Friday, April 1, 2016

Support rent control - weekend signature gathering

Three Bay Area ballot initiatives for rent control and just cause have been filed so far. Join the movement for renters rights and help make sure these initiatives gather enough signatures to make it to the ballot!

Contact: 510-621-7566, Fair & Affordable Richmond Coalition
Saturdays 10am-2pm
Sundays 12pm-4pm

1021 MacDonald Ave., Richmond

Contact: Brad Hirn, Alameda Renters Coalition
Saturdays, 9a-5p
South Shore shopping center in Alameda all day, typically near the Safeway and Trader Joe's.

Sundays, 9a-1p
South Shore shopping center, Alameda

Sunday, 1p-5p
Walgreens and Starbucks on Webster St. Alameda

Contact: Becki, Causa Justa Just Cause

Campaign Launch on Saturday, April 2nd

Saturday, April 2nd 9:30am
CJJC office @ 3268 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland 94608

9:30, brief program and training on why the time is NOW to protect renters and take on Oakland’s growing displacement crisis & how a quick “signature gathering 101” followed by heading out to neighborhoods and high traffic areas to speak directly with Oakland voters and collect signatures to qualify this measure on the November Ballot!

Rent Strike Called Today in Concord

Today, tenants from 1127 Virginia Lane in Concord, Contra Costa County, are standing up to their slumlord Steven Pinza and calling a rent strike by refusing to pay 30% rent increases. Pinza has raised the rents in the last 10 months by $50.00 and refused to make necessary repairs. This rent increase already exceeds the rate of inflation, but Pinza now wants to increase rents by 27-30%. Gentrification in San Francisco and Oakland is now being felt in Concord, and the Pinza group is contributing to the housing crisis.

With an additional rent increase, tenants will have to choose between paying rent, feeding their families, or becoming homeless. Displacement is more than losing your home. Children will have to move schools in the middle of the year, increasing stress on the students and instability in the community. Tenants may have to find new jobs and lose the community and support they have from friends and neighbors.

For months, tenants have requested repairs to heating and plumbing and to address bed bug and rodent infestations. Pinza refuses to make the necessary repairs but expects tenants to pay additional rent. All the tenants at 1127 are Latino and primarily Spanish-speaking. These communities are disproportionately targeted for unfair evictions and rent increases because landlords think they won't fight back. They are wrong.

When asked to lower rents by city council member Edi Birsan, Steven Pinza said that if tenants don’t like the rents than they should move out. This is totally unacceptable, so tenants are taking matters into their own hands. All renters deserve the right to dignity and to live in safe, habitable, and affordable homes!

The Pinza Group's office is in Walnut Creek and the tenants live in Concord. We are gathering in Concord today and travelling to Walnut Creek to put Steven Pinza on notice. No rent increase and make repairs now!

Meet up for Caravan to Landlord: 
Where: 1127 Virginia Lane Concord, CA 94520
When: Friday April 1st at 1pm

Action to deliver letter for rent strike:
Where: Office of The Pinza Group Property Management, Inc. – 1220 Oakland Blvd. #350 Walnut Creek, CA 94596
When: Friday April 1st at 1:30pm

We need a Slumlord-Free Concord!

Related: Tenants Win Anti-bedbug protocol in Concord

UPDATE! Photos from the action:

Tenants gather at the apartment complex in Concord, CA.

Tenants have complained about bed bug and rodent infestations.

Tenants are paying their prior rent this month and not paying the rent increase.

The landlord called the police when we went to deliver "partial" rent. Staff locked us out of their office and told the police we were "knocking too loudly." No one was arrested, but the police sure respond quickly when landlords call! Tenants had to mail in their rent instead.

Monday, March 21, 2016

State Senate Bill Hearing for Housing Opportunities

If you want to stand up to discrimination against Section 8 voucher-holders, and for giving more tenants a fair chance to find housing, join us next week in Sacramento for the first hearing on SB 1053 (Leno) The Housing Opportunities Act. The bill is facing its first hurdle through the Judiciary Committee next Tuesday 3/29 at 1:30pm.
Tenants Together will be there to support the bill and we would love to meet you and have your support as well. Look for the Tenants Together t-shirts!
Who: Tenants Together & Allies
What: Housing Opportunities Act SB 1053 in Committee
WhereState Capitol, Sacramento--Room 112
When: Tuesday March 29th, 2016 starting at 1:30PM
There are several bills being heard that afternoon on the agenda and it's hard to know when we will be called. Follow us @tenantstogether for updates.
Aimee Inglis, Acting Director

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Oakland Renters, Homeowners, City workers, and Clergy File Anti-Displacement Housing Initiative Offering Stronger Tenant Protections for Oakland Families

A large coalition of Oakland renters, clergy, teachers, homeowners, unions, community organizations, small business, and landlords are filing a proposed anti-displacement ballot initiative that strengths fair and equitable protections for Oakland tenants most impacted by the City’s growing housing crisis.

Oakland’s “Renters Upgrade” initiative is being filed March 3 at Oakland City Hall, joining Richmond and Alameda in filing their own initiatives and ordinances to help lift up tenants from across the region. If approved by voters, Oakland’s “Renters Upgrade” would expand Oakland’s current “Just Cause for Eviction” law and provide greater ability for the city to enforce existing laws amidst a wave of unfair evictions and widespread harassment as the demand for housing in Oakland grows.

The Renters Upgrade would:

  • Expand eviction protections to almost 45% more Oakland renters by making those 
  •      protections apply to units built after 1983 and 1995.
  • Establish a 5% rent cap – half of the current rent cap (10%)
  • Establish a rent stabilization board with the majority of members comprised of current tenants
  • Require improved tracking and a publically accessible database for all rent increases to ensure increased internal city communication with the various departments in charge of housing; and 
  • Require that the City prioritize resources for the enforcement of all protections as well as to program implementation of the Tenant Protection Ordinance. 

“On behalf of Oakland tenants who have struggled for over 30 years with a landlord written ordinance, this is a proud day to finally look forward to a measure that will ensure justice and fairness,” says James Vann of the Oakland Tenants Union.

“Finding quality, affordable housing is a problem for everyone, including teachers, janitors, city workers, all working families,” says Paula Beal, Oakland renter. “I am a renter, a senior citizen and a grandmother and I am personally affected by the issues addressed in this initiative, I have been displaced multiple times in the last several years because I am not protected by our City's current tenant laws. The Renters Upgrade is a common sense initiative that would help me and other long-time renters, elders, youth, and working families stay in our homes and near our communities.”

“I’ve been an Oakland homeowner for over 35 years. We saw the foreclosure crisis displace thousands of homeowners from this city and now we’re seeing this recent housing boom make it difficult for renters, who make up 60% of Oakland’s population, to remain here. Its not fair, it’s not what Oakland is about and it’s time we as a community, work towards a solution,” says Shirley Burnell, West Oakland homeowner and lifelong Oakland resident.

This broad coalition which includes city workers, homeowners, small landlords, clergy who have lost scores of congregants to the housing crisis, nurses, teachers, and tenants are united in a desire to stop rising rents and displacement disrupting the lives of thousands of working class people and Black families in Oakland.

Coalition Members Include:
Alliance of California for Community Empowerment Action
California Nurses Association
Causa Justa :: Just Cause
East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy
Oakland Community Organizations
Oakland Rising
Oakland Tenants Union
SEIU Local 1021

Monday, February 29, 2016

Alameda Renters Coalition filing ballot initiative 2/29/16 at 4 p.m. at Alameda City Hall

The Alameda Renters Coalition (ARC) will file the “Alameda Renter Protection and Community Stabilization Charter Amendment” initiative at Alameda City Hall Monday for inclusion on the November ballot in response to a crisis of mass evictions and average rent increases of more than fifty percent over a span of only four years.

ARC spokesperson Catherine Pauling says, "We are filing this initiative so the people of Alameda can do what its City Council has been unable to do: enact a firm set of laws to stabilize our community and protect renters from greedy investors."

City officials have deliberated over the rental crisis for three years, recently crafting an ordinance the coalition says falls far short of what's needed to protect tenants.

"ARC recognizes the City Council's efforts but their ordinance has too many concessions to real estate interests and will not keep Alameda renters in their homes" says Pauling.

Specifically, the coalition objects to there being no cap on rent increases, merely a review process triggered by a rent increase of more than 5 percent. Additionally, the City ordinance subjects renters, once again, to the threat of no cause evictions when the current moratorium expires. ARC further objects to what it calls a "poison pill" in the ordinance allowing landlords to escape all eviction controls by simply issuing a "Fixed Term Lease".

"This filing begins the process of allowing voters of Alameda, over half of whom are renters, the opportunity to choose clear protections that renters and owners deserve instead of the cumbersome and un-tested process outlined in the City ordinance," says Pauling.

The Alameda Renters Coalition, formed in 2014, advocates for clear, rational rent stabilization tied to the Consumer Price Index, as is used by many other cities in the Bay Area in determining rental rate increases.

Prior to the 4 p.m. filing in the City Clerk's office, representatives of the Alameda Renters Coalition will be available on the steps of Alameda City Hall at 2263 Santa Clara Avenue to answer questions of the media and provide copies of the initiative.

About ARC
Alameda Renters Coalition is a group of Alameda city residents who recognize housing as a basic need, and seeks to bring housing stability to their community and a member organization of Tenants Together. Tenants Together has been providing technical assistance and advice on best practices on policy. For more information visit

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tenants Rally for New Renters’ Rights in San Jose

Over Half of All Renters are “Rent Burdened”

In anticipation of the City Council’s scheduled vote on expanded Renters’ Rights protections in April, Sacred Heart Community Service is hosting a Legal Clinic and General Renters’ Meeting to educate tenants about their existing rights and rally support for the new rights under consideration.

Currently over half of all renters in San Jose are rent burdened.  In our very tight rental market, rents for two bedroom apartments are now over $2,500 on average, and tenants live under the real fear that if they lose their apartments they will not be able to find comparably priced alternatives. Under current regulations landlords of rent controlled apartments can raise rents by up to 8% per year, and can evict tenants using a no-fault 30 or 60 day notice.

“In this environment many tenants find themselves in poorly maintained buildings with numerous code violations and yet are fearful of filing complaints or unaware of their rights under the existing laws,” explains Mathew Reed, a housing organizer at Sacred Heart.

The legal clinic portion of the Sacred Heart event will be hosted in partnership with the statewide tenants’ rights group Tenants Together, and will include volunteer attorneys from Perkins Coie LLP. The firm has participated in a training program to offer legal consultation and possible litigation support for tenants with significant habitability issues in their apartments.  Sacred Heart staff will be assisting the lawyers as translators.

City Council has acknowledged that we are in a housing crisis and are exploring ways to put an end to run away rent increases and threats of eviction.  The Renters' Rights campaign includes calls to lower the cap on allowable rent increases, and additional eviction protections. The city council has been considering these measures since last May, and is expected to vote on a final policy change sometime in April.

What:  Renters’ General Meeting and Legal Clinic.
Who: Tenant leaders and Sacred Heart staff and attorneys from Tenants Together and Perkins Coie LLP
When: Thursday February 25th, Legal Clinic begins at 6:00 and runs to 8:00. Meeting begins at 6:30 and runs to 8:00.
Where: Sacred Heart Community Service
1381 S. First Street, San Jose
Why: Tenants will learn about proposed expansions of renters’ rights and lawyers will assist them with concerns about habitability and retaliatory evictions under current laws.

Leadership transition at Tenants Together

Dear TT members and allies,

Effective March 1, 2016, I will be taking a leave of absence from Tenants Together to run for elected office in San Francisco. I founded Tenants Together in 2008 and remain deeply committed to our mission.  With active tenant leaders, great member organizations, and an incredible staff who will carry this work forward, Tenants Together will not just remain strong in my absence, but will continue to grow stronger.

Aimee Inglis, currently our Program Manager, will take over as Acting Executive Director. Aimee has been with Tenants Together for five years.  Aimee is extremely talented and well-versed in all aspects of TT's work. The tenant movement is lucky to have a leader like Aimee, and I am thrilled she has stepped up to lead TT during my leave.

Our team is remarkably strong. Leah Simon-Weisberg, a founding board member of TT, who has over a decade of tenant legal experience, serves as our Legal Director and will continue to lead our cutting-edge legal work.  Dan Harper, our Organizing Director with over a decade of organizing experience, will continue to lead our organizing work. Evelina Nava (Legal Fellow), Adolfo Echeverry (Office Manager), and Yas Ahmed (Development) are also integral to the team. Our longtime board of directors, including some of the state’s leading tenant rights experts, will continue their active role providing governance and policy guidance.  For more information about our staff and board, please visit

Tenants Together has exceeded all expectations since we launched in 2008.  Our work makes an important difference in the lives of millions of tenants. Real estate industry excesses -- especially surging rents and evictions -- are uniting tenants to take action for change.  We are proud to be at the center of this growing movement, working every day for housing justice.

As I take this leave, I do so knowing that what was a dream in 2008 is now a permanent reality.  With thousands of individual members, dozens of member organizations, and a staff with exceptional talent and commitment, Tenants Together is stronger than ever.

Thank you all for being part of Tenants Together and supporting our work. 
Dean Preston
Executive Director
Tenants Together, California’s statewide organization for renters’ rights


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Richmond Renters File Initiative for an Affordable and Fair City

Rent Control Ordinance Could Appear on November 2016 Ballot

February 23rd, 2016 led by Richmond City Council Member Gayle McLaughlin, Fair and Affordable Richmond, a coalition of renters, labor and homeowners (of which Tenants Together is a key member), requested from the City Clerk, title and summary for a potential November 2016 ballot measure. The ballot measure, if approved, would protect Richmond renters from being evicted without just cause and establish rent control.

Ms. McLaughlin explains, “The renters of Richmond deserve protection during the current housing crisis, and our coalition believes voters this November should be able to take a stand on the subject of just cause evictions and rent control.”

The proposed ballot measure would establish a rent board that would set annual limits on rent increases for the City of Richmond, as well as provide a process for tenants to appeal rent increases. Richmond renters, living in units built before 1995, would be protected from outrageous increases in rent and evictions for reasons that are without cause.

A recent poll commissioned by Fair and Affordable Richmond shows that nearly two thirds of voters would vote today to enact rent control and just cause eviction protections. Richmond voters understood that similar limits on evictions and unreasonable rent increases have helped to prevent thousands of middle-class and low-income people from losing their homes, making communities safer and more stable for everyone, and they think the City of Richmond should have such protections.

‘The Bay Area housing crisis has already begun to hurt Richmond, and it’s effects will only get worse. Richmond residents have spoken, and Fair and Affordable Richmond is working to give those residents a chance to better Richmond by voting for just cause eviction protection and rent control,” said Edith Pastrano, a Richmond renter and member of the Fair and Affordable Richmond Coalition.

City Council passed rent control last year, but was forced to overturn after a successful legal challenge on behalf of the city’s landlords. Fair and Affordable Richmond believes it is time for the voters of Richmond to have their chance to vote on just cause eviction and rent control.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Alameda City Council Unanimously Extends Moratorium on Evictions & Rent Increases; City Poised to Adopt Permanent Rent Control Law

Early Wednesday morning, the Alameda City Council unanimously extended the City’s moratorium against evictions and rent increases. The moratorium was set to expire January 9, 2016. It has been extended 60 days. Under the law, landlords must have “just cause” to evict and cannot impose rent increases above 8%. The extension of the moratorium was crucial to prevent rent gouging in anticipation of the adoption of a more comprehensive rent control law. This is a huge victory for the Alameda Renters Coalition and builds momentum for their campaign for meaningful rent control.

The Council considered three options to address rising rents and displacement, but approved none of the options at the meeting that lasted nearly nine hours. Instead the Council stated areas of agreement and asked staff to draft an ordinance for the Council to vote on in February.

The Council mainly discussed the weakest option, beefing up the Rent Review Advisory Committee (RRAC), the city’s existing rent mediation program. However, critics argued, and city staff and council members acknowledged, that this option would not stop a landlord from imposing large rent increases. Decisions of the RRAC are nonbinding.

The strongest option before the council was rent control with just cause for eviction protections. However, Alameda Renters Coalition correctly argued that the staff’s draft made mistakes in allowing annual 8% rent increases and allowing permanent evictions for capital improvement work. Nonetheless, the option provided a decent framework and starting point for discussion of a real rent control law. However, this option did not attract support of the majority of the council.

The council indicated that it would like staff to work out an entirely new ordinance, one that Councilmember Spencer described as "RRAC with teeth." Some features discussed include disincentivizing rent increases over 5% annually by requiring mediation or arbitration if a landlord wanted to increase rent above 5%, requiring landlords to offer tenants a year lease at the time of a rent increase, requiring landlords to pay relocation payments to tenants facing no-fault evictions, and limiting the rent for the unit for new tenants following no fault evictions. Staff says they will have new ordinance available to council for 1st reading in February. The Council expressed the desire for the ordinance to contain a sunset date; 2019 was contained in the staff recommendation.

Notably, the City Council appears to have rejected including eviction protections in the ordinance. Tenants Together Legal Director, Leah Simon-Weisberg and countless Alameda residents emphasized the need for eviction protections to provide stability to renters who pay their rent and comply with their obligations. However, the City Council appears not to understand that allowing landlords to evict tenants without a reason, even with rent control in place, doesn't do much to help tenants.

Landlord lobbyists, who oppose any enforceable regulations on rent, continued to push the idea that landlords increasing rent any amount under 10% is acceptable. City staff proposed one option of an 8% rent increase cap, presumably modeled on San Jose, which is actually in the process of revising its ordinance following a poll showing widespread support for reducing rent increases far below the allowable 8%. (San Jose adopted at 8% cap at a time when that figure was related to high inflation rates.)

One councilmember in Alameda expressed interest in 6% increases and another wanted to focus on cumulative increases being no more than 12% in two years, but neither provided justification for any of these figures. Only the renters’ coalition proposed numbers grounded in anything. ARC pushed rent increases tied to CPI (inflation), the approach used by virtually every rent control city and regularly upheld by the courts.

The public testimony from renters and homeowners in support of rent control was powerful. At 10:30 pm, a large group of high school students who had been waiting hours to speak asked to be taken out of order so they could get home and get some sleep before school the next day. They spoke about the impact of rent increases and the threat of displacement on them and their families. Long-term tenants from all walks of life spoke about the need to protect residents and stop displacement.

Thanks to tireless organizing by the Alameda Renters Coalition the moratorium is in effect preventing the worst abuses for now, and staff has been directed to prepare a new ordinance for the council’s consideration in February. ARC will continue to organize for real rent control and just cause for eviction protections. In the meantime, ARC should celebrate this latest victory in moving the City of Alameda one major step closer to adopting an effective rent control law to protect city residents from unfair rent hikes and displacement.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Alameda Arrests Tenant Protesters and Passes Rent Moratorium

Last evening, an estimated 200 Alameda renters went to their city council to demand an end to unfair rent hikes and displacement. After a hearing that lasted past 1am, the Alameda City Council voted unanimously for a temporary 8% rent increase moratorium and a ban on no cause evictions. This is a big step forward for a city in which rent increases have been unregulated to date, but it is clearly not enough. The City needs to adopt a rent control ordinance that ties rent increases to the inflation rate and prohibits no cause evictions.

Tenants Together is proud of The Alameda Renters Coalition, a member organization of Tenants Together, and all of the Alameda residents who went to City Hall to take a stand against unregulated rents and evictions. The time for rent control in Alameda is now.

Many renters were excluded from the hearing room. As landlords testified inside, a crowd of Alameda renters gathered and eventually began chanting, “let renters speak” in the hall outside the council chambers. Police tackled one protester to the ground where she lay bleeding and restrained by police. The police also arrested an ARC leader.

Tenants Together is deeply concerned with the use of force and arrests of protesters renters. Police must respect and protect the rights of renters who come to their City Council to be heard about rising rents and displacement. Tenants Together calls for the immediate release of the protesters and an investigation into the entire incident.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Blackstone/Invitation Homes tenants fight back!

Stand with Blackstone/Invitation Homes tenants around the world in demanding justice today. Blackstone's rental subsidiary Invitation Homes is one of California's biggest landlords. In Tenants Together's report released earlier this year, we found that Invitation Homes charges higher than median rents and puts more of the burden of utilities and repairs on tenants. Blackstone owns property all over the world and has recently caused mass displacement in Spain.

Blackstone and other Wall Street landlords buy up foreclosed homes for cheap, kick out the residents, charge exorbitant rents, and fail to do proper maintenance. Join the international action today to hold Blackstone accountable to our communities:

CALL CEO Stephen Schwarzman NOW at 212-583-5000

EMAIL him at

Sample script:

"Mr. Schwarzman, I stand with Blackstone tenants and community organizations around the world. Stop buying up foreclosed homes and public housing, stop unfair evictions and make your rents affordable. I support this important struggle and will not let up until you meet the tenants' demands."

TWEET -- #StopBlackstone

By calling in you are part of an international day of action spanning 4 countries and 3 continents! TODAY, Right To The City (Tenants Together is a member of this national organization for housing justice) and Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH) in Spain are organizing protests at Blackstone offices in the US, Spain, Japan and England. In the US we are doing actions and delivering demand letters in cities across the country including New York, Atlanta, Chicago, and Seattle. The international demands and Tenants Together's California state demands to regulate Wall St Landlords are below.


International Demands on Blackstone

1. Stop Buying Our Occupied, Foreclosed and Subsidized Housing
  • Do NOT destabilize our communities by buying homes that should be owned by individuals, the government or local entities;
  • End the purchase of homes owned by banks rescued with public money or homes that were purchased with sub-prime loans.

2. No Unjust Evictions
  • Stop unjust evictions of homeowners or tenants in purchased properties;
  • Stop forcing tenants out of homes due to harassment, your failure to make repairs and charging unjust fees.

3. Affordable Rents
  • Do not charge unfair rents;
  • Do not make people pay more than one third of their income to housing;
  • Ensure that at least 25% of all Blackstone housing in a city is affordable to poor people who make 0 to 30% neighborhood median income.

4. Quality Conditions and Sustainability
  • Renovate all purchased homes to a high quality;
  • Maintain all properties in good condition;
  • Make prompt and quality repairs;
  • Ensure all utility systems and materials used in building and repairs are sustainable.

5. No discrimination
  • Do not discriminate against people of color or immigrants including by using unfair prohibitions regarding former incarceration or arrests, and/or immigration status;
  • Allow equal access to Blackstone homes for all people regardless of race, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, family status, immigration status, former incarceration, eviction history or credit history.

6. Accountability
  • Provide responsive and quality customer service;
  • Provide full name and contact information for one consistent person from Blackstone’s property management company who has full authority to address tenant’s issues promptly and effectively.

7. Transparency of information
  • Provide to the public business and industry information including:
  • Names of all the companies Blackstone has any ownership in/control over and what properties and real estate they relate to and how;
  • Terms of purchase of all housing/land/buildings purchased;
  • Regular updated list of which properties are securitized, and who are the investors including banks that put up any money;
  • Regular updated list of properties that are directly or indirectly managed by Blackstone worldwide;
  • Regular updated list of all those evicted from each property and why (names can be withheld if it is required by law);
  • List of who's application was denied and why (names can be withheld if it is required by law).

Tenants Together Recommendations to Regulate Wall Street Landlords at State & Local level (from our May 2015 report):

Recommendations at the state level
  • Change the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act: passed in 1995 this Act prohibits cities from applying rent control to condos and single-family homes, among other provisions. The idea behind this was to spare small owners of a single unit from compliance with local rent control laws. With the rise of Wall Street landlords renting out single family homes, Costa-Hawkins is outdated. It should be reformed to allow cities to regulate rents on these properties.
  • Office of Ombudsman for tenants: California has an Office of a Mobile Home Ombudsman, which “receives and processes complaints from the public and from public officials related to living in manufactured homes and mobile homes.”33 All tenants in California should have a state-level office for questions and complaints related to their landlord.
  • Registration of Limited Liability Companies (LLC) that connects them with the landlord of a property: While ownership information on a property is publicly available through the county recorder-assessor’s office, most Wall Street landlords record ownership as a variant Limited Liability Company (LLC). This obfuscates ownership information from the public. Available information on LLCs and their connection with a landlord is currently limited. For instance, homes owned by Invitation Homes are listed under at least 18 different LLCs in California. Waypoint Homes uses at least 24 different LLCs, and most of them have unrelated names like “Blue Oasis LLC” or “QIS LLC.” This is not only a challenge for research purposes but is also challenging for tenants if there is a dispute of ownership or a question of who to hold responsible for repairs, like in the foreclosure crisis. There is nothing that on its face links Blue Oasis LLC to Waypoint Homes if you search through publicly available databases. Tenants and the public have a right to transparency.
  • Transparent recording of state-sponsored institutional investors. Such as CalPERS, and CalSTERS.

Recommendations at the local level
  • Open, searchable online data on publicly available eviction cases: Courts collect data regularly on evictions. This data is available through tenant screening services, but not available to the public and community organizations who need to track eviction rates in order to respond to the needs of the community. County courts should move to open data practices in order to allow government and community organizations to monitor patterns of displacement, including Wall Street landlord evictions.
  • Improved court access for tenants: Since tenants we surveyed reported that Wall Street landlords regularly issue 3-day notices even when a tenant is not behind on rent, it is likely that many of these tenants will end up in a court eviction process. Most tenants in the state go to court unrepresented, and most landlords have a lawyer to represent them. This unbalance of power means many tenants are needlessly evicted from their homes. In several communities in California, more funding to represent tenants was provided through the Shriver Project. This project should continue to be funded and expanded. 
  • Just cause for eviction and rent control: These laws protect tenants from displacement caused by arbitrary eviction and unreasonable rent increases. Landlords should be required to state a recognized reason for evicting a tenant (i.e. nonpayment of rent, nuisance), and cities should keep track of these evictions. Rent control allows landlords to increase rent, based on inflation or the consumer price index, keeping a fair return on their investment while protecting tenants against predatory rent increases. As noted above, the state Costa Hawkins Act would need to be changed in order to protect tenants in single-family homes.
  • Effective code enforcement: Cities must cite landlords that violate the State and Uniform housing code in order to protect the health and safety of tenants. Enforcement mechanisms should be vigorous and transparent, with oversight from the community.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Skip the Appetizer: Start with Rent Control rather than Rent Moratorium

By Dean Preston, Tenants Together Executive Director

Calls for rent control are on the rise, as they should be.  The era of landlord self-regulation is a proven failure.  The only hope of stemming mass displacement and rent gouging for many communities across California is by regulating rents and evictions through rent control.

As excited as I am to see the growing movement for rent control, I’m concerned by one trend: focusing on moratoriums as a first legislative demand, rather than insisting on permanent rent control.  In Richmond, Santa Rosa, and San Mateo, rent increase moratoriums have been proposed and rejected (In Richmond, the City Council subsequently passed rent control). It’s a tough loss for your campaign to bear right at the outset. Activists are calling for moratoriums in other cities, including the City of Alameda, in which a petition quickly gathered over 1000 signatures for a rent moratorium.

We are regularly contacted by activists in California cities who want rent moratoriums in their communities. It’s usually not the best place to start. 

There are three problems with moratoriums.  First, a moratorium, also known as an urgency ordinance, generally requires a 4/5 vote, rather than a simple majority, of the City Council in California cities.  This is nearly impossible to obtain given the power of the real estate lobby.  Even votes you might think you have lined up too often succumb to the pressure of industry lobbyists. Second, moratoriums are by definition temporary.  They last 45 days, and then can only be extended if the City Council renews the moratorium.  At most, if renewed twice, the moratorium can last up to 2 years. Third, and perhaps most importantly, virtually the same controls can be obtained by a regular rent control ordinance that requires only a simple majority of the council. It might be hard to pass rent control, but trying to pass a moratorium is even harder. Not only can cities pass rent control laws, but they can make the rents rollback to stop rent increases in anticipation of rent control.

Despite this, there are circumstances in which a moratorium might make sense. 

Scenario I: You have the votes for rent control and a moratorium is needed to protect tenants while the details of the ordinance are worked out.

Scenario II: The moratorium vote is merely an organizing vehicle to build momentum for a permanent law through the council or through the ballot. There is a purpose to losing, like getting councilmembers on record in support or against regulation of rents. Tenants are aware that the moratorium may be lost, but is part of a longer-term organizing strategy. The key is to galvanize renters toward permanent rent control, while being careful not to discourage renters if the requisite 4/5 vote cannot be achieved.

The bottom line is that proposing a rent moratorium can be useful in certain circumstances, but should rarely be the starting point for a rent control strategy at the local level. The high vote threshold, limited impact, and alternative of permanent rent control suggest that activists and sympathetic political leaders should focus on adopting comprehensive rent control laws, rather than short-term moratoriums that are nearly impossible to obtain in most communities.

For help organizing for rent control in your community contact Dan Harper, Organizing Director with Tenants Together, at

Download our Rent Control toolkit

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tenant Advisory: Don’t Get Distracted by Mediation, Demand Rent Control

by Kimberly Craige and Dan Harper, TT Organizers

With California residents demanding rent control and just cause for eviction to stop rising rents and displacement in their cities, landlords, realtors, and politicians tied to the industry have suggested a few distracting alternatives to being regulated under rent control. Most of these alternatives were created by the real estate and landlord industries themselves and have no teeth. The first alternative is the California Apartment Association’s “guideline” discouraging landlords from raising the rent more than 10%, and the second is implementing a Rent Review Mediation or Review Board. However, when comparing the impact that implementing modern Rent Control versus implementing a Rent Review Board, it is clear that Rent Control is still the only option if the goal is to prevent displacement and stop rent-gouging.

Local CAA mailer to landlords
Encouraging landlords to "be sensitive"

Throughout the state, we’ve seen that voluntary models of compliance of industry regulations do not work. The regulated cannot regulate themselves. We can’t trust Chevron to voluntarily regulate its refineries nor the natural gas industry to regulate fracking. Rent Mediation Boards in CA typically don’t have any teeth and decisions are merely advisory. It’s like company management going to the negotiating table with Union members and saying, “Hey we’ve got this great idea, we are going to change your contract so we can fire you at any time without a reason but trust us we won’t do that, and by the way we are going to give you raises every year based on CPI/inflation but we can’t guarantee that in writing.” No union worth a damn would accept that so why should tenants accept that for their housing!? It’s not that much to ask of city going through the greatest housing crisis in its history to enact modest renter protections that ask landlords to cite a reason for tenants being evicted and limit the amount rent can be raised yearly (based on local CPI/inflation). This is not your grandpa’s NYC-style rent ceilings. Modern rent control is moderate regulation for an industry that has no rent regulation whatsoever in most California cities.

Several cities currently have rent mediation boards and there is a lot of evidence that they don’t work. The City of Fremont’s Residential Rent Increase Dispute Resolution Program (RRIDRO) Summary (March 2012 to March 2015) received 932 tenant calls about unreasonable rent increases and only 19 tenants had any rent reduction at all, that’s 19/932! From January to March of 2015 9 tenants used the RRIDRO program and not one has had their rent reduced. The city of San Leandro has a Rent Review Program that kicks in if a tenant gets a rent increase of 10% or more which is about $75.00 per month. According to San Leandro’s Annual Rent Review Program Evaluation (July 2013 – June 2014) there were thirty-seven (37) tenant inquiries 2 of these cases went before the rent board one was resolved and the other was resolved before it came to the board. Even if a tenant goes through the process the landlord can do what they want at the end. San Leandro City staff has inferred that in 2015 many more tenants are calling in.

Throughout the country rent control has proven to keep tenants in their homes, and has allowed them to pay rent that is affordable. California cities should not waste time and tax payer money on a rent mediation program that has a failed track of not keeping rents down and not keeping tenants in their homes. Mediation can serve a purpose in many contexts, but not in regulating rents. Mediation requires both parties to come to the table in good faith to resolve a dispute—raising the rent is a business decision for landlords, not a dispute that needs to be mediated.

Instead, passing rent control will allow more tenants to afford their home, and just cause for eviction will allow tenants a fair chance at keeping it. The census shows us that 16.5 million Californians are renters. While not the only tool, rent control and just cause for eviction are important to preserving the many diverse communities in CA.

Download our Rent Control toolkit

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

This week's organizing inspiration

Get inspired: housing rights organizations and tenants in the San Francisco Bay Area are organizing a Regional Renters Day of Action on October 1st with coordinated events in San Jose, Mountain View, San Mateo, Redwood City and Burlingame, Oakland, Alameda, San Francisco, and Fremont to highlight the crisis felt by tens of thousands of families being pushed out of their homes and to call for local and regional solutions.

Taking Organizing to the Next Level:
Instead of just working in their own cities, the Bay Area is coordinating regionally to put more pressure on landlords and decision-makers. The goal of the Regional Day of Action is to identify those responsible for displacement, draw attention to the plight of communities, and demand policy change.

Create a Twitter storm with us tomorrow! Follow all Bay Area regional tenant actions online at #RightToARoof and #DerechoAUnTecho #Homes4All #ViviendaPa’Todos

Identifying the target:

In the Bay Area, greedy landlords and real estate speculators are taking advantage of the cash flowing into the region from tech bubble venture capital driving up the cost of housing. Some tenants are being violently harassed out of their homes just so the landlord can charge more rent.

Drawing attention to the issue:

Greedy landlords are making a quick buck at the expense of our communities. Tenants are being forced to abandon their jobs, schools, faith communities, and move out of the region. Google bus drivers working in San Francisco and Silicon Valley are commuting from hours away.
Tenants who can find housing feel they have to accept uninhabitable conditions because there is no where else to go.

Demanding policy change:

The solution is to put tenant protections in place NOW to stop the bleeding and protect people and communities. We call on cities to adopt and strengthen just cause and rent control policies now. In July the first city in 30 years to pass a new rent control law was in Richmond. Last week San Francisco passed additional protections to close loopholes in its just cause and rent control ordinance.

Create a Twitter storm with us tomorrow on October 1st!
Follow all Bay Area regional tenant actions online at #RightToARoof and #DerechoAUnTecho, join the conversation, share and amplify the voice of renters.

Confirmed actions:

San Francisco, 5:30pm
1937 Mason Street
Target: Abuse by AirBnB

Alameda, 12 noon
2263 Santa Clara Ave # 320
Call for Rent Control and Just Cause

San Jose, Sept 30th 5:15pm
Roosevelt Community Center
901 E Santa Clara St
Target: real estate speculators, Tri-Valley Apartment Association

Mountain View, 7pm
St. Athanasius Catholic Church
160 N Rengstorff Ave

Redwood City, 5:30 p.m.
Jefferson & El Camino
Call for Rent Control & Just Cause

Oakland, 2:30pm
7 eleven on Lincoln and Mac Arthur at 2:30pm
Target: Greedy landlords

Fremont, 6-9am and 4:30-7:30pm
Fremont BART station
Educating commuters

Friday, September 18, 2015

Silicon Valley Slumlords Watch Out: TT Expands Legal Clinics to San Jose

This week, Tenants Together's new Equal Justice Works Legal Fellow, Evelina Nava, joins our team, and she will be hitting the ground with a project in San Jose which aims to improve rental housing conditions and combat slum housing.

Why San Jose? Tenants throughout California fear retaliatory evictions for asserting their rights to safe and healthy housing, but this fear is intensified in San Jose by the current housing crisis and risk of homelessness due to severe unaffordability in the area. Rental prices in San Jose are among the highest in the nation. Recently, apartment rents increased more than in any other U.S. city. Almost 60% of very low-income households pay more than 50% of their income in rent in Santa Clara County. At the same time, there are no “just cause” eviction protections and landlords can impose 8% annual rent increases. Tenants pay too high a price to live in slum conditions.

About Evelina:

  • Evelina, a Berkeley School of Law graduate, looks forward to bringing her experience growing up in low-income communities in the Central Valley to help communities facing similar challenges in San Jose. 
  • She has assisted and represented low-income tenants, including monolingual Spanish speakers, in eviction cases as an intern at the East Bay Community Law Center and at Bay Area Legal Aid.
  • Her Peace Corps service reinforced her passion for community development and addressing root causes of poverty and inequality.

What will Evelina work on?

  • Holding tenant legal clinics in San Jose and beyond;
  • Representing low-income tenants to enforce habitability laws; 
  • Improving city code enforcement practices to improve rental housing conditions;
  • Working with grassroots allies to strengthen enforcement policies.