Dozens of landlords have unpaid rent control fees | News | Mountain View Online |

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Dozens of landlords have unpaid rent control fees

Rental Housing Committee balks at going after deadbeats

Owners of The Village at San Antonio Center owe more than $40,000, topping Mountain View's list of landlords who haven't paid their annual fees to the city's rent control program. Dec. 3, 2019. Photo by Magali Gauthier

About 1 out of every 20 apartments in Mountain View is delinquent in paying its required fees under the city's rent control law known as the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA).

Under Measure V, approved by voters in 2016, every apartment in Mountain View, regardless of whether it is subject to CSFRA, funds the city's rent control program with an annual fee of about $100 per rental unit. This money is the sole revenue source for the $2 million annual budget needed to run the CSFRA program.

According to data obtained by the Voice, about $100,000 in fees remain unpaid, forcing the city's housing department to dip into its reserve fund this year. The unpaid fees are spread between more than 40 property owners. Here is a map of delinquent landlords in Mountain View.

At this point, the exact reason why property owners aren't paying remains a mystery, said Anky van Deursen, the city's CSFRA program manager. Attempts to reach the landlords who haven't paid have been met mostly with silence, and the city has avoided taking legal steps to force compliance, she said.

"So far we haven't had anyone who has explicitly disputed this and told us that they won't pay," she said. "I can't give you an answer right now on what we're going to do since this is a new procedure for us."

The property owner with the largest unpaid debt is Carmel Partners, a San Francisco-based firm that manages the 330-unit "The Village" apartment complex at the San Antonio shopping center. The apartments were completed in 2015 as part of the first phase to transform the shopping center into a high-end neighborhood.

Carmel Partners' debt to the city currently exceeds $40,000, indicating it has not paid any apartment fees for 2019, according to data provided by the city. The debt likely isn't a problem of cash flow. In October, Carmel Partners and its joint partner Merlone Geier announced they were selling off all 330 apartments at the San Antonio shopping center to the Brookfield Property Group, a Manhattan-based investment firm. The sale was for $292 million, nearly double the property's assessed value from when it was completed in 2015. City officials say they are working to contact Brookfield to inform them of the unpaid debt on the property.

Like hundreds of newer apartments in Mountain View, The Village apartments are exempt from the city's rent control law. Under state law, apartments built and occupied after 1995 cannot be restricted by local rent regulations. However, Mountain View regulations still require such properties to pay the annual CSFRA fee even though most aspects of the law don't affect them.

Other large properties that have failed to pay their fees include the 80-unit Redwood Villa apartments at 1981 Montecito Ave., which currently owes more than $22,000. Last year, attorneys representing Redwood Villa filed a lawsuit against the city of Mountain View, arguing that because it is a senior home it should be exempt from the city's rent restrictions and fees. That case remains open in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

The third largest unpaid sum is for the 88-unit Palmetto apartments, located at 2235 California St. As of this week, city housing officials say the property owner, Saratoga Capital, contacted them and said they would pay the debt.

Under city rules, all unpaid CSFRA fees are charged a 1% late penalty per month, a surcharge similar to other city fees. Speaking to the Voice, van Deursen said that if outstanding fees languish for too long, the city could take more forceful measures, such as hiring a collection agency or taking legal action.

Currently, city housing officials send out annual invoices and regular reminders to apartment owners.

According to the CSFRA, landlords who are delinquent in paying their fees could lose their ability to raise rents or evict tenants. If an eviction or rent increase prompts a civil lawsuit, a judge is required to rule in favor of the tenant if the landlord failed to pay the city's CSFRA fees or meet its other requirements. It is unclear whether this provision of the rent control law has ever been exercised by tenants.

The city's Rental Housing Committee has been reluctant to take stronger enforcement measures despite requests by city staff. In October, the city's CSFRA team recommended sending out compliance letters and possibly increasing penalty fees to nudge more landlords to follow the rules. Under the plan proposed by city staff, apartment tenants could receive notification if their landlord is failing to meet their legal requirements.

But three members of the Rental Housing Committee argued that alerting tenants would be an overreach. Committee member Vanessa Honey said she was worried that the scope of the city's enforcement would endlessly expand.

"It's supposed to be a little courtesy letter. I'm not in support of any of this," she said. "We were asked a simple question, and we're making it bigger and bigger."

In an effort to reach a consensus, the Rental Housing Committee watered down the compliance steps so that only landlords are notified of unpaid fees. Honey voted against sending out compliance letters, while committee member Julian Pardo de Zela abstained. Both members also opposed researching other options to encourage landlord compliance.

It was a decision that still rankles other RHC members.

"I'm frustrated with the makeup of this committee," said RHC member Susyn Almond. "There's no will to increase the scope, and now I see that there's also no will to get landlords who aren't complying to do so."

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Comments

105 people like this
Posted by Marcin Romaszewicz
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 6, 2019 at 2:18 pm

Marcin Romaszewicz is a registered user.

"At this point, the exact reason why property owners aren't paying remains a mystery, said Anky van Deursen, the city's CSFRA program manager."

Why is it a mystery? It's laxly enforced, and why would you pay money to an organization which exists to make your life as a landlord miserable, when you can get away without paying.


27 people like this
Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Dec 6, 2019 at 2:42 pm

Marcin, I'm shocked you would imply that landlords act unethically and don't obey the law. I've heard from many people here that "housing providers" are pillars of the community! If they only obey the law under duress, what kind of community members are they?


4 people like this
Posted by Who are the other landlords?
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 6, 2019 at 3:25 pm

Why doesn't the voice post the entire list of delinquent land lords? Why just the big guys? It seems they were provided with a list that is public information, so maybe they should share it.


145 people like this
Posted by Get Real
a resident of Bailey Park
on Dec 6, 2019 at 4:47 pm

The city doesn't enforce the illegal parking of RVs on city streets in excess of 72 hours along with numerous other ordinances. Why should enforcement of this ordinance be any different?


119 people like this
Posted by Marcin Romaszewicz
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 6, 2019 at 5:05 pm

Marcin Romaszewicz is a registered user.

@Randy Guelph, in a competitive market, competition keeps people honest. If someone is a crappy landlord, and you have an alternative, you move.

Our problem here is that we have a self-made housing crisis, without competition, which makes it impossible for some people to move, and you have unscrupulous landlords who exploit them. This is a subset of landlords, and you can't lump in the good ones with the bad ones. Some people suck, landlords or not.

The law is just words on paper, it takes men with guns to enforce it. Sometimes, laws are ridiculous, and people resist, so now the question is, is it worth sending the men with guns to make sure they pay their shakedown money?


9 people like this
Posted by Randy Guelph
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Dec 6, 2019 at 5:13 pm

Gosh, you libertarians are so obvious sometimes. Are you honestly claiming that Mountain View is going to send some SWAT team to bust down the doors of landlords who aren't paying their tiny annual fee? Let us know when you're ready to have a reasonable discussion with the rest of us adults.


7 people like this
Posted by Marcin Romaszewicz
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 6, 2019 at 7:38 pm

Marcin Romaszewicz is a registered user.

I'm not a libertarian, I think they want too much government and their main issue seems to be weed.

Anyhow, what do you think happens after all the letters to pay are sent, and ignored? How does enforcement happen? First, court order, then, police. So, the city will probably send some sternly worded letters, then we'll see what happens.

I'm personally kind of allergic to this level of government meddling, being an escapee from full communism, so I always err on the side of not forcing people to do things.


7 people like this
Posted by Whaaa?
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 6, 2019 at 7:41 pm

They paid up to $50 a signature to get their sneaky repeal on the ballot, but can't pay their voter approved $100 per unit?

Vanessa Honey is a piece of work. I can't believe it Council members allow this blatant affiliate of the California Apartment Owners organization to keep detailing the voters intent for this law.
They all need to go! No one is happy with the direction MV is headed right now. And it starts at the top.


39 people like this
Posted by It's not fair
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 6, 2019 at 9:04 pm

Almost every other rent control city splits these fees with 50% to the owner and 50% to the tenant.

The landlords in Mtn. View got scr$wed because Measure V was entirely written by outside tenant activists, not from Mtn. View, and they wrote the law to stick the entire bill to the landlords.

The Palmetto apts. according tho this article would annual owe $8,800 to the city, just for the rent control law.

Of course, the tenant activist do not see this as being unfair, and they would never consider to offer to pay for half of the bill for the law that they wrote.

@Randy G,
Yes, everyone knows your are an activist, who like Lenny Siegel/Job Lopez, hate landlords. With everything bad you keep saying about landlords, lets just pass a law and ban all rentals in our city, no more landlords.


5 people like this
Posted by Rent control is a failure
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2019 at 9:45 am

The only good rent control is the economy, not some newly form bureaucracy of people behind desks tell owners what to do. Shame on MT. View for bringing this commie organization into being. No one in their right mind would rent with restrictions all about them. More owners will sell and the less rental units there will be. Simple logic the commie socialist lack.


6 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2019 at 9:48 am

Level the playing field, time to evict them from doing business here.


2 people like this
Posted by dan
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2019 at 9:55 am

Thinking of those cash only establishments, well these landlords are lower than those predatory leeches. There's a game call Monopoly, and you have been figured out since 1902.


1 person likes this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 7, 2019 at 12:27 pm

Steven Nelson is a registered user.

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]
The rabble: FYI "libertarian" in the sense RG used it is not necessarily referring to registered members of the California Libertarian political party. It means - generically, those who like Henry David Thoreau believe that "that government is best which governs least." I also find many who have a libertarian bent to often over use the political word "communist.' I believe our immigrant/refuge from behind the Iron Curtain could tell you how that type of system generally works (no or little private ownership of income producing property).

Is my fellow UC Berkeley alum Councilman McAlister 'a commie' just because he is trying to preserve poorer-people rental housing by public or quasi public ownership? Ha Ha / @Randy and I can sure laff at that one!


5 people like this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Dec 7, 2019 at 1:43 pm

The Business Man is a registered user.

In response to Marcin Romaszewicz you said:

“@Randy Guelph, in a competitive market, competition keeps people honest. If someone is a crappy landlord, and you have an alternative, you move.”

Not when you have a manipulated shortage of housing. The market has been shorted since 1970 in California. It really doesn’t matter if there are “good” or “bad” landlords.

In response to It's not fair you said:

“Almost every other rent control city splits these fees with 50% to the owner and 50% to the tenant.

The landlords in Mtn. View got scr$wed because Measure V was entirely written by outside tenant activists, not from Mtn. View, and they wrote the law to stick the entire bill to the landlords.”

The landlords had more than a year to negotiate a better deal. They in effect ridiculed and threatened anyone who would vote for Measure V and never demonstrated any good faith efforts. That is why the vote went for Measure V. You went on to say:

“The Palmetto apts. according tho this article would annual owe $8,800 to the city, just for the rent control law.

Of course, the tenant activist do not see this as being unfair, and they would never consider to offer to pay for half of the bill for the law that they wrote.”

Again, the landlords had more than a year to negotiate a better deal, your just angry that landlords mad such a poor choice of action.

In response to Rent control is a failure:

“The only good rent control is the economy, not some newly form bureaucracy of people behind desks tell owners what to do. Shame on MT. View for bringing this commie organization into being. No one in their right mind would rent with restrictions all about them. More owners will sell and the less rental units there will be. Simple logic the commie socialist lack.”

Please provide a better alternative? Landlords attitudes are either give us what we want or leave, and we are entitled to pass the cost of bad management to their tenants and the tenants must guaranty their profits. This is not real business. That is extortion.

Finally, it appears that many apartments are not paying the fees are in fact not subject to CSFRA, thus they can pass the buck to their tenants without restriction. This seems to reduce the quality of the argument against the fee. Eairler the claim was that the tenants should contribute to the fee. The newer units built after 1995 can in fact pass the entire cost to their tenants, and they probably do.


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