen +5 years ago, en masse, before Page Mill bought up & turned into 1 huge package, all of these rental properties.
This is what I DO know (haven't received a 3 day notice, but this happened to my neighbor of 10 years):
-Previous fees added to his account from Page Mill
-He can't afford these fees, which have no paper trail & shouldn't be on his account. Page Mill left hardly any financial data behind, but Equity has been anxious to collect whatever it feels it has a right to, so has given my neighbor 3 day notices for these old fees he refuses to pay & has been trying to get removed. After numerous attempts to straighten this out, he only got help when he yelled in their office that he was going to sue them all. Oh, yeah, it also helps your case if you speak English & understand your rights.
I have also received mysterious charges on my "account" that I refuse to pay. Not only are they illegally on my account, no one calls me back or deals w/it, but I mysterious receive an invoices, unsigned, intermittently. I will resolve it, & in my favor, & rightly so.
As for those curious about why the rent board needs to receive notice of 3 day notices & other eviction-related data from the landlord - the answer is simple: it's the law. Equity ongoing violates the law, including not dealing w/those challenging their illegal rent increases, what their base rent is & those who are arguing for a rent reduction due to habitabilty issues. It's a strategy, people, one that they're well-heeled & experienced enough to implement - they hope, successfully.
This is an example of why our City didn't want Wells to sell to these corrupt cretinous slimebags - because we knew, from Equity's abysmal track record, that they'd violate our laws ongoingly.
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Jul 25, 2012 at 11:14 am
Actually, I was privy to much of it - there wasn't much of a handover. It was well-known the Page Mill fled, including with monies that legally belonged to Wells. It was a huge mess that still hasn't been cleaned up, hence some of the current problems.
No, I'm not going into particulars about my situation. But I will say that it was done in retaliation - before Equity took over. It was reported to the proper authorities but surprise! - Equity has been blocking action on dealing w/it, as they have multiple cases.
The other fees some tenants have acquired varied. In my neighbor's case, they were fees for late rent paid when his rent was illegally & dramatically increased. Despite his numerous attempts to straighten it out, it hasn't been. The fees shouldn't be on his account because they're based on an illegal rent hike- and he was part of a lawsuit which won and rolled the rents back. That's been his point all along w/Equity. It may now have been straightened out- the last he told me, he'd gotten some attention due to his threat to sue.
Hey, if we need to start class action lawsuits up again, we'll do so. The Rent Board is the first level of dealing w/problems, as it should be. which is why they're involved & that's what they're there for. If Equity wants to play their game of defying the law, they take on the risk of being nailed to the wall, or of getting away w/it.
This is a case, unfortunately, where once again, the criminals are in expensive suits driving luxury cars. Please don't be fooled by appearances. I'm not naive about some of the tenants in EPA - they're not all on the up & up. But my neighbor is, so are my spouse & myself & so are many of those getting jacked around. These are landlords that can't find their behinds w/both hands & a flashlight, but they'll jack you around til Kingdom Come if they *think8 that owe them a dime & they're thinking it doesn't make it so.
Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 25, 2012 at 11:24 am
> Actually, I was privy to much of it - there wasn't
> much of a handover
If you say so. However, it stands to reason that Page Mill had some sort of billing system, and billing records, and financial records which they needed to pay their taxes, and to show the banks that gave them the original loans. Perhaps they destroyed it .. but unless you provide some decent proof that you know that they never had any billing records, or never filed taxes, and so on .. not much we can take from your claims. There was a suit filed by one one of the "advocacy" groups, but exactly what they got out of the handover, in terms of records, is probably only known to the lawyers involved. There is really no reason to believe that Page Mill/Wells would offer all of their financial affairs to the public, because of the Page Mill failures.
> illegal rent increases.
Again .. who says so? Things are illegal when the Court says they are. It's OK to say: "we believe that the rent increases were illegal" -- but just asserting that they are, as an anonymous poster on an open blog does really provide much traction to your claims.
Again .. if there is a story here .. it has yet to be revealed.
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Jul 25, 2012 at 11:41 am
Wondering - why are you suddenly so hot on this topic? Jiminy Christmas, please do your homework - read up on the history first. I said the rents are illegal because they are - a judge deemed them so in many units.
Since then, base rents have been established by the Equity - often wrongly - & contested - but Equity continues to try to get tenants to pay rents wrongly calculated. The Rent Board is working to correct these issues, but Equity isn't very responsive, & at the same time, trying to get tenants to pay rents that are being contested.
I just did some nosing around & apparently, Gennady rushed the story, which didn't provide enough data points to demonstrate its newsworthiness, which is why readers are scratching their heads on this one.
Woodland Park's records are still a mess & instead of digging down into the mess to straighten it out, providing the necessary paper trail, they're expecting tenants to just pay for line items w/out explanation or proof/paper trail. Many people are balking at that, rightly so, so then they get a 3 day notice. While this isn't the case w/100% of the 3 day notices, it's the case in a number of them, which is important to note - if not news.
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jul 25, 2012 at 11:48 am
Pure speculation on my part, but my guess is that Equity has much greater experience (and the financial systems and databases) to manage and monitor their rental cash flows; which would certainly drive the increase in volume of notices. In other words, those types of transactions or transgressions are not going to fall through the cracks.
Posted by Cid Young, a resident of another community, on Jul 25, 2012 at 11:53 am
Notice to renters:
"PAY YOUR RENT ON TIME"
A large Corporation is not like a human landlord. They are a business.
They do not care about sob stories or excuses as to why you are late.
The notice is part of SOP (Standard Operating Procedure.) If ignored, the activities to get you to pay will escalate, and could eventually lead to poor credit rating or even an actual eviction. YOU signed the lease, just pay per the agreement and this will not happen to you.
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Jul 25, 2012 at 12:14 pm
Crescent Park Dad - you're wrong, but I wish you weren't.
They just put in a hastily purchased software system at Woodland Park, which instead of making things smoother, has contributed to the mess. Hence, this news story, which barely outlines what is going on without filling in all of the holes. Filling those holes in will be a tedious, thankless task involving many hours - which is why Woodland Park/Equity didn't do so w/their new software. Their de facto attempts to sweep all of this under that mat via this new software program isn't working - tenants whose pre-existing financial data are wrong didn't magically get better by being transferred into a new system.
It would be really nice to trust this big ol' corporation, but that's not possible right now. As one who has been attempting to correct their accounting "error" (attempt at retaliation from a lousy employee) for more than 2 years, I can speak to their utter incompetence. My neighbor has been trying to get some accounting errors corrected for just as long.
These are landlords who don't even know how to legally notice tenants for entry. I've had to educate some of their employees on this very basic issue - & it still doesn't always happen w/in the law.
Ironically, my boss has a long-term tenant in Palo Alto who's lately become loosy goosey about payment dates- I sure wouldn't attempt her tactics!
Posted by Dennis, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Jul 25, 2012 at 12:47 pm
Hopefully, Gennady Sheyner and PA Online editors will up their reporting game to meet the standards of Reportage 101, namely, determine if and then why an item is newsworthy. Then, be sure to include those elements in the story.
Meanwhile, in a litigious culture, whether employer, landlord, tenant, lessor or lessee, everyone must meet the requirements of the law, thus, document everything.
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Jul 25, 2012 at 1:08 pm
Dennis - luckily, the Rent Stabilization Board IS documenting data. Gennady had access to the data, but this story was hastily written, thus providing confusion to readers.
The bottom line is that EQR isn't meeting the requirements of the law in multiple ways, which is what caused this mess in the first place. Their refusal to correct wrong data given to them by previous property owners (Wells & Page Mill Properties) is at issue now, which is exactly what many of us have been concerned about all along. Their non-compliance is arrogant, wasteful of resources & illegal. I'm not sure if, like Page Mill Properties, it's intentional or they're just incompetent at this level, or a mixture of both.
Corporations are NOT people, but since run by people, they make mistakes or violate laws which negatively impact hundreds of people. In this case, it's to the tune of 1,000 units, affecting thousands of people & putting them at unnecessary risk. Sure, if they haven't paid their rent & don't make any effort to do so, evict them - but that's not 1,000 units' worth of tenants!
Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 25, 2012 at 2:15 pm
> The bottom line is that EQR isn't meeting the requirements of the
> law in multiple ways, which is what caused this mess in the
> first place.
Again, who says?
This article is so poorly documented with verifiable facts, and none of the comments added by people claiming to be "in the know" are verifiable, either--at least not without court records--that the Weekly should pull the thread, and promise not to run any more articles about EPA that are nothing more than thinly-veteiled "hit pieces" against the property owners in EPA unless they have fully documented their claims.
"Local journalism" should be more than just a tool to advance the agenda of local special interests.
Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford, on Jul 25, 2012 at 3:54 pm
I'm now wondering what Wondering's agenda is. This property portfolio has been full of financial and tenants' rights problems for five years, which is when Page Mill Properties bought all of them. The problematic property owners have been in and out of the news (including national news) ever since. To my memory, these property owners were:
Page Mill Properties, who bought all of the rental units and turned all of them into one portfolio of apartment complexes of varying sizes, single family homes and duplexes.
When they defaulted and fled, stealing the rent money that was supposed to go to Wells Fargo; Wells Fargo was the default owner of the portfolio.
Wells Fargo sold the complete portfolio to Equity Residential, aka EQR, less than a year ago.
Problems left over from Page Mill Properties remain and many have been enhanced because they were not dealt with. The bulk of the problems that get reported to media outlets are financials issues that need to be resolved. Since I've been able to read up on this during my years in the Palo Alto area, I know that Wondering can. Much of the information is public and obtainable online, in media stories, court decisions, the community and county legal services and through the City of East Palo Alto website. From what I've read, it does appear that more than 50% of the households owned by Equity Residential have gotten at least a 3 Day Notice even though they are paying their rent.
This story isn't from "special interests" hoping for a "hit piece." It's a news story that isn't fully fleshed out for various reasons, including lack of time. It appears that there is not only a lot of smoke, but a real fire burning and that will be addressed tonight. I hope that there is news coverage.
Posted by No Agenda Here, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 25, 2012 at 7:06 pm
Aquamarine: Agree - "Wondering" seems to have an agenda - perhaps s/he is part of Equity Residential. "Wondering's" attack on "Hmmm's" knowledge of the other side of the issue is over the top and I don't trust it. "Hmmm" seems to have a very plausible perspective and one that is verifiable. At first I thought "Wondering" had a reasonable critique, but then the questioning became pedantic. I suggest "Wondering" seek his/her answers where s/he feels they can trust the source. Continually suggesting that "Hmmm" is wrong or lying is ridiculous and a waste of everyone's time. Yes, I don't have to waste my time by reading "Wondering's" posts - but I had to read several before I knew it was a waste of time. I'll skip them in the future.
Cid, KP: It would be great if you read the comments before posting inane comments. If you had, you would see the issue is NOT EPA residents failing to pay their rent on time. Of course, if the Weekly had done their job properly there would be no need for "Hmmm" to educate the rest of us on the meat of the issue.
Hmmm: Thanks for patiently and repeatedly filling us in on what the PA Weekly should have found out before posting this misleading and half-baked story!
Posted by Thank you Hmmm, a resident of Mountain View, on Jul 25, 2012 at 8:29 pm
I want to thank Hmmm for her or his comments. They are insightful and informative. I'm glad there are community members who stand up for tenants' rights.
Thanks also to the other commenters. Even if your comments were a bit hasty or unreasonably negative, they prompted informative responses from those who care about this issue.
I'm also glad this paper decided to report on the issue, even if this initial report may be a bit flawed. I hope this paper continues to do investigative reporting on this issue. Local news coverage -- and online commenting -- at it's best and most helpful!
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Jul 25, 2012 at 9:12 pm
Wow, I really appreciate the comments/feedback! Wondering may be a commenter who is a by the book sort, which I understand. But what Wondering seems to be missing is any real knowledge of the structure of the Rent Ordinance, the Rent Board's role & the other structures in place- besides court. The constant rush to blame EPA residents/tenants is tiresome & disgusting. The bias in favor of these various landlords has been ongoing ever since PMP got involved. While I know that this is an area that values affluence & power, it can't be assumed that that tenants (a changing demographic), the Rent Board, city officials and our consulting attorneys - have been constantly in the wrong for more than 5 years!
Speaking of by the book, that's what I've been trying to point out - many commenters are wrongly assuming the renters aren't playing by the book, but it really is EQR, after Wells & after PMP. They need to clean up the mess that they're perpetuating. And a mess it is. According to the latest report, approx 50% of the households owned by EQR here in EPA have received notices. I don't think the latest data are mistaken- it's been issued from the Rent Board's administrator.
For those interested, you can Google Page Mill Properties to get a better sense of this history. A number of their tenants, incl me, have been commenting from their time as landlords forward. While I've experienced some good things resulting from EQR, those things seem to be getting drowned out by the negative, time-consuming & troublesome. I'm very sorry for this. I also own property elsewhere & wouldn't dream of being so callous w/the law as these folks & their predecessors have been.
Finally, EQR has some very bad apt. ratings, which is disconcerting. And guess what? Crescent Park residents are now affected because of all the parking that EQR tenants are doing in their neighborhood. Why didn't this happen before? You might want to call Woodland Park Apts. & find out.
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Jul 25, 2012 at 11:21 pm
Joe - get a grip. Rent Board members are made up of property owners, tenants & landlords. I don't know all of the City Council members well, but I recall some are property owners, some are renters, and at least one has been a realtor. I don't know if any of them are landlords.
This isn't about tenants not paying rent - once again - it's about the landlord issues continuing to negatively effect tenants & City Hall. Tenants getting legally evicted through nonpayment of rent or something similar isn't a news story, unless of course it's en masse or something else that makes it newsworthy.
This isn't an Occupy-oriented issues, either- that's simply laughable. It IS a legal issue on all levels, which is why it's being dealt with as such. How you are making your assumptions is puzzling, but my assumption about yours is that it's based on bias and ignorance of the issue.
I'm a property owner, also. I believe following the law is the way to go when one owns property AND rents it out - other lives are affected by whether I follow the law or not, and those lives have many rights attached to them.
Posted by musical, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jul 26, 2012 at 11:32 am
Good grief, sounds to me like some of the renters have a legitimate complaint about fees or late charges or penalties or interest that are reverberating consequences of previous corporate landlord disarray. It's been a troubling period of economic difficulty and some differences of opinion about debts can be expected. Nobody is defending malfeasance on either side.
And people against "Rent Stabilization", who'd rather see living quarters go to the highest bidder, make me a little nervous. I pay rent to the county tax assessor, and my rent stabilization was passed as Prop 13.
Posted by Good grief., a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jul 27, 2012 at 8:23 am
Sid Young: A business is not like a human landlord? Geez...a business is by humans, y'know.
The facts of life are simple. A "human" or many humans, put money up to buy a house/apartment whatever. The mortgage is due, every month, whether the place is owned by one human or by many. Other human(s) sign a rental contract to pay the owner-human the money every month. The owner-human turns around and pays the mortgage, fixes stuff, etc. If the renter doesn't pay on time, the owner can't pay the mortgage, gets hit with a late fee. The owner human gets upset when this happens..hurts the owner human's credit and pocketbook.
We are all dependent on each other. The renter for the owner to not lose the house for non-payment of the mortgage, the owner on the renter to pay what he has agreed to pay, on time. This is whether it is one human or many humans.
Rent "stabilization" always pulls down the quality of the living spaces. Period. There is a price for lower rents. Period. But, "stabilization" or not, we each must pay what we owe, on time, to each other.
Posted by musical, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jul 27, 2012 at 9:43 am
Another fact of life is that crooks can be on either side of the transaction. When many humans put up money to own, they tend to hire middlemen, which ups the crook ratio. We are dependent on each other to be honest, to settle disagreements rationally, and not to bushwack one another with fine print on page 27. Then again, life is not always fair, and there are many legal ways to be a predator.
Rent control is a debatable subject. There must have been some reason to invent it, maybe by rich people to keep poor people on the other side of town. Anecdotally I do know owner/landlords who don't raise rents on their long-term tenants, seeing the big picture that stability has real value.
I used to deliver the Palo Alto Times in the Fairmeadow area. I now see many of the old houses replaced by McMansions. Is that an increase in the quality of living spaces? I don't think I've observed an increase in the quality of life. (The quality of the residents is even more subjective.)
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Jul 27, 2012 at 10:20 am
Until the landlords clean up the paperwork mess that they're perpetuating, the current problem will remain a large-scale mess. In some of the cases, the landlords isn't honoring court orders, de facto, because they're attempting to collect on fees created by illegal rent hikes rolled back by court order more than a year ago. I wouldn't want to be in that position as a property owner or manager!
Posted by East palo alto, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Oct 4, 2012 at 5:25 am
I am one of the residents that is being unfairly evicted and was over paying in rent woodland park had to pay back money they owed me and as soon as they did they sent a eviction notice and now I am basically
Homeless with 5 kids these people have no heart all they care about is getting old residents out and bringing new ones in that they can charge more rent to. They only gave me and my husband three weeks to find a place to live. I read a lot of what people are talking or saying who are you to judge other people? My husband and I work I have a very good job I work for Stanford hospital and I can't find a place to live.
Because of my family size I am still considered low income I cant afford 2,500 apartment. People are paying there rents at least I tried woodland wouldn't accept they wanted me and my family out. Some of you people posting. These comments I am sure are coming from rich people that don't care about others. And that is sad if you guys don't have nothing good or nice to say please don't say nothing because you know nothing that is going on or what we are going through!
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Oct 4, 2012 at 9:51 am
East palo alto - if you read this, go to the Rent Stabilization Board immediately, if you haven't yet contacted them. They can b reached at: 853-3157. Their office is at city hall. If you owed some old fees in addition to rent, or something similar & got behind because they applies your money to these old fees, you may have a case against them & they can't evict. Regardless of the reason, see if you can get help. You can also try: Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto (CLSEPA) 2117 University Avenue East Palo Alto, CA 94303 (650) 326-6440. GOod luck to you.
Posted by Concerned Investor, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Feb 13, 2013 at 12:47 pm
As an investor, knowing East Palo Alto has Rent Stabilization/Control and Just Cause for Eviction... I am not interested in purchasing a rental property in East Palo Alto now. It appears the City is providing an unfair leverage to tenants. For example: The City charges Landlords an annual fee to regulate, record, publicize and penalize landlords. Q. What is the City providing for the landlords? - Do they provide informational program classes? NO - Do they also offer Landlords free legal support? NO - Do they encourgage Arbitration & Mediation? NO In summary is this good for East Palo Alto? If invesotrs are not encouraged to invest in an area, that will result in less rentals available to rent? Or is that East Palo Alto's City's hidden adgenda? A community should work together to support both the business property owner and the tenant the customer. If we want to stimulate the commuinty we need to educate and assist both sides of the transaction. Equal Representation should be provided, it's called being Fair.