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New tenant protection law leaves some Palo Alto landlords fuming

Original post made on Aug 21, 2023

Despite protests from local landlords, Palo Alto is pressing ahead with a new law that would make more tenants eligible for eviction protections.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, August 20, 2023, 8:50 PM

Comments (32)

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Aug 21, 2023 at 8:16 am

MyFeelz is a registered user.

Just another form of lip service that is designed to make the city look progressive. The other local statute that was created to allow tenants relocation fees paid out of the pockets of landlords is another. Twenty ... or is it 22 years now ... that the city still doesn't enforce it? And the reason they don't enforce it is supposedly because in 2 decades the city hasn't figured out how to create a landlord directory so they can all be notified of the stale city statute. It's also supposed to be referred to in all leases, but I highly doubt it.

"The city is also in the process of enacting a rental registry" the same way they are "creating a landlord registry". Processes apparently take 20 years or more, and the way tenants move around, it makes no sense to track THEM. It's the landlords the city needs to keep an eye on. Also, not a single tenant (that I know of) has collected on the promise of relocation fees if they get evicted without cause. So... here we are, letting our council blow gas up our collective wazoos, to enact unenforceable statutes. All tenants have an expectation of privacy and that includes not being "tracked". The landlords, however, do NOT have that luxury. They are supposed to be paying county, state and federal taxes on their rental properties. Surely there's an easier way to get landlord information out of the FTB than knocking door to door on "suspected" rental properties. The ACLU will be along any moment now, to explain to PACC how their search for tenants violates several federal laws.

Lauren Bigelow said "the most balanced but impactful protections for a renter" but what she should have said is "the worst privacy violations perpetrated against renters."

Posted by marc665
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 21, 2023 at 9:14 am

marc665 is a registered user.

Re: "...Without them, the idea that a renter can be doing everything right and still lose their home looms large..."

It's NOT the renter's home. There is no ownership when renting.


Posted by jjmm2009
a resident of another community
on Aug 21, 2023 at 10:10 am

jjmm2009 is a registered user.

Time to amend the signs at both ends of the city so they read, "Welcome to Palo Alto, Renters Paradise!"

Posted by Gnar
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 21, 2023 at 10:28 am

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It is absolutely the renter's home, just not their apartment, condo, or house.

Posted by Member
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 21, 2023 at 10:39 am

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I'd be interested to know how frequently eviction occurs when a renter IS in fact doing everything right and still gets evicted. I would expect that from a landlord's perspective continuity in renter occupancy is a good thing. Unless your renter is damaging the property or not paying what is owed, or you intend to use the property for another purpose, I can't imagine a landlord trying to disrupt a steady rental. Any indication of how often these evictions have been happening and for what reason?

Posted by Tony Favero
a resident of another community
on Aug 21, 2023 at 10:44 am

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I am fortunate in not owning any rental property in PA.

Posted by connie kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 21, 2023 at 12:14 pm

connie kettendorf is a registered user.

Where are the programs to assist and support landlords? Not all landlords are evil doers. My neighbor had a temporary tenant who never paid rent and refused to leave at the agreed upon date. The neighbor's lawyer quoted that infamous line from PACIFIC HEIGHTS, "If she is in there, she has rights!!!!" It took months to evict that tenant and my neighbor had to pay the lawyer and all requisite fees. I have two to three bedrooms I could rent out but I will not do so. I am afraid of all the tenant protection. Who would protect me?

Posted by bill
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 21, 2023 at 12:34 pm

bill is a registered user.

if the city is truely engaged in this proposal as a solution, they should also share the burden. During the period where the tenant is requesting protection from eviction, the state should also share in the expence and not require the owner of the property to pay property taxes. That seems only fair.

Posted by Comment
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 21, 2023 at 12:42 pm

Comment is a registered user.

@connie -
Where are the programs to protect landlords?
That program is called Capitalism with its zillions of laws, regulations and options for landlords.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 21, 2023 at 12:42 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

This issue was a concern when ADUs were first being pushed and no one seemed to have considered the problems of having a contentious relationship with tenant(s) in your backyard.

Posted by connie kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 21, 2023 at 12:56 pm

connie kettendorf is a registered user.

@Registered User: EXACTLY! There are indeed laws which protect landlords, that are enforced IF the landlord retains an attorney, goes to court, and pays large sums of money. Months go by to enforce this working of capitalism you endorse, which means more lost income for the landlord. The tenant protection is FREE for the tenants. ( I have been a tenant with an evil landlord so I am familiar with both sides.) Again, I have rooms which I am reticent to rent because I have no recourse other than to hire an attorney if a tenant is abusive in any way.

Posted by Mondoman
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 21, 2023 at 1:14 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

These sorts of laws have backfired in Seattle. The city council there apparently did not realize that property owners have options, three of which have been picked up big-time, making rentals harder to get and much more expensive:

1) Small landlord sells out to a hedge-fund-owned national property manager, which implements algorithmic pricing and jacks up rents, caring only for short-term income.

2) Landlord switches unit(s) to AirBnB-type rentals with much higher prices and pretty much no protections for renters.

3) Landlord sells building to developer, who builds fewer, much more expensive units in its place.

Posted by connie kettendorf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 21, 2023 at 1:43 pm

connie kettendorf is a registered user.

@Mondoman: In addition to what you have described as a landlord's recourse, is what happened in Boston. Property owners converted their rental units to condos, for purchase. The number of rental units in the city and surrounding suburbs was dramatically reduced.
(My uncle did this. He had nine rentals in Boston for thirty five years with no problems. He rented way under market so he would have good tenants; they in fact stayed for years. However, a tenant moved in who trashed the lobby and hallways, took pictures, and then claimed he didn't have to pay the rent because the landlord was negligent. The tenant sued my uncle, with the help of a TENANT's RIGHTS agency of the city. My uncle had to hire an attorney, go to court and pay the fees of the agency's attorney.
After months, the tenant was ultimately evicted. However, he left without paying month's of back rent. ON his way out, he destroyed the apartment, including plumbing and electrical. My uncle, elderly, converted to condos and sold them off. He offered first refusal for purchase to his faithful tenants, some of whom had been there for over a decade.)
Again, I ask what agency is there to represent the landlords, short of going to court?

Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Aug 21, 2023 at 2:54 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

California law favors the residential tenant and the commercial landlord. We rent out our home in Palo Alto. They're on auto pay. It's working out well. In God We Trust. All others are under intense scrutiny. Have a nice day.

Posted by Noley
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 21, 2023 at 3:20 pm

Noley is a registered user.

Is there a list of rights for landlords? I have noticed that tenants have had increasing rights. The list of tenant rights is very long.
When a right for either side is decided upon those deciding need to be members of the Palo Alto Community. There needs to be equal representation on these counsels.
The rights for each side need to be financially included as well. They are highly unbalanced at this point.
With a little common sense this comment would not have to be written.

Posted by Ocam's Razor
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 21, 2023 at 5:12 pm

Ocam's Razor is a registered user.

Palo Alto seems to be in a predicament with residential landlords getting pressed, commercial landlords charging incredible rents (Mike's Cafe) forcing out the smaller businesses that serve the population, non-profits appearing to develop 'builder remedy' projects regardless of the impact to the community. California is a one party state so until we elect better people into office, we will see more of this.

Southern California has the same issues and there is an scenario where a woman rented an apartment in her house and the renter decided not to pay for three years and had the renter 'rights' on her side even though she was working making a good salary and driving a new car. The homeowner could not evict the tenant due the California laws. The owner signed a lease for the apartment with her son who moved in, did not threaten the woman but moved his stuff in and spread out as if he was alone. It was quite uncomfortable for the woman. The the son removed all of the woman's possessions and placed them in the yard, police were called and the son had a legal lease for the apartment to show them. The woman renter was out but doubt she paid the 3 years she owed.

Posted by NTB2
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 21, 2023 at 8:12 pm

NTB2 is a registered user.

In 2017 a tenant, friend, single mom of two young children vacated a tiny 500 sqft one bed unit on Alma.. Two months prior the upstairs unit toilet overflowed fecal toilet water and streamed down to her unit. The landlord blamed her for the brown wall stains and NEVER returned her $1500.00 deposit — money that would have helped her pay the deposit on her across town larger unit. She chose not to fight it.

Landlords who own mega amounts of land here w no mortgages are charging renters w mortgage like monthly rent payments. Yes. For a subpar tiny 2Bdrm / 1Bthrm unit, landlords are getting a minimum of $ 5.25 a sqft. Sacramento charges $1.25sqft for example. @MyFeelz yes. Ms. Bigelow who is in the lead of PARA Palo Alto renters association (501 c 3) is supposed to be looking out for us association members. Yet how and who for? And what if the recent article of how much income needed to own Silicon Valley residential soil & structure? 4-5 hundred grand a yearly income! And this obscene reality is foisted right on to a renter. To rent: proof of three times asking rent, 700 or better on Experian, cash reserve of three times asking rent plus proof of full asking deposit — all pushes prospective renters into the 6 figure category of income bracket — those who must rent are forced to show on paper and cash reserves they can buy yet are “choosing” not to at this time. And what about stagnated wages, skyrocketing living costs? Sham, delusion, gauging, greed, and run-away-power of mega land holders. Please, mercy on us who work, live, love and desire to thrive while raising family on a “normal” service working wage. The rental registry is akin to a “bridal registry”. Leaving many (too many unable to access the registry perimeters) trapped in subpar, outdated, overcrowded units where down is the only trajectory. Just cause fine, deposit limits fine — yet it’s the run-away ever rising monthly rent burden.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 22, 2023 at 12:00 am

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

As a fourth generation Palo Alto family the rental asks are insurmountable . $30 to $60 application fee, sight unseen. In all of my renter days I have never, ever had to prove such incomes as 3 times asking rent. Sure a bank account w a total of first and deposit and proof of income (including supplemental SSI, retirement etc), no evictions But the inability for regular folk to move within the city boundaries is outlandish. Who or what (AI) is at the helm of such insanity within PA borders?

It’s, my goodness, so much larger than the human foot (boot) print. The housing teach in at Imagine Lab was a start. Yes. Next “teach in”. Have a progressive housing architect, a local pediatrician , 2nd Harvest food Bank sharing their perspectives on the oppressive, stifling cost of human life —the struggle to support a living thriving growing economic presence & yes, futures.

Is unhousing humans cheaper and a more expedient force 2 a larger algorithmic bot tooling up Artificial Intelligence? Think WWII America Detroit MI retooling auto factories for bomb making.

It’s all about space & ridding the human seeing, feeling, breathing footprint for a nebulous skullgery of what, “virtual air space” SP 500 dividend?

Or rather, a incubated shareholders delight for Prius, Tesla’s, Wayno, SFH electric heat pumps, EV charging stations. Or better, is Palo Alto another but very real, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”? No wonder PA electric grid loses power. Like when a developer builds a building yet does zero for the city street, sidewalk or driveway in front.

Charging on all levels is reeking negative — from WiFi, iPhones, iPads, iMacs to Prius to Tesla’s all sucking the life blood from the local lions throat. The glee of $$$ money for personal IPO gain has in glory, glazed over the actual fail of infrastructure & revealed human weakness’ for all community safety & support. Now we are paying the piper. Is CC Burt a shareholder in electric heat pumps? He speaks as if.

Posted by ndn
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 22, 2023 at 7:40 am

ndn is a registered user.

It would be a good idea if people would pay attention to their own stories and rendered them in a manner that would make them believable. The story that Ocam's razor tells simply did not happen at least the way he told it.
It's true that the "new"ordinance adds some inconveniences for landlords specially the small landlords, but it's equally true that as it is has been it has caused havoc in renter's lives- deposits not returned, blaming the tenant for misdeeds not their fault, deficient maintenance, dangerous conditions, etc. It seems to me that people want all legal matters one sided. Like children they stomp on the ground and scream " it's what I want and only what I want" they seem to be saying. It cannot be. If you rent to others paying you to use your property you have obligations and the city should enforce them. If you are a tenant you have obligations too. So balancing the duties and obligations of both sides is a matter for the law. Causing havoc in someone's life because simply you don't like them, for example, is corrected by the new rules we are talking about.
Signs " for rent" that I see all over town are a predictor of what's about to happen- tenants are needed and because of that they will have the upper hand. On the other hand small landlords bay and large have been riding an era of prop 13 that gives them low taxes and high profits. It high time that they face the music.

Posted by marc665
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2023 at 9:44 am

marc665 is a registered user.

Why do people here (and most renters) think that cost and price are related?

Renters have the mistaken belief that property owners should only charge rent based on the owner's costs.

The fact that I own (no mortgage/low taxes) a property doesn't mean that I am going to rent it at a price lower than what other properties are renting for. I am not "greedy", I am charging what the market value.

If you want "greedy" what about all the single family home owners that bought their property for under $100K and are now selling it for > $2M. That is what is setting the "value" of living in Palo Alto.


Posted by ndn
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 22, 2023 at 11:18 am

ndn is a registered user.

Market value is, of course, what drives a healthy market. When the rental market goes down so should rents. That's a market economy and because of the fluctuations in the economy indeed rental prices follow cost prices. But in California, landlords most specially "small" landlords have not been paying their fair share of property taxes related to the services they use thanks to prop 13 and longtime ownership. If your house is your own residence it's one thing but if it is used for profitable business should be another matter. The "small" landlords cry a lot but refuse to acknowledge the blessings they receive from the other taxpayers and the State itself.

Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2023 at 12:39 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

Of course, you charge market value. If not, it's reported as a loss to the IRS. We're paying more than our fair share of property taxes on our home in Old PA. It's verifiable.

Posted by Rebecca McIntyre
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 22, 2023 at 1:37 pm

Rebecca McIntyre is a registered user.

Laws such as this are causing landlords to both significantly tighten down on who they'll rent to and causing them to sell, further reducing availability for renters. Rents are not determined based on a landlord's expenses, any more than any other investment. (That's the part people don't seem to realize. Rental properties are investments.) Smart landlords who are sick of policies which are ruining mom and pop landlords -- and that includes MOST landlords in California! -- will sell and 1031 their proceeds to conservative counties such as El Dorado, where they can buy 5X++ as much for the dollar and not be subjected to over governance.

Posted by Deborah
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 22, 2023 at 2:01 pm

Deborah is a registered user.

Politicians love to do what is politically expedient rather than something that will actually work. In Germany, being a renter is a stable proposition because landlords are required to offer 30 year leases. In other words, the tenant gets to lock in a price or a clearly defined and predictable price increases for as long a period as they desire up to thirty years. I don't know about anyone else, but I sure would like some legislation that works.

Posted by Mondoman
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 22, 2023 at 2:30 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

Actually, because of prop 13, residential property now pays an unfairly high proportion of all property taxes. It used to be that commercial property paid about 60% of property taxes, but that is now about 40% because commercial property does not get revalued nearly as often as residential property.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 22, 2023 at 2:50 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Mondoman makes a critical point about how tax burdens have shifted from businesses to residents. Of course that reality doesn't get politicians and lobbyists to try to correct that and shift the tax burden back; instead they keep baying about NIMBY residents not paying their fair share and cranking up their outrage machines for their fund-raising efforts.

See also DODO (Developer Owned Developer Operated)

Posted by jjmm2009
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2023 at 1:13 pm

jjmm2009 is a registered user.

If a law affecting property rights has State Senator Scott Weiner's name on it, you can pretty much bet it's going to be bad for renters, bad for property owners, and bad for the community at large. The only ones it will be good for are the SJWs who are working overtime to suck up to small special interest groups and to assuage their own self-assumed guilt for a perceived offense committed in the Miocene Epoch by their fur-covered ancestors.

Posted by Andy
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 23, 2023 at 5:57 pm

Andy is a registered user.

This topic is a good reminder there's a HOUSING CRISIS and Palo Alto (along with ALL other cities) is FAR behind in building housing supply so there's a true marketplace for renters, homebuyers, investors and some level of sanity.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 23, 2023 at 7:45 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

Palo Alto is fully built out and so build where there’s room like San Jose.

Posted by d. erp.
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 25, 2023 at 11:07 am

d. erp. is a registered user.

The obvious long term result of this: immediate increases in month-to-month leases that will be terminated within 4 months, harming tenants instead of helping them, creating instability that wasn't there under the statewide 12 month rule.

This law takes away time and ability to learn to cooperate with each other, in favor of cut-and-dried 30-day notices, when tenants show any sign of being bad matches.

This is a ridiculously foolish, self-defeating law. It harms the tenants it's intended to help (the ones who need protections because they are in some way apt to have their leases ended). Unproblematic tenants don't need these protections - landlords are desperate to find and keep them. Only a stupid, socially-challenged person would come up with this law, as it does and will do exactly the opposite of what some well-intentioned (but socially clueless) authors and supporters think it will do.

Posted by d. erp.
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 25, 2023 at 11:15 am

d. erp. is a registered user.

By the way, thank you for having the good sense to report who is responsible for this, PA Weekly. I know who is not going to get my vote, next cycle. I'm talking about you, Vicky Veenker.

People who are specifically socially-handicapped should not be in charge of, quite literally, society and social policy. Anybody who foresaw this as being a social benefit, because it looks good on paper, does not understand other humans. Unfortunately, the place that plays out is in the real lives of other people, not in some abstract computer space. Again, this policy harms the very people it is supposedly intended to help - they will be "evicted" more often, and sooner, not less often. This destabilizes them further, and harms everybody. Just a foolish, cluelessly proferrred policy.

Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 26, 2023 at 5:07 am

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

I am both a landlord and a tenant. I own a home in San Francisco and rent it out to a nice family. They pay $8500/month and approximately half of it is profit for me when you subtract my mortgage, property insurance, and property taxes. When we lost our tenants due to the pandemic, we received a low interest SBA pandemic loan, which we had to pay back and did pay back. That $50,000 loan was only available to landlords, not tenants.

Had we not been able to find new tenants, we could have sold our home and walked away with a nice profit. Landlords have it good--even in the City of San Francisco which has the strongest renter protections in the country-many more than PA. Even with peak renter protections, landlords have it better than tenants, and if it's not as profitable as the landlord wants (because it's always profitable), then the landlord can sell and make profit that way.

In Palo Alto, I am a renter. We pay approximately $10,000/month. According to Zillow, the house we rent is worth a little under $6 million. Property records suggest that the landlord bought it for approximately $500K. He pays approximately $1100/month in property taxes, meaning that he makes approximately $9000/month in profit from our rental, amounting to approximately $108,000 in profit a year from our living here, not to mention the $5.5 million in appreciation the landlord has enjoyed passively.

My situation is fairly typical for Palo Alto, where half of us rent our homes because even rent at $10,000/month is more affordable than buying a $6 million home.

As a landlord who rents out a home in the market with the strongest renter protections in the country, yet still makes money for passively collecting rent, I strongly believe that these proposed Palo Alto renter protections are minor, overdue, and fair. To landlords who don't like protected tenants: you can sell at a profit instead.

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