In the Dec. 6 edition, the Mountain View Voice reported on landlord rent control fee delinquencies. As noted in the article, the fee obligations — $101 per rental unit per year — are codified in the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA, also known as Measure V). The delinquencies are large, totaling over $100,000.
Forty-thousand dollars of the delinquency is due to non-payment by Carmel Partners, owners of The Village apartments on San Antonio Road. A sample of rents currently/recently on the market shows annual rents of $44,000 for a one-bedroom and almost $62,000 for a two-bedroom. Based on the same sample, I estimate annual rental income at The Village, after a 5% vacancy rate assumption, to exceed $15 million. In his article, the reporter noted the announcement of the sale of the apartment complex at a value twice the 2015 assessed value and that the delinquencies are not "likely" a matter of inadequate cash flow. The above data leads me to the same conclusion. To Carmel Partners and/or their acquirer, it is past time to pay up — including late fees. This is a legal obligation to the city of Mountain View and its residents.
The Rental Housing Committee (RHC), which administers the city's rent control program, has been well-managed in its almost three-year existence. As provided in the CSFRA, the city provided start-up funds to carry the RHC until the landlord fees began to be collected. Since then, 100% of those start-up funds were repaid, and the committee has funded its own operating needs. Said another way, the RHC has not cost the city one penny.
The only management concerns are these uncollected fees. This has all the appearances of normal collection activity. City staff has offered to help the RHC in its collection efforts. The CSFRA explicitly provides for penalties for landlord noncompliance and allows the RHC the assistance of the city attorney if needed. Committee members who are hesitant should bear in mind their fiduciary duty to Mountain View residents. It is not the RHC that is making an issue of the fees, it is the delinquent landlords. Let's get these amounts, from Carmel and others, collected.
Last, it's worth noting that the City Council-backed Measure D to amend the CSFRA is coming up on the March ballot. Under the first three years of the CSFRA, rents have increased an average of 3.5%. Expect two to three times that amount under the council plan, since renters will be asked to share capital costs of occupancy. Note as well that tucked inside that ballot measure is a little item having to do with RHC membership. The council has decided to eliminate the requirement in the current law that committee members be Mountain View residents. Considering the challenges of getting out-of-town owner-landlords to pay their fees, we should not vote for Measure D, which would allow landlords like Carmel Partners, who refuse to comply with our law, to run the RHC!
Keating Rhoads is a Mountain View resident.