Property owners line up to oppose stricter tenant protection laws

Chula Vista City Council is set to consider a change in the Municipal Code with its draft Landlord and Tenant Provisions on May 17. This provision is strongly opposed by the Southern California Rental Housing Association, the California Apartment Association, the Pacific Southwest Association of Realtors, and other business groups, according to a press release from the SCRHA on May 5.

The press release stated the major problems in the proposal are that (1) Chula Vista homeowners, including those considering building accessory dwelling units, would be regulated by the ordinance, and (2) strict rules would apply to owners of three or more units; the proposal goes beyond the state’s new Tenant Protection Law which took effect in 2020 (Assembly Bill 1482); (3) housing providers would be forced to provide as much as one year’s notice to residents of a major remodel that requires a moveout, even if they caused the damage, and have the right to move back in after repairs are done; (4) creates new, vague rules for how a landlord can speak to a tenant that are open to wide interpretation; and (5) housing providers could be prosecuted for any violation.

PSAR CEO Richard D’Ascoli said that the proposed law creates more bureaucracy and red tape that helped create the housing shortage in the first place.

“It hurts property owners who want to move into their new homes when they lose a job, get married, or grow their family, and it forced local owners out of business leaving corporation to take their place,” he said, adding that Chula Vista has an estimated 32,800 rental units housing roughly 110,000 people based on data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. “There has been a handful of unfortunate accounts where landlords have been accused of acting illegally. An overwhelming percentage of housing providers treat their residents with dignity. The council is considering a sledgehammer instead of a scalpel to fix this problem”

D’Ascoli said PSAR held a professional poll provided by a third-party company and out of 403 respondents (400 Weighted), only eight percent of Chula Vistans were aware of this provision.

Former Chula Vista council member and PSAR Government Affairs Committee chair Mitch Thompson, who is also an affordable housing developer and a rental homeowner in Chula Vista, said there is no demonstrated need for the ordinance.

“It was basically a referral from the mayor and there was no analysis done to begin with,” he said. “It is a broad-reaching ordinance that sends a really bad message to the development and residential-owner community. The provisions are very onerous, they will increase cost significantly. Plus, it is a very complicated, incredibly long ordinance with so many provisions that will add a lot of legal costs to owners like myself.”
“The amount of capital costs, construction costs, inflation rates have gone up, it takes you a long time to recover when you do a renovation,” he said. “No owner wants to do tons of renovations. This adds an inordinate amount cost to doing renovations.”

Thompson said with the renovation assistance and tenant noticing in the provision, the right that the tenant must come back, are a few things that makes this provision difficult for landlords. He said the provision’s tenant harassment/retaliation section is “very scary” and “criminalizes owners.” He said the widespread practice of offering “cash for keys” which has been utilized in the industry to get tenants out of a residence is considered harassment under the new provision.
“Are you kidding me? This is a city attorney’s office and a city council that has no clue about landlord/tenant business whatsoever,” he said.

Thompson said that Chula Vista’s housing stock is old, especially on the west side and much of it needs renovation.

“We do not need the excess costs with so much substandard housing,” he said. “I think the city council wants to do something because rents have risen, it is an extremely tight rental market, and tenants are having a tough time finding units. It does not help tenants at all. City Council has not done any real heavy lifting, or even light lifting, in figuring out how they can get more units built. They have done almost nothing. This will only make things worse. We need so many more rental units, and more rental units available is the most protection that tenants can have. It is misguided. It is not state mandated. How is the city going to pay for this? They cannot even fix our streets.”