News

February 2018

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I want to begin this month by thanking our members for all the phone calls, emails and questions regarding our ongoing effort to fight the battle of Rent Control and repealing Costa-Hawkins.

We the People


Three words that, with your calls and testimony, translated into the defeat of AB1506. Your voices were heard!

Thank You

But the fight is not over and we continue to need your attention as we move into 2018. Here are some Top Tips for what and how you need to be involved this year to support our Association and the multi - family industry:

  1. Red Alerts – Call, email and respond as requested. This DOES make a difference!
  2. Calls to Action – This could be alerting you to an issue or important event where you can make a difference.
  3. Contribute to the PAC – This is how we support those elected officials who may be on important committees in Sacramento and local electeds within our territory.
  4. Contribute with unrestricted funds to AACSC Funds within this category may be used for postage, creating flyers, letters, sending email, etc.
  5. Stay alert – If you hear of something happening, we need to know so call us.
  6. Help us with our membership. We know that there are many owners who are not members, yet they are benefitting from all the work being done on their behalf. If you know someone who is not a member, please encourage them to join. We need all the voices and strength working together to fight these threats; i.e., Rent Control, Just Cause Eviction, Jury Trials…
  7. Attend our Membership Meetings and bring a friend.
  8. Attend AACSC Events – This is a great way to introduce non-members to the benefits that we offer.
  9. Educate – AACSC is the best place to learn and grow in the multifamily industry. Offering both classroom courses, National certifications and online classes for those who can’t leave the office.
  10. ASK US! If there is something we haven’t covered, call and let us know you want to be involved, we are always looking for those who want to be included.

Rent Control

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Rent Control: Left and Right Economists Finally Agree on Something… and Other Major Points

Time and again we have gone to bat to raise awareness about the awful—and unintentional—effects of rent and price control as well as removing extremely important laws in place. In theory, as in many cases, enacting help in that way for the public sounds like a good thing with little downside—that is to those who have no experience or training on the economic and other side effects. And when we repeal laws meant to counteract some of the major downsides that quickly pop up, such as Costa-Hawkins which allows vacancy decontrol (allows a landlord to rent vacancies at Market Rent) and prevents cities from adding other housing types into their rent controlled ordinances, it has even more harsh downsides for the entire community—not just the landlords who have worked very hard to pay for and operate their businesses, as well as to provide necessary housing for the general public.

Published in the Econ Journal Watch, Volume 6, Number 1, dated January 2009, is a very interesting piece culminating from a study completed by several economists—from both the right and left in politics—on policies concerning rent control and its effects on the local economies. In the Journal, the economists actually agree with one another in that a “preponderance of evidence of the literature points toward the conclusion that rent control introduces inefficiencies in housing markets.” This is not just for the landlords, but also for the residents who live there. Along with that last statement, they also clarify that, “the literature on the whole does not sustain any plausible redemption in terms of redistribution. The literature on the whole may be fairly said to show that rent control is bad, yet… about 140+ jurisdictions persist in some form of the intervention.” Even more alarming, they begin their assessment saying, “Rent control is usually introduced to economics students as a price ceiling and an unambiguous (‘clear-cut’) source of inefficiency.” Whoa! When I first learned of this, that really made my ears perk up; why aren’t more people paying attention to this? That’s like the case with being allowed to put MSG in foods—scientists feed it to rats as their genuine protocol to fatten them up and speed the decline of their health to study diseases! So, in both cases, we know it’s extraordinarily the wrong thing to do, and here we continue pressing it on? It sure can leave one scratching their head in breathtaking bewilderment.

Here are some other major points included in an article published just back in January of this year about a study done in San Francisco titled, “How Rent Control Can Exacerbate Inequality.” In their introduction they pointed out that these laws are “not all they’re cracked up to be” and their study concluded the following:

• …landlords were 10 percent more likely to convert their building into condos if it became rent controlled. The rental supply in San Francisco dropped by 6 percent following the expansion of rent control.

• Rents throughout the city increased by 5.1 percent as a result—researchers calculated total cost to tenants from rent hikes to be $2.9 billion, nearly half of which was paid by residents who moved to San Francisco following the establishment of rent control.

• Given the negative repercussions of rent control policies, the researchers argued that other approaches to affordable housing that don’t inherently punish landlords might be more effective, such as creating a tax credit for rent.

Some of that is worth restating: Because these laws were put into place, they actually had an opposite effect and drove prices up. Here, in our communities, we are doing what we can to keep prices down—we are looking for the lowest priced ven dors—apartment suppliers, like stores/outlets, to specialized skilled wor kers such as plumbers/electricians—while at the same time not sacrificing the quality of work. This is not an easy task. With inflation constantly on the rise coming out of Washington, no price controls on taxes and fees, no insurance control, no paint control, no pipe control, no light fixture control, and rising utility prices—how does that justify keeping only one sector down and forcing them to pay the inflating prices of these other necessities while none of the above men tioned must keep their prices down for anyone? Where’s the equality?

It Was A Jungle Out There, But The Industry Heard Us Roar

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With over 100 vendor booths and exhibits and educational seminars through out the day, the 49th Annual Trade Show provided a roaring good time for all in attendance! The show was once again held at the Long Beach Convention Center, but in a new location. AACSC was excited to be in the Arena/Pacific Ballroom!

Thank you to the following companies that were so generous in sponsoring the day. King of theJungle Sponsor, Optimum Seismic; Tote BagSponsor, California Safety Agency; Parking Sponsor, V&S Carpet and Flooring Services;Rainforest Refresher Sponsor, Jim’s Floor Covering; Music Sponsor, Royal Roofing; Monkey Maze Bingo Card Sponsor, CBRE, Dan Blackwell; and finally our Sign Sponsor, Perfect Circle Design. Perfect Circle Design provides all signage used by AACSC from the trade show, Golf Classic, meetings, lunches and all special events. They are an AACSC Affinity Partner as well. Thank you again to all of our sponsors for your continued support of AACSC! Remember to support AACSC’s vendor members when you have a service need.

We look forward to 2018 when we will be celebrating our 50th Annual Trade Show! Watch for details coming soon! AACSC’s trade show will still be “Nifty at 50!!”

Pet Policy Gone Wild

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New “assistance animals” regulations proposed by the Fair Employment and Housing Council (FEHC) will likely cause heartburn in the rental housing community. The attempt to bring clarity in the murky area of service and support animal needs versus fraud is fraught with ambiguity. It is understandable why rental property owners are confused about the law, existing and proposed. Unless you’re a lawyer who regularly studies these issues, it is hard to know where one assistance animal law begins and another one ends. When does “reasonable accommodation” become unreasonable? Ultimately, rental property owners are scared of being sued and, therefore, often choose to allow support animals onto their property, even when they suspect fraud is being perpetrated on them.

But owners have very important, reasonable and necessary reasons for having a no-pets policy. Animals can be dangerous, spread disease, interfere with the quiet enjoyment of others, and damage property. An owner’s right to keep animals off a property, unless to accommodate a person with a real need, therefore, must be protected. Unfortunately, current laws, including future laws under this Proposal, fail to protect owners from those fraudulently gaining access for their animals to rental properties.

Rental housing owners and managers support and understand the need for providing reasonable accommodations to those who legitimately need an emotional support animal, as these animals (or “comfort animals”) can provide a therapeutic benefit to those with a mental or psychiatric disability.

We also recognize that service and support animal fraud is rampant and easily perpetrated under our current laws and regulations. More and more individuals are pretending their pets are legitimate service or emotional support animals when, in fact, the person has no legitimate need for the animal or the animal itself is not legitimately a service or support animal. Ultimately, that is the main concern we have expressed in regard to FEHC’s Proposal: the proposed regulations do little to protect rental property owners from fraudulent requests for support animals.

Support and service animal fraud is widespread in our society. Fake assistance animals are everywhere. Multiple news reports suggest that it is more than a few bad apples that are perpetrating the fraud. Rental property owners should not be forced to accommodate people who are perpetrating fraud on them, nor should laws and regulations facilitate such fraud. Unfortunately, this Proposal does just that, because it contains few, if any, effective anti-abuse mechanisms to prevent people from gaming the system.

People requesting a reasonable accommodation for a support animal should have a legitimate disability that requires them to have a support animal. They should have a real diagnosis and prescription for a support animal by a real medical or mental health professional with expertise to give an opinion about the disability at issue and the need for a service or support animal. The disability diagnosis and need for a support animal should also be current. Any one with a real disability and a real need for a sup port animal should have this kind of documentation. Without these standards, there are no standards. Anyone could self-diagnose, tell their friends or “peer support group” they have a disability and a need for a support animal, and then use that friend or group as a source to verify their disability. Alternatively, a person who was diagnosed with a disability five years ago, and who might not currently have a disability or need for an accommodation, could use that stale prescription to game the system. We are sure that this is not the way the law is supposed to work.
We submitted, on behalf of the Association, detailed comments on the FEHC’s Assistance Animal Proposal, including a number of ways the Proposal is deficient in preventing fraud and subject to abusive conduct:

  • Diagnosis or assessment by a licensed medical or mental health professional is not required.
  • The need for a support animal is not required to be a current need.
  • The person verifying a person’s disability or need for an accommodation does not need to be a medical or mental health professional or need to have specific training or education about support animals.
  • When an owner knows about a disability but not the need for an accommodation, the owners should still be able to request reliable information describing the needed accommodation and the nexus between disability and accommodation.

A meaningful review of a requested accommodation should allow rental property owners to make reasonable requests for certain reliable documents from reliable sources that are specifically defined. The following is a list of provisions that should be contained within the regulation to prevent fraud and abuse, and to ensure that reasonable accommodations are provided to those with legitimate needs:

  • Owners should be able to require disability and need for accommodation verification documents to come from a licensed medical or mental health professional.
  • The documentation should describe the nature, severity and duration of the disability.
  • The disability, need for the accommodation, and verifying documentation should be current (i.e., not more than one year old), and on letterhead from a mental health professional.
  • The medical or mental health professionals must have expertise to give an opinion about the person’s medical condition and the need for the accommodation.
  • Owners should be able to request new verification documents if the previous “doctor’s note” was not described as permanent.
  • The person seeking the accommodation must be under the current care of the prescribing medical or mental health professional.
  • Verification from a “letter mill” should be prohibited entirely.

Our comment letter to FEHC on assistive animals high lighted all the ways in which the Proposal represents an unbalanced approach to addressing the issue of assistive animals in rental housing. We discussed the failure of the Proposal to consider the quiet enjoyment of other tenants, nuisance issues, the safety and health of other tenants, pet fraud, and the need for rental housing providers to be able to establish reasonable rules for tenants who are provided a reasonable accommodation. In short, the needs of property owners and other tenants are not properly accounted for or taken into consideration, and the Proposal should be amended to better reflect the realities of landlord tenant relationships and the respective needs of each group.

Tax Reform

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Tax reform is front and center on the congressional agenda, and there is a real chance it will become law this year. The last comprehensive tax reform legislation was the Tax Reform Act of 1986 (TRA 1986) signed into law 30 years ago by President Ronald Reagan. We all remember how that bill devastated the industry for years, so it is imperative that we engage with policymakers to ensure a more positive outcome.

In the years since TRA 1986, legislation has changed the tax code—mainly at the margins—focusing on rate changes and other targeted pro visions while comprehensive reform has eluded policymakers.

The election of Donald Trump and continued Republican control of the Congress has changed the outlook for tax reform. One-party rule where reform is a priority for all of the key players has increased the odds that broad-based legis lation can become law.

At this stage of the process, House Republicans are taking the lead on reform. While President Trump made a number of proposals during the 2016 campaign, it is House Republicans who have put forward the most detailed plan. Entitled “A Better Way Forward for Tax Reform,” the House GOP released a “blueprint” for reform last summer, which is the starting point for their internal discussions. The blueprint would:

• Reduce the top tax rate on LLCs, partnerships, S Corporations and other pass-thru entities to 25 percent from 39.6 percent;
• Tax capital gains, dividends, and interest at a maximum rate of 16.5 percent;
• Replace depreciation with immediate expensing of all investment except for land;
• Eliminate the deduction for business interest;
• Eliminate like-kind exchanges;
• Eliminate the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit; and
• Repeal the estate tax while retaining stepped-up basis for inherited assets.

It is important to note that while the Blueprint appears to eliminate the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), there are good indications it may be put back into the House GOP proposal.

As the most developed tax reform product in circulation at the moment, the Blueprint is the centerpiece of conversation around tax reform. However, it is not yet legislation, and there could be significant changes made before an actual bill is introduced.

Moreover, the White House and Senate still need to flesh out their own proposals. There is much time to go before a reform agree ment is reached, if at all, and we can expect the details of any agreement to change several times along the way.

For our part, the apartment housing industry’s primary objective in reform is to support legislation that promotes economic growth and investment in rental housing without unfairly burdening apartment owners and renters relative to other asset classes. To this end, we are pushing lawmakers to ensure the following priorities are reflected in any bill that moves forward.

Tax reform must protect “flow-through entities” (e.g., LLCs, partnerships, S Corporations, etc.), which are the dominant business structure in our industry.

Under this model, a firm’s earnings are passed through to the partners who pay taxes on their individual tax returns. Accordingly, Congress must not reduce corporate tax rates financed by forcing flow through entities to pay higher taxes by subjecting them to a corporate-level tax or by denying credits and deductions.

It is also a priority for the apartment housing industry to maintain “like-kind exchanges” where property owners can defer tax on the gain on sale of an asset if, instead of selling their property, they exchange it for another comparable prop erty. These rules encourage property owners to remain invested in the real estate market. Such an important tool for investment must be maintained in a reformed tax code. Notably, with the exception of land, the expensing proposal in the House Republican Blueprint provides for de facto like-kind exchanges.

Tax reform should also take care to preserve investment incentives. Borrowing is a central part of how apartment housing is financed (a typical development project could be financed with 1/3 capital and 2/3 debt and the tax code has long provided a full deduction for interest). Indeed, without business interest deductibility, the cost of debt financing would increase and shift many real estate business models. This would inhibit devel opment activity at a time when we face significant affordability challenges.

Policymakers should also take care when making changes to cost recovery rules like depreciation so they do not harm real estate investment. Apartment buildings are currently depreciated on a 27.5-year schedule. While House Republicans are proposing to allow buildings to be immediately expensed, others have suggested extending the current law depreciation period. This would surely lead to reduced development and invest ment and ultimately undermine real estate values and stifle job creation.

Finally, protecting the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) is a priority for the apartment housing industry. The LIHTC is the central vehicle producing housing for moderate- and low-income families. We are in a period of crisis in housing affordability and need stronger incentives like the LIHTC to effectively respond. This program must remain a vital part of the strategy to address our nation’s housing needs.

You will notice some overlap between what is being proposed, at least in the House GOP Blue print, and the apartment housing industry’s priorities. It is important to remember that policy makers are truly looking to reshape how taxes are levied in this country and that perhaps what they propose could effectively replace what is in the tax code now and keep the apartment housing industry whole. We remain open minded on this point as we continue to press for our top priorities and evaluate in detail what tax reform proposals mean for our business.

Every member of the apartment housing industry must be engaged in the advocacy campaign on tax reform. That means contacting your members of Congress and communicating our message.

Changes to the tax code will impact all of us, and it is our responsibility to ensure whatever reform is passed does not harm our ability to provide housing to one-third of the nation. To learn more about how you can get involved in shaping the debate, contact Peter Fromknecht at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and take our Advocacy Interview at http://re.spon.se/OTmUtG to see who you might know on Capitol Hill! Your relationships with lawmakers and your willingness to act on those relationships will make the difference between success and failure on tax reform.

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(562) 426-8341

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