I have lived at Creekside Apartments since 2009 - but for the last two years under duress. My rent was increased 40% in 2012 when the San Mateo county average for similar units was just 14%. No negotiation, just a promise of renovation at some point in the future and the choice phrase from the manager, "...we would like to enhance your resident experience..." I was in graduate school and teaching part-time at a Cal State University in the area. No response to my attempts to negotiate, but with few resources, the crises forced me to take a leave of absence from my PhD program and yet could not find alternative housing on short notice, so I had little choice but to sign the new lease, raise my housemate's rent, and look for more work. The following year, I attempted to move out, had my entire apartment packed and loaded onto the mover's truck...and ended up having no place to move to, because Creekside reported in my rental transcript that I had been late on 13 out of 46 rent payments (they later changed it to 8 out of 46). When the leasing agents saw that, I was denied access - even to a unit that I had put a deposit on. The movers charged me exorbitant "storage" fees as I scrambled to contact the leasing agents to contest Creekside's record for two days - to no effect. And so, once again, under duress, I ended up having the movers unload all my stuff and move it right back in to the same unit I had tried to vacate. I paid Creekside's exorbitant month-to-month rate for a month before I signed my current lease. Now they are raising my rent from $2450 to $2850.
Much of this can be construed as my own fault, and I can take partial responsibility for some details - BUT, after writing letters to the landlord and obtaining a copy of the Executive Report of the market analysis conducted on behalf of the American Association of Apartment Owners by a consulting firm, and many phone calls...it became obvious to me that such reports (and the proprietary rent-calculating software that comes with it) use biased sampling methods and statistical manipulation to justify legally their systematic and comprehensive manipulation of the "market". I have found little to no public awareness or discourse regarding this artificial manipulation of the legal interpretation of "prevailing market conditions". This should be addressed at the state level, but I write it here and now in hopes of finding some help.
One other point concerns late fees charged by corporate landlords. My understanding is that a California Supreme Court decision back in 2004 or so made it ILLEGAL to charge late fees - unless the landlord suffers financial hardship by NOT doing so. I asked Creekside to pay me back those fees (close to $2000) when I move out and they of course said no. But I would love to see their lawyers try to demonstrate in court that they suffered financial hardship by accepting my rent payment 12 hours late. Hasn't anyone challenged these predatory investors in court?
I accessed my employer-provided legal service to find some local lawyers but none of the three wanted anything to do with my idea. I am willing to take this on, if I could find some support.
Cheers all, and thanks for reading this.