Richmond’s Rent Control Measure Hangs On

Richmond’s rent control is under attack by the California Apartment Association.

The first strike came on January 6th, when the California Apartment Association filed a lawsuit against the City of Richmond over the rent control measure, which went into effect this past December 30th.

It’s no surprise that the Association, which represents landlords, would file a lawsuit. It spent slightly over $1 million to defeat rent control measures on the ballot this past November in Richmond, Mountain View, San Mateo, Burlingame, and Alameda, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

On the California Apartment Association’s website, they claimed credit for the defeat of rent control measures in three of these cities. On one of their pages, under a section called “Rent Control News by Date,” is a post dated November 9th with a headline that proclaims “CAA VICTORIOUS IN 3 OF 5 BAY AREA RENT CONTROL MEASURES.”

I don’t know what the rest of the post says, because its access is restricted to members of the Association. As a tenant attorney, I obviously am not a member of the California Apartment Association.

As I wrote in an earlier blog, Richmond’s success in passing the rent control measure had a lot to do with its supporters. Now it’s Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Judith S. Craddick who will decide the fate of Richmond’s rent control law.

Trying to block the start

The California Apartment Association also asked that the rent control not to take effect until the lawsuit was settled.

Lawsuits are a series of maneuvers, and the Association, as part of their complaint, also asked for a preliminary injunction. This is basically a temporary restraining order, which would have prevented the rent control law from going into effect.

Judge Craddick said she would take one week to consider the merits of their argument. A representative of the California Apartment Association in a recent blog was reported to have said that the Association had pointed to the measure’s “serious flaws.”

Not enough, apparently, to persuade Judge Craddick. She denied the California Apartment Association’s motion and let the law stand until the outcome of the lawsuit.

That’s a temporary win for tenants. Now they are working on establishing a Rent Board. The Board will oversee the rent control regulations and the just cause eviction protection, which was also part of Richmond’s measure.

What they’re alleging

In the meanwhile, the outcome of the lawsuit is still pending, and like most lawsuits, it’ll take a while to be resolved.

Here’s a list of allegations from the complaint filed by the California Apartment Association. The Association alleges the rent control measure is invalid because:

  1. It results in a governmental taking without due process of law in violation of the United States and California Constitutions;
  2. It violates the Equal Protection Clauses of the United States and California Constitutions;
  3. It is unconstitutionally vague, ambiguous, and overbroad;
  4. It improperly attempts to exercise judicial powers;
  5. It is preempted by California State law;
  6. It is discretionary in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act; and
  7. It violates the fundamental right to privacy of landlords, tenants, and others citizens of the city of Richmond.

Note that allegations Nos. 1 and 2 state that rent control is against the U.S. Constitution and the State of California Constitutions.  Allegation No. 7 states that the rent control measure violates the right of privacy of tenants. I could be wrong, but I do not believe there are many Richmond tenants who are complaining about this issue.

Can a cat represent the rights of mice?

It’s a clever maneuver to invoke any form of tenant’s rights in this lawsuit. Even though many of its members are landlords, this maneuver can make the California Apartment Association seem as if it’s representing both landlords and tenants. It’s a bit like saying a cat also can represent the rights of the mice.

The lawsuit alleges that the rent control measure “discriminates” against non-married persons by providing for special treatment for the addition of a spouse or domestic partner of a tenant.

The lawsuit alleges that the rent control measure “discriminates” against certain families with children by mandating regulations that will promote stability for school-aged children.

The lawsuit also alleges the rent control measure violates the right of privacy of tenants (as well as landlords, of course).

Really for the landlords

Yet before you think that they’re really thinking of your rights as a tenant, the lawsuit asserts its pro-landlord position. In another section, they assert the rent control measure will result as “an arbitrary and capricious windfall for tenants.”

Other pro-landlord allegations include that the rent control measure exposes Association members (read landlords) to additional liability, and that it implements a petition process which denies a landlord a fair opportunity to be heard.

It also alleges that the rent control measure imposes new legal consequences about which Association members had no notice. I find this allegation very curious. How much notice did the landlords need?

Wondering about your tenant rights? Are you in a dispute with your landlord? You might consider talking to an experienced tenant attorney who can help you with your issue.

Know your rights. Protect yourself.





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Mary Catherine Wiederhold

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