Lobbying: Importance of Being Part of AACSC

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Lobbying: Importance of Being Part of AACSC

By the time this column is read, approximately 20 AACSC members and Executive Director Johanna Cunningham will have returned from a two-day Sacramento trip to lobby on behalf of YOU, our Association members, on key bills targeting landlords that are pending before the Legislature. So WHAT, you might ask, is so important that 20 people would leave family and jobs behind and pay their own way for travel, food and lodging to spend two days in Sacramento? There are four bills that we chose to lobby against. The four bills are the following:

No. 1: The Bill: SB 655 (Mitchell) seeks to make the existence of any kind and any amount of mold in a residential rental unit a substandard housing condition. Bearing in mind the existence of more than 300,000 species of mold in the world without distinguishing between harmful molds or harmful levels of mold, land- lords could well become the subject of a new wave of abusive litigation prac tices. Because so many types of species of mold/fungi exist, many of which are not in the least harmful to humans, it is unjust to hold landlords liable whenever any kind of mold is found in a residential unit.

No. 2: The Bill: SB 364 (Leno), in simple terms, is a resale price control measure on privately owned and non-government subsidized residential property in San Francisco. The author continues to state that his bill is about preventing speculators from buying rental property and evicting tenants. Conveniently left out of the conversation, however, are middle-income property landlords, who own these properties and (at some future time) may want people to buy them. These same small owners often need a way out of the rental housing business, especially in San Francisco where rent control policies are harsh, so they can retire or cover their losses. Small rental housing owners purchase properties, investing a lifetime of sweat, tears and hard work into preserving their property, with an expectation of selling it in order to one day retire. The author fails to discuss the harsh impact of this bill on the owners of these properties.

No. 3: The Bill: AB 396 (Jones-Sawyer) would make past criminal history a protected class. Under the bill, landlords would be forced to house all ex-offenders regardless of the type of crime they committed, the circumstances of those crimes, the numbers of convictions or how recently the crimes occurred. Land -lords have a legitimate non-discriminatory purpose for checking the criminal background of prospective tenants, and denying tenancy when they pose a significant threat. Felons who have been convicted of sex offenses, drug sales or manufacturing, property crimes, arson, robbery, assaults and other violent crimes, pose the greatest danger to residents and property. Protected classes (though not an exhaustive list) consist of categories in which people have no choice in participation such as race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, persons with disabilities—or groups in which the choice would not be relevant to a landlord such as religion or families with children. The same cannot be said regarding felons. No one is born with a felony conviction. A felony conviction results from choices made by that individual. To give felons protected class status insulates them from the consequences of their own conduct. No such protection is presently afforded persons by the Fair Housing Act.

No. 4: The Bill: AB 551 (Nazarian) imposes specific duties on landlords to control one insect: bed bugs. Under the bill, landlords would be required to contract with one pest control company within three days of a complaint, and have that company conduct an inspection within that same time period. Within ten days, a pesticide treatment pro -gram must begin. Going yet another step further, under the bill even if the landlord did not cause the problem, tenants may withhold rent, make a diminution of value claim or make a legal claim under substandard housing and habitability laws.

The bill forces landlords and highly regulated pest control operators to abdicate state health regulations to private association standards, the National Pest Management Association. AB 551 would add to existing state laws that already prohibit bed bugs (California Code of Regulations, Title 25, Chapter 1, Subchapter 1). Additionally, other state laws currently direct landlords to act and control insects, including bed bugs. Those laws include the implied warranty of habitability, negligence, gross negligence, and substandard housing. There are also local health laws that are or should be followed and enforced regarding bugs, including those nasty bed bug critters.

My column this month is titled, Lobbying: Importance of Being Part of AACSC. The featured bills are a representative sample of bills all of us should deeply care about. Being forced to accept felons, making sure landlords maintain mold-free properties, setting a precedent that forces landlords to remain in business for the first five years of ownership, to bed bug regulations, are just four out of 134 bills affecting landlords.

In March every AACSC member received a letter (dated March 17, return envelope included) asking for a donation so we can keep fighting for YOU. If you haven’t yet sent in a check, please consider doing so now. It takes time, money and the efforts of many, including our professional lobbying team, to advocate on your behalf as a rental property owner. Isn’t your property investment worth writing a check to AACSC?

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