**If your landlord threatens to evict you for ANY reason, immediately email info@berkeleytenants.org with the subject line “I AM BEING EVICTED” so we can provide you help ASAP. (California tenants outside Berkeley should call Tenants Together at 888-495-8020.) Because of the extremely unfair legal deadlines for tenants facing evictions, it is crucial for tenants to react very quickly to eviction notices (even for blatantly illegal evictions). Do NOT wait to use our counseling clinic if you are facing an eviction.**

BTU is proud to hold a free monthly counseling clinic, where any East Bay* tenant may speak with a professional tenant attorney.  Our next clinic will take place next Thursday, January 26 at 3-5PM via phone.  In order to use the clinic, you must sign-up for a spot here by 11:59PM Sunday, January 22 (i.e. FOUR days before the clinic).  However, we only have a very limited number of spots available; priority is always given to BTU members (see below for how to join or renew your dues), followed by sign-up order.  (Members are also told about our clinics earlier than non-members.)

You can join BTU/pay your dues by going to our website and clicking the yellow “Donate” button in the upper-right corner.  Dues are a sliding scale of just $10 – $27 per year; however, those who can afford to pay more are strongly encouraged to do so.  If you’d prefer to pay dues by cash or check (which lets BTU avoid paying a transaction fee), please email info@berkeleytenants.org to have someone come pick up your dues in-person (we’ll do so in a way that maintains proper social distancing).

* Our clinics’ tenant attorneys are unfortunately only able to assist tenants living in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. If you are a tenant who lives in Solano County (or anywhere else in California), we encourage you to call Tenants Together at 888-495-8020 for counseling.

The next meeting will be Saturday, February 13 at 5:00 PM on the Zoom platform, online. Members will be sent an email about the meeting. Agenda items will be sent out soon, but the major topic of this meeting will be the status of the local eviction moratorium.

To become a member, contact Berkeley Tenants Union by email. Dues are on a sliding scale and can be paid in a number of different ways. Members are eligible for our monthly counseling sessions as well as a strong say about what issues the organization chooses for action. Ask to see the BTU by-laws for more information.

These days, BTU communicates about actions via emails and Facebook. Be sure to like the Facebook page you see displayed on the sidebar to the right!

Be sure that you are on the mailing list too.

Also, please share this Facebook link to our meeting, or a link to this post – let’s build our numbers and bring more power to the people!
https://fb.me/e/3KLr3BzA5

Berkeley Tenants Are Organizing!
“The current city moratorium has “weak” penalties for property owners who institute late fees, lock out tenants or threaten renters, according to (a Berkeley Tenants Union leader) Lewis. He said crucial parts of the measure, such as amendments to include renters’ rights on eviction notices, were removed Nov. 17. If the stricter moratorium passes, it will not take effect until February 2021 due to restrictions in a statewide moratorium that prevents property owners from taking tenants to court, according to Lewis.”
https://www.dailycal.org/2020/12/08/berkeley-city-council-votes-on-measure-to-strengthen-eviction-moratorium/

Berkeley Landlords Are Organizing Too!
“There are multiple Eviction Moratoriums in effect during this pandemic. Berkeley’s Eviction Moratorium currently prohibits any type of eviction during the local state of emergency and dictates how rent not paid during the pandemic is to be handled. The state’s Eviction Moratorium (AB 3088 effective Sept 1 to Jan 31) is currently being modified at the legislature. We expect the moratorium will be extended through June of 2021, as well as continue to defer the 25% payment of rent until then. BPOA is working to provide guidance as to how the state’s extension will interact with our local Eviction Moratorium.”
https://www.bpoa.org/

City of Berkeley’s COVID-19 Eviction Moratorium Factsheet
https://berkeleytenants.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Covid-19-Tenant-Factsheet_4-07-2020-1.pdf

Rent Board Info on Local Protections
https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Rent_Stabilization_Board/Home/Can_t_Pay_Rent_Due_to_COVID-19_.aspx

Apartment Owners’ Thoughts on the Moratorium
https://caanet.org/kb/berkeley-eviction-moratorium-caa-summary/

Your Rights Under the State Law
https://www.law.berkeley.edu/research/consumer-law-economic-justice/projects/consumer-protection-guides-covid-19/issue-i-tenants-rights-covid-19/

Weak Federal Protections Extended by Biden
“At President Biden’s direction, the eviction moratorium from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been extended to March 31. But tens of millions of people owing back rent may be forced out of their homes even with the extension. After months of wrangling, Congress allocated $25 billion in rental assistance.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/28/opinion/eviction-crisis-moratorium.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

July 2020 Summary of Local Law
https://patch.com/california/berkeley/berkeley-eviction-protections-renters-struggling-due-coronavirus-1

Other News
The East Bay Community Law Center is working with City of Berkeley leaders to establish a housing policy called the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act. Learn more about TOPA here:
https://ebclc.org/topa/

Measure U1 Debate Continued
The Berkeley City Council carried items about spending Measure U1 money to their July 25 meeting. See Items 48, 50 and 51 on that agenda.
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/City_Council/City_Council__Agenda_Index.aspx

The State of Berkeley
Mayor Jesse Arreguin is a renter who rose to prominence as strong voice for tenants when he chaired Berkeley’s Rent Board and while he represented the downtown area on City Council. His first State of the City address highlighted his dedication to affordable housing and antidisplacement.

He said the city needs to fight the ravages of gentrification, strengthen defenses against eviction of tenants, work to eliminate the state Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, and do more to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation.”
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/07/11/mayors-address-cites-berkeleys-disparities-role-in-national-politics/

“Arreguín said he is also proud of the $650,000 included in the new city budget for eviction defense and housing subsidies — and of the plan to build affordable and permanent supportive housing, along with more shelter beds and transitional units for veterans, at Berkeley Way. The council voted unanimously to prioritize that ambitious plan in June, though its success depends on securing more funding for the $90 million project.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2017/07/11/mayor-jesse-arreguin-pledges-re-earn-berkeleys-progressive-reputation-city-address/

BCA Progressive Town Hall Sunday July 15
Progressive Town Meeting with many City Council members – sponsored by our good friends at Berkeley Citizens Action: Sunday July 16, 3-5pm at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis Street.

Berkeley Rent Control – in 1942!
Bay Area housing rent control went into effect July 1, 1942, and the first day of required registration was July 15. Anyone who rented an apartment, house, or room had to register and list the rents. “No landlord may now charge a rent higher than that prevailing on March 1, 1942”, the Gazette noted on July 15. “Any tenant who for personal reasons, privately agrees to pay more than the legal rate is equally guilty of evading the law.” Six stations had been set up to receive registration forms.
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/07/10/berkeley-a-look-back-wartime-introduces-city-to-rent-control/

On Student Housing
“The old dorms, forced by state policy to be financially self-sustaining, are already insanely expensive. And now, with UC Berkeley pitching itself to wealthy out-of-state students who pay high fees , with an emphasis on the privileged offspring of well-off foreigners, even pricier alternatives are on offer, under the rubric of “Affiliated Properties.” What does this mean? If you click under this heading on the UC Housing website, you see these three buildings: Garden Village Apartments; New Sequoia Apartments; Panoramic Residences. The first two were originally permitted by the city of Berkeley as tax-paying private rental development, the kind marketed as “luxury apartments. Presumably the third, developed in San Francisco by Patrick Kennedy, who made his original fortune in Berkeley, is in the same category. Now, however, they seem to have been subsumed into UCB’s housing schemes. Are they consequently off the tax rolls?”
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2017-07-07/article/45868?headline=UC-expansion-engulfs-Berkeley–Becky-O-Malley

Op Ed on Berkeley Development Policies
“It is not true that asking developers to pay higher fees will kill their incentive to build. Just look at all the cranes out there.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2017/06/13/opinion-berkeley-needs-new-housing-policy-works-many-not-just/

New York Times on Berkeley Housing Crisis
The New York paper interviewed Mayor Arreguin.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/15/us/california-today-the-housing-crisis-hits-berkeley.html

Mother Jones Mocks Berkeley Housing Policies
http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2017/06/climate-change-housing-berkeley/

In Other Places 

San Mateo County Study on Displacement
If you know me, you know I love data. Data from this new study of evictions and displacement in San Mateo County could help Berkeley leaders make the case for more funding for enforcement of eviction protections and rental assistance as a means of homelessness prevention.
“The surveys found that of the people who reported being displaced in the last two years, one in three had experienced homelessness or marginal housing (defined as living in a motel or hotel, renting a garage, or “couch-surfing”); only one in five was able to find a new place to live within a mile of their former residence; and one in three left the county. Several reported that their families had to split up to find housing.”

The study also shows the environmental impacts of the housing emergency.
”Those who did leave the county saw their one-way commute time increase by an average of 47 minutes and commute cost rise by $390 a month for the main household earner.”
https://almanacnews.com/news/2017/06/22/study-displaced-residents-face-many-other-adverse-effects

 

UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies Displacement Report
http://www.urbandisplacement.org/sites/default/files/images/impacts_of_displacement_in_san_mateo_county.pdf

 

Oakland Wants Berkeley’s Protections
Jonah Strauss of the Oakland Warehouse Coalition said that the referral of the owner move-in exemption to the rent board is a good move. He said Oakland should adopt strong rules like those in Berkeley, and that if a landlord does carry out an owner move-in eviction they should be required to pay a “substantial” amount to help their tenants relocate.”
https://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2017/07/11/oakland-looks-to-close-owner-move-in-and-occupancy-loopholes-reduce-evictions-and-harmful-rent-increases

Fremont Wants Rent Control
“The tenants are really in an unleveraged position,” Bonaccorsi said. “They don’t have equal bargaining power. There is a lot of fear, there is a lot of anxiety, there is a lot of stress, there’s a lot of families that have been displaced.”
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/07/12/fremont-isnt-ready-for-rent-control-council-decides/

San Francisco Wants Vacancy Tax
https://sf.curbed.com/2017/7/12/15961486/sf-tax-landlord-homes-apartments-vacant 

Los Angeles Short Term Rentals Debate
https://patch.com/california/studiocity/airbnb-supporters-flood-city-hall-fight-limits-rentals

Airbnb to Collect Taxes for Puerto Rico
https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/california/articles/2017-06-22/airbnb-to-collect-room-tax-in-puerto-rico-for-government

Airbnb Still Fighting Paris 
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-airbnb-hotels-reaction-idUSKBN19R2TT

BTU Calls For Landlords to Be Fined for Campaign Violations, Again
On Thursday, May 18, 2017, Berkeley’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission (FCPC) would not decide to enforce the Berkeley Election Reform Act. Commissioner Dean Metzger asked that the staff report include past violations from the same offenders after BTU pointed out their history. In addition, Commissioner Greg Harper asked the city attorney for further information.
The next FCPC meeting will be Thursday, July 20, 2017
BTU LETTER: BTU letter for FCPC

June 13 City Council Votes on Developer Fees
On Tuesday, June 13 the City Council will hold a public hearing to increase the affordable housing mitigation fee from $34,000 ($30,000 if paid when the building permit is issued) to $37,000 ($34,000 if paid when the building permit issue is issued).  The affordable housing mitigation fee is one of the primary ways that the city funds affordable housing, making this increase extremely important.
You can let the city council know that you support the increase by emailing council@cityofberkeley.info and clerk@cityofberkeley.info

Santa Rosa Nears Rent Control Vote
“The largest contribution reported to date to the landlord committee, called “Citizens for Fair and Equitable Housing — No on C,” was $280,000 from the political action committee of the California Association of Realtors. A treasurer for the committee referred questions to the spokesman for the California Apartment Association…”
http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/6793101-181/money-pouring-in-to-fight?artslide=0

The Democratic Party Supports Rent Control
The California Democratic Party supports rent control and just cause for eviction. This is a big deal. Many California Democratic lawmakers are in the pocket of the real estate industry, just like Republicans. They regularly vote against tenants to make sure they continue getting landlord and realtor money. Just recently, only 24 of 80 legislators voted for Assemblymember Rob Bonta’s bill to stop Ellis Act evictions of SRO hotel units in Oakland. If you are scratching your head as to how a narrow bill to stop evictions of some of the most vulnerable tenants in Oakland could lose by a landslide in the California Assembly where Democrats have a two-thirds majority, you obviously haven’t been in the halls of the Capitol recently….”
http://48hills.org/2017/05/23/historic-vote-democratic-party-supports-rent-control/

Owner Move In Evictions in Local Spotlight
It is known that some landlords pretend it’s an owner move-in situation simply to evict lower-rent tenants, and then re-rent units for higher rents. Investors buying duplexes, or other small properties with only a few units, with the intention either to hold on to them or flip them, may tell long-term tenants they plan to move in, just to try to get them to move without going through a legal eviction process.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2017/05/25/berkeley-sees-increase-owner-move-evictions-landlords/

Congratulations Maria!
I am thrilled that Maria is taking over my seat on the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board!
“Poblet served many years as executive director at St. Peter’s Housing Committee in San Francisco and then spearheaded a merger with Just Cause Oakland in 2010 to form Causa Justa. The new group brought together one organization that had spent 25 years organizing Latinos with one that had spent 10 years organizing Blacks to push for economic and racial justice. Causa Justa is now the largest tenants’ rights group in the Bay Area. Poblet served as the organization’s executive director from 2010 until early 2017.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2017/05/16/prominent-tenants-rights-activist-appointed-berkeley-rent-board/

Councilperson Hahn Calls For Modifications to New Tenant Protections
http://www.dailycal.org/2017/05/31/owner-move-evictions-berkeley-rise-raising-concerns/

New Study Uses Small Sample, Ignores Rent Board Data
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2017/06/01/study-berkeley-8th-highest-rent-bay-area/

Inaccurate Report on High Rents Still Cause For Alarm
http://www.dailycal.org/2017/06/04/berkeley-rated-8th-highest-rent-bay-area/

These Were Sent By Members and Friends:

State Bill on Inclusionary Housing
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/City_Council/2017/05_May/Documents/2017-05-30_Item_30_Support_AB_1505.aspx

Awesome Overview of Berkeley Protections
https://www.mynd.co/landlord-journal/property-owners-cheat-sheet-berkeley

Rent Control is Neighborhood Stabilization
http://haasinstitute.berkeley.edu/rent-control-key-neighborhood-stabilization

San Jose Wants Rent Control
https://caanet.org/app/uploads/2016/08/San-Jose-Rent-Control-Guide_Interim-Ordinance.pdf

Want to know more about your tenants rights in general?
The Rent Board made a video that is a good place to start:
http://www.cityofberkeley.info/Rent_Stabilization_Board/Home/Videos.aspx

Want to get some emotional support, make the next renters able to defeat the landlord you just could not stop, or change that stupid law that screwed your friend? Become a BTU Member by coming to our next general meeting on June 6th! We can also mail you a member form if you email us a request. Sign up in the right-hand column to get on our mailing list, and click the link to Berkeley Tenants on Facebook. We are also going to be at Berkeley Farmers Markets this summer!

If you are a Berkeley tenant in crisis, the first thing you need to do is figure out is which sets of laws apply to you and where you can go for free advice on your rights.
YOU HAVE LOTS OF RIGHTS!

You can look online to see if you are covered by Rent Control, but just because your unit doesn’t appear on the Rent Board database does not always mean you are not covered. Also the Rent Ordinance gives renters many rights beyond just rent limits; for example, most units in Berkeley have Just Cause Eviction Protections even if you do not have controlled rent.

Rent Board Database: http://www.cityofberkeley.info/RentBoardUnitSearch.aspx

The Rent Board offers phone, email and drop-in help, but they tend to take a while (up to a week) to respond to messages, so BRING YOUR PAPERS and go see them!
Remember if you have an Eviction Notice (sometimes called a Summons or Complaint or Notice to Quit) you need help RIGHT AWAY. Sometimes you only have a FEW DAYS!

Although the East Bay Community Law Center will only help Extremely Low Income Renters (for example, two people must make less than $20,025 per year combined), they do hold periodic workshops for everyone. You must call 548.4040 to register for one.

Need repairs? Ask in writing! Rent Board can lower rent; code enforcement can issue citations.

BTU struggles to keep up with our counseling, which – for now – we can only do via email. It is best to write to us if you need help figuring out where to go first, want peer-to-peer assistance, or want to work on changing policies and laws. Also, drop us a line if you want to become a counselor or if you are an attorney who wants to get on the referrals list we are making.

See our Resources Page for other assistance!

Berkeley Tenant Deaths Unexplained
“But three months, one lawsuit and a procession of experts later, the source of the carbon monoxide remains a mystery. Toxicology professionals say that’s not just bizarre, but a possible danger to public health. With the question of origin unanswered, the city has red-tagged the apartment where they died but allowed tenants to stay in the building’s other three units…. In the Deakin Street unit, according to neighbors and authorities, a detector was located only on the ground floor, but not upstairs where the couple slept.”
http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Berkeley-couple-s-mysterious-deaths-raise-11077092.php

Deaths Preventable, Says Lawsuit
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/04/18/berkeley-landlords-sued-over-deaths-by-carbon-monoxide-poisoning/

 Still Collecting Rent Next Door to Unexplained Deaths
“Experts are calling the case “rare and odd,” noting it’s typically easy to pinpoint the origin of carbon monoxide in a case like this, and they add that the lack of answers is potentially a public health concern. Neighbors agree—though the unit where the Morashes lived has been red-tagged, the other three units in the building have been deemed safe…”
http://www.newser.com/story/241431/deaths-of-couple-and-their-cats-baffle-cops-worry-neighbors.html

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!
Since 2013 all rental units with gas heat, appliances or garages have been required to have carbon monoxide detectors.
Check your smoke and CO detectors today!
STAY SAFE!

Bedbugs on University Avenue
Gadson alleged that although Raj Properties promised to exterminate the bedbugs by January, his room was not sprayed by RidX Pest Control until Feb. 17.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2017/04/11/uc-berkeley-extension-alumnus-allegedly-living-bedbug-infested-building-owned-raj-properties/

Raj Properties map, rent, and photo
Room $1000 – Bedbugs Free

State Costa Hawkins Law Changes Delayed by Politics
Former candidate for City Council Sean Barry wrote this anti-rent control article last week. Isn’t it a good thing Kriss Worthington kept his seat? In the article, Barry cites “research” from sources like Michael St. John, who works for Berkeley’s largest property owners! He also seems to think the Rent Board could change what is covered by Berkeley rent control – really, only the voters can do that, and we hope someday they will!
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2017/04/13/opinion-costa-hawkins-repeal-shelved-lets-find-ways-lower-housing-costs/

San Jose Renters on Hunger Strike
“Hernandez and two other renters’ rights advocates decided to go without food until the City Council meeting on Tuesday, when an item will be heard that would implement “just cause” provisions. Currently, landlords can kick a tenant out of their unit without giving any reason.”
http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/04/15/san-jose-renter-advocates-on-hunger-strike-until-vote/

 

 

Businesses do not like to be regulated. In fact, Airbnb sued San Francisco, Santa Monica, and New York City quite some time ago about the same issue they have now threatened to sue Berkeley about – yet in all the discussions City Council had about short term rentals (STRs), they have never discussed those lawsuits?

Airbnb and HomeAway say they are protected when they advertise illegal rentals just like YouTube and Yelp are protected when they host user content. Not exactly the same thing? Craigslist was recently found not to be responsible for housing ads that ban minorities, with the court saying it would be like FedEx looking in every package. However, Airbnb makes money directly off the services it markets and also already claims to vet the listings in other ways. Are short term rental hosting platforms like social media, or are they like e-commerce sites?

Airbnb has invoked Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. As San Francisco Deputy City Attorney Robb Kapla said, Section 230 doesn’t apply. “San Francisco is regulating commercial transactions, not speech,” he said.

Also, some Council members have said to me that if Berkeley doesn’t give in to the mega corporation’s threats, then Berkeley’s new STR Law could be put on hold – that would be great! Right now, short term rentals are just illegal! Why not just enforce that so we can have those 200-400 homes for rent again?

That is the real problem with Short Term Rentals in Berkeley – that the city staff and city leaders have refused to enforce ANY short term rental provisions while trying to get a law legalizing some of the rentals in place. Berkeley is sending the wrong message – essentially telling owners it’s OK to break the law. By changing our new law in response to a threat instead of joining Santa Monica and San Francisco in fighting for our housing, Berkeley is sending another wrong message.

San Francisco’s law was not put on hold, just enforcement of the provision fining platforms who list illegal hosts. So why doesn’t Berkeley join on the side of SF and Santa Monica the way that HomeAway and some big property managers have joined on the side of Airbnb? If Berkeley won’t fight the lawsuit, why not file an amicus brief?

Instead the City Council voted unanimously to edit the new law – a law that has had countless public hearings and been debated for almost three years – just the way Airbnb asked them to!

Additionally, the Council report our new renter-Mayor Jesse Arreguin submitted said that changing this key enforcement provision will cost Berkeley nothing. But Berkeley contracts with an outside vendor to (not do) its enforcement. If every ad has to show the host has registered, how much easier will it be to see who is legal and who is not? How much money will that save Berkeley?

Again, it would also be really easy to see who is breaking the law if we just went back to not allowing any short term rentals, and enforced that! Isn’t that what our leaders should be saying to Airbnb? Isn’t this just a big game of chicken?

Then the item from Jesse Arreguin goes even further: it says Berkeley will lose money if Council doesn’t do what Airbnb wants, not because we will be sued, but because we won’t get revenue from short term rental listings. Like we just sold Berkeley’s housing rights? Actually we could generate a lot of money by fining all the people who are already breaking the law.

Shouldn’t the City Council have at least held a closed session to discuss pending litigation before they let Airbnb off the hook?

Santa Monica responded to their lawsuit – which actually claims the law violates the US Constitution – by making their rules even stricter and demanding any business renting for the short term appear on a public city registry just like other small businesses do. This is something BTU asked for in Berkeley, so we could make complaints and track enforcement by being able to see who is legally registered. But even Berkeley’s new City Council would not do this for tenants. The registry is not public.

In San Francisco, New York, and many other places they have moved toward more and more restrictive laws because owners just continue to ignore them. In San Francisco, Airbnb made a big show of taking 900 of the thousands of illegal listings off of their site. In New York, you can now call 311 if you think your neighbor is running an illegal hotel.

Santa Monica recently won a case where a large landlord created fake profiles to get around the local laws. BTU has found several owners with fake profiles, including some who rent all the rooms in one house under two different “host profiles” to disguise that they are renting a whole unit, since renting rooms is allowed under Berkeley’s new law.

Another trend we see in Berkeley is that large landlords who had complaints filed against them just move their listings away from Airbnb and HomeAway and try to hide them on Sabbatical Homes, Flipkey, or even Craigslist.

Berkeley Council Has Second Reading April 25th – it’s not too late!

Meet the New Boss, Same As the Old Boss?
“After over two years of discussion and a lengthy community process, the City Council voted on an ordinance that would regulate Short Term Rentals (STRs) in a balanced way that ensures people can rent out a spare unit, while preventing the exploitation of converting units into mini-hotels. The ordinance provides a method of enforcement that would make it easy to identify violators, and prevent Accessory Dwelling Units from being used as STRs (a position 8 out of 9 members of the Council agreed on). However, during the second reading of the ordinance, last minute changes were proposed that jeopardized the entire process. Despite a previous consensus, several Councilmembers are backtracking as a result of intensive lobbying from Airbnb, which among other things would make it very difficult to enforce.”
Jesse Arreguin, July 2016 Newsletter

Airbnb Letter to Berkeley and City Council Response
“After consultation with AirBnB representatives and City Attorney, it is prudent to strike this section to avoid unnecessary litigation so the ordinance can move forward and so AirBnB can work cooperatively with the city in implementation.”
2017-04-04 Item 11 Amending BMC Section 23C 22 050, Short-Term Rental-1

San Francisco Lawsuit: Initial Ruling Against AirBnB
City Attorney Dennis Herrera applauded the ruling. “I am grateful for Judge Donato’s thoughtful ruling recognizing that just because Airbnb and Homeaway conduct their business online, they are not exempt from any regulation of their commercial transactions,” he said in a statement. “Online businesses don’t get a free pass from the types of regulations that apply to other businesses in San Francisco.”
http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Airbnb-rebuked-in-SF-lawsuit-10602042.php

Why San Francisco is Winning
“James Donato, a US District Court Judge for California’s Northern District, didn’t see it that way. In November 2016, he dealt a major setback to Airbnb when he rejected the company’s request to block the ordinance. Donato didn’t buy Airbnb’s Section 230 argument. As he put it, San Francisco’s ordinance doesn’t treat Airbnb as the publisher of illegal rental listings, nor does it force Airbnb to police its website and remove such listings. It simply holds Airbnb accountable for its own conduct: providing “booking services” in connection with unregistered units.”
https://backchannel.com/the-most-important-law-in-tech-has-a-problem-64f5464128b6

1431 Allston -Multiple Rooms under different “Hosts”

 

Details About Each Step of the SF Case:
http://ia601908.us.archive.org/8/items/gov.uscourts.cand.300367/gov.uscourts.cand.300367.docket.html

Airbnb Pulls 900 Illegal SF Listings
http://www.sfweekly.com/news/airbnb-ousts-nearly-1000-sf-home-listings/

Santa Monica Sued In September
The goal of Santa Monica’s legislation is to eliminate so-called “rentalpreneurs”, people who use services like Airbnb to lease out several units that, critics argue, would otherwise be used as housing stock in L.A.’s historically tight rental market. For example, a group of evicted tenants sued their former landlord last December, after their old homes showed up in Airbnb’s listing pages.”
http://laist.com/2016/09/03/airbnb_sues_santa_monica_over_airbn.php

Santa Monica Responds by Making Law Tougher
The City Council voted 4-0 to require all “home sharing” hosts to not only register with the City but have their information published on a special registry compiled by the City. Officials said it is not unusual for businesses to opt out of such lists, but that eliminating the choice in this case will make it easier for the City to catch hosts who are operating without having registered.”
http://www.surfsantamonica.com/ssm_site/the_lookout/news/News-2017/January-2017/01_12_2017_Santa_Monica_Gets_Even_Tougher_on_Short_Term_Vacation_Rental_Hosts.html

Details on Santa Monica Lawsuit
http://strfacts.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Airbnb-Santa-Monica-Complaint.pdf

More About the Law Airbnb Invoked
In Airbnb’s case, the short-term rental giant is arguing that although some people might be breaking the law by listing property on Airbnb without first registering with the city, Airbnb isn’t responsible — and can’t be held accountable — for what people decide to list on its platform.”
http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-airbnb-free-speech-20160629-snap-story.html

Tech Industry Wants Its Shield
“…
Detractors say the law has been applied too broadly, and judges have pushed back in a string of recent cases. Section 230 was intended to protect free speech online by removing liability for a newspaper, say, for libelous comments posted on their websites by readers.
But Deputy City Attorney Robb Kapla said Section 230 doesn’t apply.” San Francisco is regulating commercial transactions, not speech,” he said.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-tech-court-idUSKCN10T0ET

Santa Monica Wins Another Case
The city accused Globe of hiding its activities from investigators through subterfuge, which according to news reports included creating phony Airbnb profiles for owners. Globe is appealing.”
https://www.courthousenews.com/class-home-sharers-can-sue-santa-monica/

 AirBnB Drops Lawsuit Against New York
“Airbnb on Friday agreed that it would drop the suit as long as New York City enforces the new law only against hosts and does not fine Airbnb. The settlement takes effect on Monday.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/03/technology/airbnb-ends-fight-with-new-york-city-over-fines.html?_r=0

Craigslist Not Responsible for Housing Discrimination
“Traditional statutes are now being applied to e-commerce models. For instance, the anti-discrimination clauses of the United States (“US”) Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) have been examined in the case of online classifieds companies like Craigslist. And, a clause under the Communication Decency Act (applicable to explicit content) has been applied to this case.
http://www.ibls.com/internet_law_news_portal_view.aspx?s=latestnews&id=2014

Related Issue – Renters Subletting

In Berkeley, the new STR law prohibits renters from doing a short term rental without permission from the owner. BTU didn’t oppose this even though it seems unfair on the surface. That is because we hear about renters getting evicted for using platforms like Airbnb. Not only do most written leases prohibit subletting and assignment (like taking money to let someone else use your apartment) – the Rent Ordinance also does not allow a master tenant (person on the lease) to charge more than the rent controlled rent. That means if the rent is $2000 a month, the rent is about $66 a day, and charging more than that is against the law.

Property Manager Sues AirBnB
“It is not acceptable to us that Airbnb actively promotes and profits from deliberate breaches of our leases, and does so in utter disregard of the disrespectful and unsafe situations created for our full-time residents and their families,” Aimco CEO Terry Considine said in a statement.”
https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/18/a-big-apartment-management-company-is-suing-airbnb/

re: Item 1, Second Reading of Short Term Rentals Law

Berkeley Tenants Union letter to City Council

February 14, 2017

Berkeley Tenants Union members have spent countless hours waiting to address the City Council in the past several years to deliver our message: in order to protect our rental housing stock, Council should only ease the ban on Short Term Rentals (STRs) a little bit at a time. We have been asking City Council for years to please JUST allow renters and owners to rent THEIR OWN HOMES for the short term, and move on to enforcing the existing ban on other STRs as soon as possible.

We remind you that the ban on renting for less than 14 days was created to make sure there was not an easy way around rent control protections.

We remind you that all permanent housing – even housing that is not rent controlled – contributes to the diversity and affordability of Berkeley.

Some people say they want a compromise; allowing short term rentals for unlimited days when the owner is present WAS a compromise — those rooms could ALSO be used for students and other permanent residents.
 We join the Rent Board in asking Council to please change the language in Section 23C.22.020D  – BTU has always asked that Council not allow rentals for less than 14 days in any whole unit that could be used for people who live and work in Berkeley. Berkeley Tenants need you to preserve all existing housing for residents, and to create new housing. We do not want new accessory dwelling units (ADUs) to be used as vacation rentals – we worked hard to get that into the initial Council referral for the ADU law many years ago – but it did not get put into that final draft. Berkeley Tenants have always asked that Council not allow STRs in any existing in-laws, or even converted garages – if they have a kitchen. It doesn’t matter if someone bought it last week, wants to use it for their nanny, father or second cousin. Berkeley people need that housing!

We are very concerned that Section 23C.22.020D will encourage new owners to evict long term tenants.

BTU members have also been consistent in our other message — simple laws make for better enforcement. Allowing some ADUs to be short term rentals but not others will be confusing for owners as well as adding an additional layer, and thus additional costs, for enforcement.

We did not send people to the Council meeting on January 24th because we thought that the leaders we worked so hard to get elected this fall had heard our pleas. We are not asking members to come out on Tuesday for the same reason – we expect you to preserve housing and create new housing, not establish new hotel rooms.

Please don’t let us down!
 
New York Gives First Fines to Owners
“Cames was described by the city council as a broker who bought a Brooklyn brownstone for $2m in 2015, and then rented five apartments inside it via Airbnb. She was fined $1,000 for each apartment.”
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/feb/12/airbnb-hosts-new-york-fines-government-illegal
Barcelona First City to Fine Airbnb
“Airbnb’s business in the city has almost doubled in two years, rising to 20,000 listings from 11,000 in 2014….Even so, its rapid growth has aggravated city authorities who slapped a 600,000-euro ($644,160) fine on Airbnb in November for advertising what they deemed to be illegal room rentals, becoming the first city to do so.”
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-08/barcelona-rejects-airbnb-plan-to-limit-rentals-in-fresh-clash
There But For Fortune
“Clearly, cities with a much longer history of tourism than Charleston have concluded that there is such a thing as too much. In October, Barcelona residents rated tourist numbers as second only to unemployment as the city’s biggest problem. The problem there, which is an increasing problem in Charleston too, is that those tourists are driving up the cost of renting apartments for residents in the city.”
http://www.postandcourier.com/opinion/editorials/take-a-tip-from-barcelona/article_82aebb12-e7ef-11e6-8ca7-b7e9e53783b1.html

Short Term Rentals to new City Council January 24th

There are two proposals before the Council tomorrow. One would allow folks who have been breaking the law by renting their “in-law” unit to visitors to continue to do so while continuing to ban others with in-laws (the ones who have been abiding by the current law) from short term rentals. Yes, you heard me. Item 41a would reward some duplex owners who have been breaking the law by “grandfathering” their short term rentals! This item is a carry-over from the previous City Council, and BTU hopes and expects the new Council to see the inherent risk to renters and reject Item 41a.

Instead, BTU is asking the City Council to support proposals by the Rent Stabilization Board (see below) which would make Item 41b into a short term rentals law much closer to what we have all hoped for: one that would protect our housing stock while allowing owners and tenants to rent their own homes out on AirBnB and other platforms now and again for some extra cash.

BTU did not make these signs, but we were happy to see them
BTU did not make these signs, but we were happy to see them

When is a Kitchen not a Kitchen?

The whole vote on Tuesday will be made extra-confusing by an adjunct proposal; Item 42 changes the definition of kitchen. This may also be an issue renters and those concerned with housing policies will want to weigh in on: can folks rent their converted garage or other “Accessory Building” as a short term rental? Under Item 41b and 42 the answer will be yes, as long as the building does not have a history of being rented for the long term.

There is just one problem with this compromise regarding Accessory Buildings: the new definition of kitchen says a kitchen is not a kitchen if the refrigerator is small! A kitchen would now be defined as “A habitable space used for preparation of food that contains at least a sink, a refrigerator of no less than 10 cubic feet, and either a cooktop and an oven, or a range.This leads to the questions: if you can put a full kitchen in your garage, then why would we allow it to be a vacation rental but not a permanent home at a time when we need housing? If you put a kitchen in your garage, will it be safe for short or long-term renters? BTU has always said we are fine with folks renting their garage as a short term rental if it does not have a kitchen, and thus could not be used for long-term housing.

Short Term Rentals Enforcement

Last summer the Council also directed staff to take action to enforce the existing ban on rentals of less than 14 days if an owner had more than three units listed for the short term. BTU worked with Councilmember Worthington’s office to provide information about several such owners. So far we have not heard of any action taken. Also last summer, the staff from Berkeley put out an RFP and decided to hire a private firm called Host Compliance to enforce the new rules. The firm also contracts with Oakland, Napa, Los Angeles, Denver, Toronto and many other cities, according to their website.
The Rent Board’s recommendations to Council also include language to make enforcement of the new law more effective.

Council Items 41a, 41b and 42 Concern Vacation Rentals
http://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/City_Council/2017/01_Jan/City_Council__01-24-2017_-_Regular_Meeting_Agenda.aspx

Rent Board Gives Advice
The Board is requesting that Council consider proposed revisions to language in the definition of Short-Term Rental (23C.22030 –D) and Host Residence (23C.22030 –D).  I addition, we believe there should be a definition for Long-Term Rental and have provided possible language.  The Board also recommended that Council adopt enforcement language similar to the City of San Francisco to prevent hosting platforms from ignoring local regulations.”
RSB to Council: rent-board-strs-2017
Harr / Simon-Weisberg Proposal: harr-simonweisberg-strs-2017
Soto-Vigil Proposal: soto-vigil-strs-2017

Previous City Council Vote
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2016/07/11/berkeley-council-votes-to-crack-down-on-short-term-rentals-of-multiple-units-by-same-owner/

The Company Berkeley Hired To Do Enforcement
https://hostcompliance.com/

“The AirBnB Police”
http://money.cnn.com/2016/10/01/technology/airbnb-police

Oakland Still Working on STRs
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/01/16/oakland-airbnb-issue-highlights-citys-gentrification-fears/

In Other News

Student Groups Support Harrison in District 4
“We have an opportunity in Berkeley today to lead the way on progressive solutions to our nation’s challenges and ensure that the legacy we leave for those who follow in our paths is an equitable, sustainable, affordable and livable community for years to come. Kate will bring the lessons she has learned from her work as a consultant on the global stage to keep our city welcoming and inclusive and make it an even better place to call home.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2017/01/20/students-support-kate-harrison-district-4-city-council-special-election/

SF Tenant Gets $400,000
A San Francisco woman was forced out of her home when she was hit with a 400 percent rent increase in 2015. The renter’s attorney announced Tuesday that his client had won a $400,000 settlement in her lawsuit alleging an unlawful eviction.”
http://abc7news.com/realestate/san-francisco-renter-wins-$400000-settlement-/1707689/

Warehouse Item Being Developed in Berkeley
http://www.cityofberkeley.info/uploadedFiles/Rent_Stabilization_Board/Level_3_-_General/CTTE_17%20Jan%2013_4x4%20Ad%20Hoc%20Committee%20agenda(1).pdf

Artists Not to Blame
http://fusion.net/story/373688/dont-blame-artists-bay-area-oakland-ghost-ship-housing/

Permits Bureaucracy Drives Events Underground
“Everything about the permitting system is designed to discourage the type of electronic music events that people want to hold, Keenan said, from dropping off special permit applications at the city’s Eastmont police substation on 73rd Avenue, to the applications themselves that say in block-faced letters: “Dancing is not permitted between 1 a.m. and 9 a.m.”  Plus, permits have to be filed at least 30 days in advance. And, it can also be incredibly costly, he said. Each permit has its own associated fee, and while special event permits are only $50, extended-hour cabaret licenses can run as high as $2,900, according to the city’s master fee schedule. There’s also the added cost of hiring security for the event if the city deems it necessary, and acquiring insurance, which is also required.”
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2016/12/09/musicians-artists-costly-permitting-system-forces-events-underground/

Oakland Tries to Shut Down Legit Activist Space
David Keenan is a BTU Member.
Omni founding member David Keenan said the experience calls into question public statements from Mayor Libby Schaaf that city officials would not be conducting a “witch hunt” and would be using “compassion” in their handling of fire and code enforcement complaints. Those types of complaints spiked in the two weeks after the deadly Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood earlier this month.”
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2016/12/28/omni-commons-experience-highlights-oaklands-heavy-handed-approach-for-artist-spaces/

 

BPOA spent $1 Million - and lost!
BPOA spent $1 Million – and lost!

Like progressives all over America, Berkeley voters are sad, angry and frightened about the national election results. However, we have a lot to celebrate at home, and can look forward to once again leading these United States in progressive, humane, and innovative solutions, particularly to the problem of ensuring safe and affordable homes for all.

The big landlords who control about 50% of all rental housing in Berkeley spent about a million dollars to defeat the affordable housing tax Measure U1, and promote their deceptive Measure DD. That is well over $15 per voter! Yet Berkeley voters reaffirmed affordable housing as a core Berkeley value with 75% voting for U1 and 71% voting against DD. This tax on large landlords is expected to generate $4 million annually in new revenue for affordable housing and homelessness prevention programs!!

East Palo Alto also passed a similar landlord tax, and it is hoped this will be a model to take back profits being drained out of our communities and use them to build homes.

Additionally, Berkeley supported stronger protections for families being evicted for owners to move in. Measure AA, which passed with an astounding 73% of the vote, was put on the ballot at the request of the Rent Board.

ProRenter candidates also got strong support from Berkeley. Renter Cheryl Davila beat incumbent Darryl Moore in District 2 despite generous spending by the Association of Realtors for Moore. BTU Members Ben Bartlett and Sophie Hahn were also elected to the City Council, and BTU Member Jesse Arreguin was elected as Mayor!

Perhaps the best news of all for tenants is that landlord incumbent Judy Hunt was voted off the Rent Board, with the “CALI Slate” chosen at the 2016 Tenant Convention easily defeating Hunt’s tiny team.

Elsewhere in the Bay Area, California gained its first new rent control in decades, and even in places like Alameda, where the tenant measure was defeated, renters did gain new protections on November 8.

Soon the new City Council will move forward on core BTU issues like Short Term Rentals and mitigations for Demolition of Rent Controlled Units. BTU will work to guide our new leaders, who we hope will be more responsive to what everyday folks need in order to keep Berkeley a place we can all call home.

ProTenant Slate Wins Rent Board, Removes Landlord Incumbent
The 2016 Berkeley Tenant Convention, hosted by a coalition of Berkeley political groups and attended by nearly 400 Berkeley residents, selected the four CALI Slate members from nine potential candidates.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2016/11/09/cali-slate-sweeps-open-seats-berkeley-rent-board/

Victories for Affordable Housing, Tenants Rights
Berkeley citizens voted to pass Measure U1 on Tuesday with 74.06 percent…Berkeley voters passed Measure AA on Tuesday with 72.29 percent of the vote as of press time, which will place more regulations on owner move-in evictions.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2016/11/09/city-measures-t1-u1-v1-w1-x1-y1-z1-aa-pass-measures-bb-cc-dd-fail/

Landslide for Landlord Tax
Berkeley voters approved a landlord tax that will raise millions for affordable housing.
The measure, U1, passed with about 74 percent of the vote. A competing measure, which landlord groups placed on the ballot in an effort to undermine U1, was crushed, with 71 percent voters rejecting it…
Proponents of U1 filed a state Fair Political Practices Commission complaint against the Berkeley Property Owners Association, alleging they broke the law by using anonymous LLCs to finance their opposition campaign and make it appear that a large group of landlords were opposing the measure, when in fact it was just a handful. The FPPC hasn’t ruled on the complaint yet.”

http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2016/11/09/berkeley-landlord-tax-easily-passes

Berkeley Gets Activist Renter as Mayor
Arreguin said, “I am a renter. I’m like many people in Berkeley, I’m trapped in this housing crisis.”
http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2016/11/11/berkeleys-first-latino-mayor-elect-is-also-its-youngest-ever/

Progressives Take Three of Four Council Seats
Sophie Hahn handily won the District 5 council seat being vacated by Capitelli, defeating another candidate with real estate industry backing, Stephen Murphy, 61.9 percent to 38.1 percent. Hahn is a member of the Zoning Adjustments Board. Capitelli endorsed Murphy, his appointee to the Planning Commission and the panel’s current chairman.
Berkeley for several years has been the scene of a major debate over skyrocketing rents and the shortage of affordable housing, with a six-person council majority backing many controversial development-related issues.”

http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2016/11/09/berkeley-voters-elect-arreguin-mayor/ 

Not Everybody Got Rent Control
Voters in Alameda, Berkeley, Oakland, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Richmond supported some form of rent stabilization or eviction protection legislation while only Burlingame and San Mateo favored a “no” decision.”
http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Alameda-County-Voters-OK-Rent-Control-Housing-Measures-400516081.html

Details on Rent Control Votes
“Measure L in Richmond, which would enact limits on rent increases and landlord evictions, was victorious with 64 percent of the votes cast. In Oakland, with all 279 precincts reporting, 74 percent of voters supported Measure JJ, which requires landlords to get permission from the rent board before increasing rents above the consumer price index and expands eviction protections. In Mountain View, Measure V, which was placed on the ballot by voters, had a slim victory with 53 percent, while W, the council-backed measure fell short with 49 percent.
In Alameda, ground zero for the battle for rent control, Measure M1, the strict tenant rent control measure sponsored by tenants groups, only garnered 34 percent of the vote, well shy of the necessary simple majority. Instead, 56 percent of voters approved L1, a competing, council-backed initiative that did not cap rent increases. Instead landlords must go to mediation in order to increase rents above 5 percent. And in San Mateo County, Measure R in Burlingame mustered just 31 percent of voters, while Measure Q in San Mateo got 38 percent.”
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2016/11/03/bay-area-rent-control-measures/

Oakland Gets What Berkeley Has: Details on Renters Upgrade
https://oaklandnorth.net/2016/10/28/oakland-residents-to-vote-on-rent-control-initiative-this-november/

Mountain View Gets Eviction Protections Too
http://www.mv-voice.com/news/2016/11/15/fearing-evictions-city-backs-immediate-tenant-protections

Record Spending and Fair Political Practices Complaint
“The political action committee for the Berkeley Property Owners Association has steered more than $892,540 in donations to defeat Measure U1 and promote Measure DD, two competing measures that would raise the business tax on rental units… Most of the donors to the “Committee for Real Affordable Housing – Yes on Measure DD, No on Measure U1, Sponsored by the Berkeley Property Owners’ Association,” have not made contributions in their own names. They have used the LLC they created to run various apartment complexes. UC Berkeley’s Progressive Student Alliance  filed a complaint about this practice with the Fair Political Practices Commission, which is investigating the situation.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2016/11/07/fight-involving-measure-dd-and-measure-u1-is-costliest-in-election/

Student Editorial Contrasts Berkeley Wins with National Loss
“Moreover, Berkeley voters proved largely immune to false and misleading campaigns, easily selecting measure U1 over DD, increasing landlord taxes for Berkeley’s wealthiest landlords while still protecting both tenants and small landlords.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2016/11/15/trump-will-not-halt-berkeleys-fight-justice/

National: Senator Boxer Leads Charge to Make Popular Vote Count
http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/politics/Senator-Boxer-to-Introduce-Bill-to-Eliminate-Electoral-College–401314945.html