Landlord group says Oakland tenant protections would hurt market

OAKLAND (BCN)--The head of a landlords group said tonight that a list of 10 legislative demands by Oakland tenants groups to close loopholes, which they allege that landlords are exploiting, would make housing in the city even more limited and expensive than it already is.

Wayne Rowland, the president of the board of directors for the East Bay Rental Housing Association, said the tenants groups' demands would create uncertainty in the rental market, discourage people from engaging in
the rental business and cause rents to become even more expensive.

Rowland said the tenants groups' proposals "would make it difficult to know how to operate within the guidelines of an ever-changing environment."

Rowland spoke in response to a rally that a coalition of tenants' rights groups held in front of City Hall during the noon hour today to ask the City Council to close loopholes that they allege landlords are using to displace long-term and low-income tenants.

The tenants groups said the city still needs to strengthen protections for renters even though city residents voted by an overwhelming 74 percent to 26 percent in last November's election to pass Measure JJ, which expanded eviction protections under the city's existing Just Cause Eviction ordinance so the rules would apply to virtually all apartments.

Leah Simon-Weisberg, managing attorney of the Tenants' Rights Program at Centro Legal de la Raza, said one alleged abuse is the filing of many substantial rehabilitation exemptions where the units were occupied and habitable before the alleged repairs.

Simon-Weisberg said one of the renters' groups' goals is to close the "Substantial Rehabilitation" loophole that allows landlords to exempt units from rent control if they say they have substantially rehabilitated the
property.

The renters groups are also calling for the City Council to end the owner-occupied duplex/triplex exemption from rent control and Just Cause protection.

To address that situation, one of the groups' other demands would require landlords to pay relocation assistance for all no-fault evictions, including when a landlord raises the rent more than 10 percent and the tenant is forced to move within 12 months of the increase.

Oakland City members Rebecca Kaplan and Dan Kalb joined the tenants groups at the rally and said they support their legislative agenda.

Kaplan said, "It's incredibly important that we continue to push so that the laws that are already on the books are implemented and to close loopholes that are abused."

Kaplan said, "Excessive rent increases are displacing families and hurting neighborhoods and mean that schools can't keep their teachers in Oakland, hospitals can't keep nurses and the city can't keep paramedics."

Rowland said he finds it ironic that tenant groups are now calling for the city to end the exemption of owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes from rent control and Just Cause protection because tenant groups put that
exemption in the Just Cause ballot measure in 2002 so that it would be
supported by small landlords.

He said the exemption "is not a loophole."

Rowland said the tenant groups' demands would create "a completely unlevel playing field" for landlords and if they're approved by the City Council they would be another example of constantly-changing rules that make
it hard for landlords to do business in Oakland.

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