Lafayette to Look At Rent Control Again After New Tenant Complaints Surface

Thursday, December 3, 2015
Jennifer Modenessi
Inside Bay Area

An emergency ban on rent increases and rent control is back on the table following complaints of overcharging and onerous lease stipulations by residents of a downtown apartment complex.

In a strongly worded letter to the owner of the complex, at 1038 Second St., Lafayette Mayor Brandt Andersson said the city will contact state and county agencies to investigate the issues at the apartments if San Francisco-based Sack Properties fails to respond to allegations made by residents at a Nov. 23 City Council meeting.

Complaints include overcharging for utilities and residents being required to clean their toilets on a weekly basis or face eviction.

"Without counterbalancing testimony from you, the City Council was left to conclude that many or most of these allegations have merit," Andersson wrote to Sack Properties CEO Kirby Sack.

Andersson said the city plans to contact utility companies, the Contra Costa County Housing Authority and the county board of realtors to look into the claims. The mayor also threatened to contact Attorney General Kamala Harris to conduct an investigation "to determine if there is wrongdoing that can be prosecuted."

The city has requested Sack give her responses at a Jan. 25 council meeting. Sack did not reply to requests for comment.

The allegations against Sack include requiring tenants to pay more for utilities than the entire complex is being billed for; excessive charges for waste disposal that are double what single-family homeowners pay throughout Lafayette; and requiring new tenants to pay a $500 pet deposit, pet rent and increased parking rent.

The claims come less than seven months after residents approached the council saying the real estate investment firm had raised rents as much as 90 percent and served 90-day eviction notices after acquiring the more than 100 apartments. Sack later promised to institute a 10 percent annual rent increase.

The council discussed rent control and an emergency moratorium temporarily banning rent increases, but struck down the temporary ban and later tabled rent control, deciding instead to conduct a landlord survey on rents.

Residents say new utility fees and other charges now result in a 25 to 35 percent increase in monthly rent rather than the promised 10 percent. Existing tenants who have not yet received new leases do not currently pay for water and garbage.

One new lease shared with lawmakers requires tenants to clean all toilets, sinks, showers and other bathroom amenities with a household cleaner on a weekly basis to ward off mold and mildew. It also bans skateboards, in-line skates, tricycles and bicycles, citing the safety of all residents.

For resident and 1038 Tenants Association member Nick VanHole, the new rules banning tricycles and children's bikes further damage the community residents have built at the complex.

Residents fear the company will use routine inspections and rules about toilet and closet cleanliness as legal leverage to evict tenants. As for rent control and an emergency ban, VanHole said residents simply want fair leases. 



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