East Palo Alto officially approves tenants' rights ordinance

Expanded protections for renters will go into effect in 30 days

Renters in East Palo Alto will receive more protections under an ordinance officially passed by the City Council this week.

The ordinance was scheduled to be approved through the council's consent calendar for its May 6 meeting, but council member Lisa Yarbrough-Gauthier instead asked to pull the item from the calendar to allow the public to ask to have any portion clarified. No one spoke, she said. Council then officially approved the ordinance.

At an April 1 council meeting, more than a dozen residents -- many speaking through a Spanish interpreter -- urged the council to put more protections into place. After hearing much testimony, the council swiftly voted to back the ordinance.

The law, which has been in the works since 2011, is in response to increasing concern in East Palo Alto over a decline in affordable housing and an imbalance between tenants and landlords. The drafting of the ordinance pitted the city's largest landlord, Equity Residential, against Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto, representing local tenants, but the two eventually came to consensus over various provisions included in past drafts.

Under the ordinance, tenants have the right to organize, organize meetings and distribute literature without reprisals. Landlords cannot refuse to rent units, evict or discriminate on the basis of age, parenthood, pregnancy or the tenancy of a minor child. Landlords are also prohibited from refusing to rent or discriminating against anyone because they are a student or not a student.

Landlords cannot harass tenants by interrupting or curtailing any utility service or fail to perform repairs and maintenance, to threaten tenants by through threat, fraud intimidation or coercion, or refuse to accept or acknowledge rent payment. They may not threaten to call immigration authorities, except as required by law.

Significantly perhaps for Equity Residential, which owns 1,800 rental units in the Woodlands neighborhood south of University Avenue and has had parking problems that have spilled over into Palo Alto, after June 1, landlords cannot charge for parking. Landlords who want to charge for parking must prove that the parking spaces are in excess of parking required for the site.

If landlords must temporarily remove tenants to repair a unit, the landlord must supply alternative housing and temporary relocation costs, including storage and housing pets, but they cannot charge renters more than they normally pay for rent.

But if temporary relocation exceeds 30 days, landlords can terminate tenancy, and they must pay relocation costs as required if units are demolished or removed.

The ordinance will take effect within 30 days.

City Council also unanimously agreed Tuesday to accept an employee contract with its Management Employees Association, which is on par with an agreement the city accepted on April 22 with the Service Employees International Union.

The council also decided to delay a vote on other housing issues: second unit and garage conversions. It expects to vote on the issues at its May 20 meeting.

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Like this comment
Posted by MJ
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 8, 2014 at 10:53 am

Does these tenants right apply only to the people renting apartments or does it include tenants renting homes?

Like this comment
Posted by Eva_PA
a resident of Ventura
on May 8, 2014 at 11:06 am

Eva_PA is a registered user.

It sounds like there have been shenanigans going on that would warrant these rules. These seem like basic tenant rights.

Like this comment
Posted by Raymond
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 8, 2014 at 11:28 am

One day after bogging that I can testify to the slow response to maintenance requests, a representative of Equity Residential called me and wanted to meet concerning maintenance problems where I live. One week later, I have had several issues in my apartment addressed. It only took 5 yrs and a pending lawsuit, brought by other tenants, to have these problems addressed. One of the problems I mentioned is termite damage to the roof. I have no doubt that my future holds a change of address while this problem is fixed, or the building gets condemned. BTW, I have complied with each rental increase, yearly, since I moved in. I work and do not subsidized rent. Nor is my citizenship a factor.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 8, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Eva - shenanigans is a most excellent way to put it!

Raymond - I am really happy to hear that you suddenly are getting help. No surprise. Of course they've known about the termites, and have chosen not to do anything until it's perhaps too late. Please keep posting to let us know what is going on. Since the Rent Program is losing Carol Lamont, who knows how long it would take to get help?

Like this comment
Posted by Cid Young
a resident of another community
on May 8, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Aren't most of these common sense protections already covered by US Fair Housing Act? (since 1968 - passed when Lyndon Johnson was President) Web Link)

1.) Refusal to sell or rent a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
2.) Discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin in the terms, conditions or privilege of the sale or rental of a dwelling.
3.)Advertising the sale or rental of a dwelling indicating preference of discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin.
4.) Coercing, threatening, intimidating, or interfering with a person's enjoyment or exercise of housing rights based on discriminatory reasons or retaliating against a person or organization that aids or encourages the exercise or enjoyment of fair housing rights.

California has protections spelled out as well:
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by really
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 8, 2014 at 4:05 pm

I wish these protections would have been in place while I lived there I was evicted for not paying rent (that I had I always worked immigration is not a issue )with these people I had mold growing up my walls inside my apartment and rats inside my apartment that they would do nothing about my apartment was on top of the garage so the rats were coming up the wall from down stairs and so was the mold I get chills thinking about it now. luckily im in a better place free to breath fresh air and no rats.

Like this comment
Posted by Cid Young
a resident of another community
on May 8, 2014 at 5:33 pm

And from San Francisco: Landlords end up in jail:
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Cid Young
a resident of another community
on May 8, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Sorry - Wrong web link, I think:

And from San Francisco: Landlords end up in jail:
Correct Web Link:Web Link

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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