News

RHC approves new tenant buyout rules

City to regulate exit deals when landlord wants to boost rent to market rate

A package of policies to allow landlords to negotiate side deals with tenants to buy them out of rent-controlled apartments was approved by the Mountain View Rental Housing Committee on Monday night.

These so-called tenant buyout rules would create a formal framework for renters to be paid if they agree to move out in order for their apartments to be immediately brought up to market rate. The rules were approved in a 3-2 vote, with committee members Susyn Almond and Julian Pardo de Zela opposed, at the Feb. 11 meeting. Committee Chairman Matthew Grunewald was absent.

Tenant buyout rules are standard in other California cities with rent control policies, and they are intended to ensure a fair compromise is reached between all parties, according to city housing staff.

In Mountain View, the need for tenant buyout rules emerged after some mysterious projects to redevelop older apartments came forward a few years ago, according to city staff. These older apartments were completely vacant, indicating the tenants had unanimously consented to move out, but the city lacked any information on what had happened.

Landlords and their advocates at the Monday meeting argued that tenants buyouts were nothing new, but the city was taking a clumsy approach by creating a whole new set of regulations for it.

Committee member Vanessa Honey pointed to her own background as an apartment property manager for more than 20 years, managing thousands of apartments. Overall, she said she could count "on one hand" the number of times she had brokered a tenant buyout.

"This is a solution looking for a problem," Pardo de Zela agreed. "We can enact regulations, but that doesn't mean we should."

Other committee members stepped forward to defend the new rules, arguing they provided some safeguards to prevent landlords from manipulating tenants. Among the rules, tenants would have to be informed of their rights, including their freedom to reject a deal or consult an attorney. Tenants would be given a "cooling off" period to back out of a deal if they had a change of heart. Also, it is important for city officials to track buyouts in order to see local housing trends, said committee member Emily Ramos.

"We don't want this law to be the wild west," she said. "We want data to see if there's any patterns and to figure out how to implement this law better so it's equitable for all parties."

Under the city rules, a copy of any tenant buyout deal would need to be submitted to the city for its records. On this point, committee member Nicole Haines Livesay asked for the city to exercise discretion to keep specific details of these deals confidential. The rental committee's attorney agreed to look into the issue, but said government public records laws could require disclosure.

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Comments

46 people like this
Posted by Alan L.
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Feb 12, 2019 at 2:42 pm

There is absolutely no reason for GOVERNMENT to step into arm's length, non coerced transactions (other than trade of illegal substances). If coercion is seen to be a problem, then protection of the parties is appropriate. Otherwise, stop thinking GOVERNMENT needs to meddle in everything.


2 people like this
Posted by Elena
a resident of Castro City
on Feb 12, 2019 at 3:06 pm

Each year the city council of Mountain View is more disappointing. This was once a great town for working class families and its been ripped away. Only the rich will be left while the families were raised here cant afford it and does the city counsel care, NOPE.


7 people like this
Posted by Hello
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2019 at 3:11 pm

Apartments around Castro elementary need to go if we want that school to improve. I am surprised we don’t hear much about redevelopment in that area.


17 people like this
Posted by maryhodder
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 12, 2019 at 3:12 pm

maryhodder is a registered user.

Sure, there is need for some tenant protections. What you see in Berkeley and other rent controlled cities is that the landlord finds a technicality to "sue" the tenant. Then they go to the rent board and spend days in a hearing, day after day, where the tenant cannot speak until the landlord is done. Then after 5 or so day so this exhausting and upsetting process, the landlord offers a low ball deal. And it has to be signed on the spot.. no backing out.

The tenant is exhausted.. has taken days off work, and is angry about being accused of all sorts of whatever the trumped up charges are, without being able to respond. They take the deal.. and cannot come back upon consulting with allies or calming down, to ask for a more fair deal.

In instances I've seen, a tenant is offered $10k to move from a $1k a month apt. Without thinking it through, they say yes, and then realize $10k won't pay for the very short term move they are offered because they have to hire people to meet the deadline. And then the landlord makes up the $10k cost in just two short months, after raising the rent to $6k.

Landlords are highly incentivized to challenge a tenant and because of the emotional nature of losing one's home, take advantage.

Of course the city should set some ground rules, and a cooling off period. It's the humane thing to do.


38 people like this
Posted by Nancy
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 12, 2019 at 3:40 pm

I regret voting for this rent control. It is nothing what I was told it was going to be.

It is one thing to have a cap on annual rent increases, it is another thing to say we are taking rights away from the property owner and demanding now that they pay residents to regain control of their property.

What kind of residents do we have if they think that this is O.K in our city.


1 person likes this
Posted by MV tenant
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2019 at 5:37 pm

Money talks


5 people like this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2019 at 6:29 pm

The Business Man is a registered user.

In response to Nancy you said:

It is one thing to have a cap on annual rent increases, it is another thing to say we are taking rights away from the property owner and demanding now that they pay residents to regain control of their property.

What kind of residents do we have if they think that this is O.K in our city.”

You pose a false premise:

Lets clarify the story

You pose the tenant is isn’t paying for the use of the unit, but in effect owns it. The tenant is paying for the property use based on a contract. Lets do a comparable situation.

You bought a Mercedes for $120,000.

You leased it to your neighbor for $3,000./month on a month to month lease

You want the car back for some reason.

There is a cost to breaking a contract. Because the neighbor is entitled to the service of the vehicle because they paid for it. Your removal of the services without any opportunity for the neighbor to find an alternative is a surcharge for the break of the contract.

Does this make sense to you?

This is why the propose regulations make sense.

Especially where thepractice of a landlord to use this process to manipulate the prices by "vacancy decontrol"

Simply put, the public has a right to know if the landlords are regulary practicing actions designed to free themselves from the law via a very unethical practice.


16 people like this
Posted by The Successful Businessman
a resident of Whisman Station
on Feb 12, 2019 at 8:55 pm

The Successful Businessman is a registered user.

All of this is little more than the slow, inevitable taking of property for the benefit of the minority against the very people who have invested their taxed dollars into an investment vehicle designed to attract capital over other less productive opportunities. Adding to Honey's and de Zela's correct analysis, this is a counterproductive solution in search of a non-existent problem.

One more nail in the coffin for Mt. View's inevitable demise as a desirable place to live rather than work. As every days passes, I count my lucky stars I bailed on Mt. View last year after owning large affordable multifamily housing for 50 years.


4 people like this
Posted by Old Resident in search of fairness
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 13, 2019 at 3:50 am

This proves this committee can actually accomplish good things when Matthew Grunewald is absent. He needs to quit politics and stop pretending he is smarter than the voters and the city staff all the time.

It is too bad the older City Council members were still too chicken to stand up for renters and instead appointed Julian Pardo de Zela letting he is in the Apartment Associations pocket (just like Vanessa Honey). The RHC problems are why the last council members did not get re-elected. Continuing the status quo is why new people will get elected until they are all gone. They continue to make the same mistakes and ignore what voters want. It is all the City Council's fault this Committee does but represent Mountain View a whole and is balanced heavily towards this the with deep pockets. It is discrace we eject people like this.


5 people like this
Posted by Government overload
a resident of Bailey Park
on Feb 13, 2019 at 5:53 am

It’s one thing to allow buyouts, it’s quire another to require public disclosure. This will hurt tenants and their right to privacy. As to the bias of RHC, that are doing their job to keep city staff from overreaching as bureaucrats.


3 people like this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2019 at 6:31 am

The Business Man is a registered user.

Government Overload:

Nice try to claim it is a invasion of privacy for the tenants.

Simply put, no PII is disclosed, so no privacy is invaded.

However, what you really were complaining about is that the landlord will have a record of unethical business practices.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant.


8 people like this
Posted by SC Parent
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 13, 2019 at 8:11 am

@Mark Noack
I'm confused by the reporting in the article that mixes quotes and could mislead the reader:
"Committee member Vanessa Honey pointed to her own background as an apartment property manager for more than 20 years, managing thousands of apartments. Overall, she said she could count "on one hand" the number of times she had brokered a tenant buyout. "This is a solution looking for a problem," Pardo de Zela agreed. "We can enact regulations, but that doesn't mean we should."

Since members Almond and Pardo de Zela were listed asthe two who opposed the policy, that means Vanessa Honey voted FOR the policy. Why, then, does your article say that de Zela agreed with her statement, when it's clear he disagreed with her position and was against the regulations? It seems you provided a truncated quote from Honey or are (perhaps unintentionally) misleading the reader. You link de Zela's second statement to his first statement. It would have been more informative to explain why Honey decided to vote for the regulations when she doesn't think they'll be used very often. That would provided better information for the reader to consider in the context of de Zela's quote.


9 people like this
Posted by itsacircus
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 13, 2019 at 1:32 pm

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help." Or, in this case, the RHC is here to help.



3 people like this
Posted by Frankly
a resident of Jackson Park
on Feb 13, 2019 at 3:34 pm

Rent control and government managed buyouts and so on are like pouring water on an oil fire. Want rents to go down, tax corporate rentals 30% above the monthly public rental prices in apartment complexes. Complexes advertise crazy rent levels and keep units unoccupied for short term furnished corporate clients that are willing to pay crazy amounts because its still cheaper than hotels for their staff. This basically makes apartments into hotels for corporations and creates an artificially high rental market while at the same time keeping rentals out of public reach. The few who do move (because they can barely afford it) in often pay way over market value thinking 'hey there are people in other apartments so it must be normal.' Then other complexes see the high prices and think they are below market value or missing out somehow and also leave units unoccupied for months on end. In reality, its just a vicious cycle consuming everything in corporate circular grabs to the detriment of renters and taxpayers who are somehow responsible for others not being able to provide low cost units that will never be under this schema.


Like this comment
Posted by Government takeove
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 13, 2019 at 5:51 pm

The only confidential information redacted according to the report, is the location of the rental buyout. Names and amounts are still listed.


1 person likes this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2019 at 9:09 pm

The Business Man is a registered user.

In response to Government takeover you said:

“The only confidential information redacted according to the report, is the location of the rental buyout. Names and amounts are still listed.”

That is enough to qualify as not providing Personal Identifying Information which is defined as:

“Personal information, described in United States legal fields as either personally identifiable information (PII), or sensitive personal information (SPI),[1][2][3] as used in information security and privacy laws, is information that can be used on its own or with other information to identify, contact, or locate a single person, or to identify an individual in context. The abbreviation PII is widely accepted in the U.S. context, but the phrase it abbreviates has four common variants based on personal / personally, and identifiable / identifying. Not all are equivalent, and for legal purposes the effective definitions vary depending on the jurisdiction and the purposes for which the term is being used. [a]

Under European and other data protection regimes, which centre primarily around the General Data Protection Regulation, the term "personal data" is significantly broader, and determines the scope of the regulatory regime.[4]

National Institute of Standards and Technology Special Publication 800-122[5] defines PII as "any information about an individual maintained by an agency, including (1) any information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual's identity, such as name, social security number, date and place of birth, mother's maiden name, or biometric records; and (2) any other information that is linked or linkable to an individual, such as medical, educational, financial, and employment information." So, for example, a user's IP address is not classed as PII on its own, but is classified as linked PII.[6] However in Europe, a user's IP address IS classed as PII.[7]

The concept of PII has become prevalent as information technology and the Internet have made it easier to collect PII leading to a profitable market in collecting and reselling PII. PII can also be exploited by criminals to stalk or steal the identity of a person, or to aid in the planning of criminal acts. As a response to these threats, many website privacy policies specifically address the gathering of PII,[citation needed] and lawmakers[who?] have enacted a series of legislation[which?] to limit the distribution and accessibility of PII.[citation needed]

PII is a legal concept, not a technical concept, and it is not utilised in all jurisdictions. Because of the versatility and power of modern re-identification algorithms,[8][9][10] the absence of PII data does not mean that the remaining data does not identify individuals. While some attributes may not be uniquely identifying on their own, any attribute can be potentially identifying in combination with others.[11][12] These attributes have been referred to as quasi-identifiers or pseudo-identifiers.[13][14] While such data may not constitute PII in the United States, it is highly likely to remain personal data under European data protection law.[4]”

Simply put, a name alone is not PII, especially since the address listed is one that is no longer valid.

The apartment buy back simply eliminates the validity of that information.

The fact is a name alone cannot qualify as PII because your name in fact is not private.

Also, these practices are not covered by any Non-Disclosure Standards.

There is no privileged information in apartment lease agreements or any other agreements because a landlord is not a profession like an attorney, minister, doctor, etc.

Landlords simply cannot require a tenant to keep their financial agreements private.


Like this comment
Posted by Government takeover
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 14, 2019 at 5:16 am

After all is said and done, the form says both landlord and tenants name will be released along with the amount of the buyout.


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