Renter Protections On Ballot and More

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By Robert Bernstein

As many of you know from my previous article here, my wife and I were evicted from my home of 31 years back in June. There is a proposition on the current ballot that is directly relevant to what happened to us.

Proposition 21 allows local governments to expand renter protections beyond what the state provides.

A so-called"Tenant Protection Act" was passed in 2019 that helped lead to our eviction. It limited rents but allowed the landlord to evict tenants. In fact, the law is an incentive to evict long-term tenants. The State Legislature has refused so far to fix their terrible mistake. Please let local governments help.

Here [http://swt.org/endorsements/2020/] are my other election endorsements if anyone is interested!

The ballot is getting rather long. I am not sure what is to be done about this, but who really has time to go through each of these items and people in adequate detail? Even the organizations I trust have found it impossible to cover every candidate and proposition and often just focus on those they prioritize.

Feel free to offer your own recommendations and why you are making them!

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Babycakes Oct 09, 2020 12:08 PM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

Robert, on what grounds did the landlord evict you? I read your original article and this where you are stating that you were "evicted." I am all for tenant rights and everything, but deciding not to pay/stay based on raised rent does not sound like an eviction. I'm not a lawyer or anything, but I think eviction means that you were removed by the landlord for "some reason" (like the renter is causing problems, etc.), not the renter's inability/unwillingness to stay in the rental property. I remember having my rent nearly doubled...I looked around, saw what a great deal I had been getting, and paid the increase. At that point I realized that the landlord was the person who was in control, so I scrimped/saved/clawed took on extra jobs, kept my car running, no dinners, no drinks, no trips, and no extras turned into a small/modest home here in Santa Barbara. It can be done. Oh, and I rent a converted garage out for below-market rate ($950 for 1 bed/bath/full kitchen/W&D plus all utilities....cable/internet too). My suggestion to anyone who will listen, you CAN buy a house in SB, maybe not a "dream" house, but no one is going to "evict" you (unless you stop making payments).

biguglystick Oct 11, 2020 11:55 AM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

BABYCAKES, well, LUCKY YOU! I've been trying to buy a modest home here (even a shotgun shack up in the hills somewhere) and I have been unable to. Just couldn't do it, even though I tried and tried. I was denied loans (even though I have stellar credit and the mortgage would have ended up being less than my current rent). I missed opportunities left and right, not due to any lack of really trying, and then.... THEN the housing prices shot, like a rocket, straight out of the stratosphere. Normal people just cannot buy a "modest home" in Santa Barbara anymore, it's now the territory of the uber wealthy or the uber lucky.

Ahchooo Oct 11, 2020 12:40 PM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

My observation has been that buying a modest house in SB is possible if you have two employed adults combining resources, and no dependents. A single adult, or adults with children, will have to have pretty high salaries or some inherited money. Of course it all depends on how much you make.

Babycakes Oct 11, 2020 12:47 PM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

Lucky? Luck is for gamblers. A better term would be "fortunate." I'd say that I was fortunate to have the wherewithal to make the correct decisions over a long period of time. This resulted in my ability to qualify for an 80% loan and "buy" my little abode. It's not much of a place, really a "nothing burger" with a roof, but it's my place and the only LL I have to deal with is Montecito Bank & Trust. I've continued my stingy ways, and am now in the process of looking at a rental property (a "dump" or a "fixer" as some would say) in Lompoc. Again, it will hopefully be my dump, which generates income for me and those who I help.

PitMix Oct 12, 2020 11:20 AM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

Yeah, 1998 was the last time I saw an affordable house here in town. A 700 sq ft house off Gillespie sold for $225K. I blinked, and then housing prices were in the $400Ks.

Voice of Reason Oct 09, 2020 01:17 PM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

Propositions like this one are all to common in California. Propositions that sound great, and will help get a supporting politician reelected, but will cause longer-term harm that will outweigh the short-term benefits. Prop 21 would provide protections for current renters but is also yet another law that inhibits the development of new residential units. Long-term, assuming people keep making more people, the reduction in new residential units will lead to greater demand for the existing units, driving up rental prices long-term.

PitMix Oct 12, 2020 09:19 AM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

If you build a new unit you can charge whatever you want, right? How does that inhibit new construction. Have never understood this argument.

mm1970 Oct 12, 2020 10:15 AM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

The Marc...probably not a lot of vacancies NOW, but for a long time, they set rents high and they were vacant. There's still a ceiling on what people can pay. If it costs more to build than you can rent it for, it doesn't pencil out.

sbrobert Oct 09, 2020 01:29 PM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

Thank you for the two comments so far. They may yet get deleted, so I will include the essence of each question in my reply.

BABYCAKES: We were explicitly evicted by new owners after living in my home for 31 years. There was no cause at all. The "Tenant Protection Act" allows an owner to evict a tenant with nothing more than a claim that they will be doing major renovations. OR that they or a family member will move in. They do not have to give any proof. And there is no enforcement mechanism.

VOICE OF REASON: You wrote "Prop 21 would provide protections for current renters but is also yet another law that inhibits the development of new residential units". I am not sure what part of the proposition you are referring to. Proposition 21 does not give any specific protections at all. It just allows local governments to fix flaws in the existing laws.

Byzantium Oct 09, 2020 01:35 PM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

It wasn't your "home". It was your rental unit. You buy a "home". Yours was where you set up temporary housekeeping. This should not have come a surprise. You had zero ownership interest in this property; only the renewable right to occupy it by mutual agreement. The landlord could not force you to stay against your will and fore you to keep paying for it even if you wanted to leave. And vice versa. Rental is not ownership. This is basic. Even if you pretended otherwise. All real estate contracts must be in writing and I assume your landlord did not put it into writing you were allowed to stay there solely on your own terms as long as you wanted. And could also leave on no notice if that is what you wanted too.

a-1602278554 Oct 09, 2020 02:22 PM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

You were evicted through a court process? Or the landlord chose not to renew your lease, whether it was monthly/yearly/whatever?

LCP112233 Oct 09, 2020 02:29 PM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

I rent as well, and would fully understand if the landlord wanted his or her house back to renovate, let a relative stay there, sell it, leave it empty or house the homeless. It's THEIR house, not yours. They can do what they want with their property that they paid for and continue to pay property taxes on.

Voice of Reason Oct 09, 2020 02:57 PM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

Hi SBRobert. I have been listening in on most City Council meetings relating to this and similar topics. They will absolutely take the opportunity to make things stricter on landlords, saying they're doing it to make housing affordable, in reality it won't (long-term) and they're just concerned about optics and reelection. or higher elections.

a-1602281606 Oct 09, 2020 03:13 PM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

Like any other business arrangement the tenant / landlord relationship is a partnership which truly works only when both parties are satisfied. As a former landlord I know that when you get a good tenant ( in this town particularly) you really want to keep them and bend over backwards to do so. This is the second article that you've bashed your landlord for following all laws and rules but not bending over backwards for you. I would really like to hear from the landlord on this to get the full picture.

Ahchooo Oct 09, 2020 04:50 PM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

As I recall, it was a case of his longtime landlord selling the property. The new landlords said he could stay, with reasonable rent increase, then suddenly said no, get out, we are going to remodel. I would also be happy to hear the other side. This whole topic is complex. But it is particularly difficult for the tenants as there are so few available rentals, and moving is stressful and expensive even in the best circumstances.

letmego Oct 09, 2020 04:51 PM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

I can understand why a renter, after 31 years, would consider where they live to be their home. Why wouldn't they? Per the dictionary (Merriam Webster) it's defined as: "one's place of residence."

OTOH, I can understand the position of the landlord. Long ago and far away (20 years ago now), I briefly worked with a man who was nearing retirement. I was a young whipper-snapper. He was in his mid 60s. He'd been an engineer for a local company that moved his office to somewhere in the midwest. So, he and his family had to move. When he was old enough to retire, he decided to move back. (Although he wasn't ready to fully retire, so he got a job as a consultant working for our company).

While they were gone, instead of selling their house, they decided to rent it to a friend. It was a win-win - the friend and his family took great care of the house and property. The rent was below market to start, and got even more below market as time went on.

It was win-win until they came back. The friend/ tenant refused to leave. Refused. This was the late 1990s. I remember him telling me that they had to go to mediation. The tenant said "I don't want to leave, it's my HOME." The mediator said "no, it's TOM'S home. You've been living there for X number of years (10? 20?)" Sad story all around.

Babycakes Oct 10, 2020 12:48 PM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

Renting for 31 years in one place. Then you get "the boot." Wow.....just incredibly wrong. Even with your explanation of the law, I'm pretty certain that what the LL did to evict you out of your "home" of 31 years for no reason at all is completely illegal. You did not describe any conversation/response with/to the LL after being told of the rent increase. So I will assume it went from "I'm raising your rent" to "you are evicted" without talking to the LL.... is that correct? Maybe you should have given that LL a piece of your mind!!

a-1602369892 Oct 10, 2020 03:44 PM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

Should landlords boot people our automatically at three years, because letting them rent "too long" is bad, BabyCakes? It would be doing them a favor and a favor to everyone else by helping the vacancy rates. Best of all it would be a wake-up call if one are still renting after three years, because that in the long run is making a very poor financial decision for oneself. You idea has merit. What is "renting too long' is up for discussion.

Babycakes Oct 11, 2020 11:50 AM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

@3:44 PM: Yes, but only as long as those affected parties agree and take the precautionary measures as described. A three-year "boot" rule is not going to work very well, unless the LL and renter sign a lease with this specified. No one should ever agree to a-n-y non-negotiated monthly lease agreement - ever!

Sail380 Oct 09, 2020 01:53 PM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

As I get closer to retirement Ill be selling my income property when the current tenants move. This kind of law scares me and I cant afford to carry the payments and taxes if the tenant can't or won't pay. No longer worth the risk with no landlord protections. Its going to be one less somewhat affordable rental with the new owners paying much more than the current rent.

USA in ruins Oct 10, 2020 07:59 AM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

Word of advice for renters. Save alot of money so that when the owner decides for any reason you've got 60 days to vacate.... You have moving expenses and first last and security available.

biguglystick Oct 11, 2020 11:49 AM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

USA, that's not always possible for many of us. Lots of us, especially during this pandemic, have lost our jobs and had a drastic reduction in any income! I would LOVE to have a savings pillow for a rainy day, but I've had to use mine just to eat and live.

PitMix Oct 12, 2020 09:16 AM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

One of the items coming out of this pandemic is that we need to pay people enough so that they can save their recommended 6 months of living expenses. Especially if our government is not capable enough to provide emergency aid when people need it. No more minimum wage jobs where you are just barely surviving mo to mo.

Robert247 Oct 10, 2020 08:31 AM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

I have been a long time renter 20 various years and have had at least half a dozen landlords. I have also owned a home here for about a decade. As a renter, I've always looked for the right landlord in addition to the right house. At times we moved in knowing full well that the owners would come back at some point. Or that we could be asked to leave at their discretion without really needing a reason. It is their home and if I owned it wouldn't want it any other way. Regardless of this proposition, I will still pay my rent and on time as I need a place to live. In addition, my landlord needs a place to live somewhere else if I want to be able to keep living in their home/my rental. If I don't pay them and they don't pay theirs, then quite possibly they are gonna need to move back in which would leave me looking. And that is how it should be. The only regulation I need is that if I give them the money they are asking for each month, they keep letting me stay at their home. Pressure is on them to keep it maintained if they want to continue keeping a good tenant.

sandy1 Oct 10, 2020 08:56 AM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

It’s no secret: building more affordable housing is already a difficult challenge in California. But Prop. 21 would make it near impossible. It will ensure that new construction won’t pencil out financially. And it will result in forcing millions of existing rental units to be pulled off the market. No on 21

PitMix Oct 12, 2020 09:14 AM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

I notice that people are against these propositions but never suggest any alternatives to the huge problem of housing affordability. I was fortunate enough to buy a place on the westside in 2007 and now my mortgage is less than what I would pay in rent. A 2bdr/1ba house down the street is renting for $4200/mo, and a young couple just bought a similar place for $900K. This situation is unsustainable, and Prop 21 at least gives communities some tools to address them. As I read it, that house would still rent for $4200 so that investor would not lose money. How is that bad.?

mm1970 Oct 12, 2020 10:11 AM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

Same. We bought in 2004 on the Westside. Rent would probably be about equal to mortgage + prop tax at this point. Maybe in a few years, it will move to the "black" where renting would cost more. A house not too far from mine (<1000sf) just sold for $940,000 (not a young couple that bought it). Renting is still cheaper than owning, as terrible as renting is right now.

Voice of Reason Oct 12, 2020 10:18 AM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

Pitmix, there is no solution to housing affordability in paradise like Santa Barbara, with limited buildable land and a constantly increasing supply of people wanting to live here. The only solution is more units, which is extremely difficult to get approved and very expensive to build. I think you missing how units get built, private individuals need to invest a lot money to develop real estate. To take that huge risk they need to know there is a high likelihood they'll be able to recoup their investment along with a reasonable return, and there investment horizon is decades long. Prop 21 and other like it increase the risk to developers and further squeeze potential investment returns, it disincentives the creation of new units. In your example above, that 2br/1ba renting at $4,200 may keep renting at that level for now, but it's future rent growth is limited while all the expenses to maintain the rental are not capped. some extreme rent control provisions even cap the amount you can re-tenant the place at once the current tenant vacates. If the city/county/state want's more affordable housing they need to build it themselves. Their approach of trying to force the private sector to do it doesn't work because developers will simply say "no thank you", and do something else with their capital.

PitMix Oct 12, 2020 11:18 AM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

Voice, our housing problem has twin sources, 30,000 students living off campus and an excess of jobs. It's great for landlords but not so great for working families with average salaries. I know USians hate it, but someday we will have to densify like Europe so that the service people working in Montecito and Hope Ranch can have housing. Either that or cover every inch of arable land with single family homes where the lot size is barely bigger than the building. Think lower westside below Carrillo/Meigs.

Bird Oct 10, 2020 01:44 PM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

I read your article here and a similar one you wrote for the Montecito Journal. Certainly, a difficult situation! You haven't said whether you and your wife have found another place to rent, to buy? Hope so.

sbrobert Oct 15, 2020 04:07 PM
Renter Protections On Ballot and More

My Endorsements Are Here! http://swt.org/endorsements/2020/

Previously I had listed the wrong location. My mistake.

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