Alameda sues on behalf of houseboat community over 'Draconian' rent

A community of more than 50 people who live on houseboats in Alameda is getting some help from the city attorney. 

They're suing the property owner for violating the city's rent control rules, and intimidating some of the community's elderly residents. 

Specifically, the people living in the colorful floating homes at the Barnhill Marina is the largest floating home marina in Alameda with 56 berths, or boat slips. 

These houseboat residents have to pay rent to a landlord for those spots in order to connect to electricity and water services.

Under city law, the rent on those berths or boat slips, are subject to the city's rent control laws.

The city of Alameda says many of the people who live here in these floating homes are over the age of 65 and have lived here for decades.

Meanwhile, a group called Valley Investments Redwoods bought the property in 2021. 

The city says the new property owner immediately began pressuring tenants to sign new, more expensive leases -- in some cases, more than double what they were paying before, as much as 180 percent.

And that, according to the city, is a clear violation of local rental laws.

The city of Alameda and the District Attorney's Consumer Justice Bureau is suing the property owner.

Part of the complaint reads: "This campaign was conducted in a manner to create confusion and fear among the tenants, which it did. Many tenants agreed to the new Draconian rental agreement terms and began paying much higher rents."

The city says the property owner also refused to pay $120,000 in rental fees it owes the city of Alameda. 

The property owner did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Thursday.