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Presidential Contenders Reflect Factions of Their Parties

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April 2017

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16,422 steps—that’s how many, give or take a few, that I walked on our National Apartment Association (NAA) Lobby Day. Also attending were long-time AACSC member Malcolm Bennett, our California Rental Housing Association (CalRHA) President Larry Cannizzaro, other CalRHA members and more than 3,000 multi - family housing partners from across the nation.

The goal was to reach all 535 Congressional members either in person or by leaving our materials behind with senior staff or whomever was available in their office. Of course, the day we lobbied on the Hill was that same day that the discussion to make changes in our Health Care was beginning to heat up so many were back and forth to the floor to vote or were in meetings, so we took our meetings with the members where we could—in the hall, outside Committee Rooms, walking… it didn’t matter where, but one way or the other we were going to get our message out that housing matters, that appropriate Tax Reform was indeed important and that we needed to extend Flood Insurance across the states.

If you have never been to Lobby Day, either on the National level or within your state, I will dare to say that as a multifamily housing provider it is in your best interest that you, at the very least, let your voice be heard. Yes, I said it again.

There is nothing like beginning your day early in the morning in the very crisp air of Washington D.C. and all that entails. Senators, Congressmen and women, staffers, interns, and security personnel fill the halls of the marble buildings like the Rayburn, Longworth and Canon. Once you enter that door, the world outside is left behind and your world becomes different somehow. You are there to fulfill a purpose, not for yourself, but for each of you who own property and provide housing, who are selfless in your willingness to give back to your residents and community and provide a place to live, only asking to be fairly compensated for the privilege.

You want your message to resonate with each elected member. Your goal is to say the “perfect” thing that will help them understand how important this visit is to our industry. When you leave you can only hope that you told your story in a sincere and powerful way. Yes, they “get it”—then, it is on to the next appoint ment, down the elevator and into the tunnels that connect one building to the next. By the end of the day, you are familiar with the maze of tunnels and where to find the cafeteria where you can take a little time to reflect on how the day is going. Maybe it is time to change shoes, but soon enough it is time to move on.

By the end of the day you gather together with everyone else from across the country to say “Good job,” and “How did your meetings go today;” “Great,” is the reply. Each person leaves with a sense of accomplishment, a hug for friends you made along the way and a “travel safe back home and see you at the next meeting.” But no meeting as important as the ones you just left behind.

As I said my goodbyes, I decided to walk the final leg back to the hotel. Within just a few minutes I found myself passing another group of women in red along the side of the Capitol building for Women’s Day. It reminds me that each group who visits the Hill has their own purpose, goal and message. Then I arrive at my temporary home with 16,462 steps left behind in the ongoing effort to tell our own important message.

Multifamily owners matter. I will be back next year and the year after that until I know they “get it.” I do. Until then, thanks for the memories and be sure to support your PAC—remember that there are many who are walking the halls on your behalf and that they are the front line soldiers who go to bat for those who may not be able to walk those 16,462 steps. Your contribution makes that passion to support our industry an easy walk as each year we begin again with a crisp walk into those marble halls on your behalf.

More Affordable Housing

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Housing providers have always been better Aadvocates for tenants than the so called tenants rights groups. Sound counterintuitive? Not really if you think it through.

The majority of housing providers rely on rental income to fund their retirements. You wouldn’t want to be at war with the individuals who fund your way of paying your bills, would you? Is it in the best interest of tenants’ rights groups for housing providers and tenants to be at war with each other? Very possibly.

If housing providers—yes, all you retirees know who you are—are made out to be bad guys, that ignites the kind of “good guy vs. bad guy” emotion that leads to successful fund raising. Is beating the “bad guys” their only issue? Fortunately no. Tenant advocates are trying as hard as housing providers to stimulate the construction of more affordable housing. Maybe their problem is a marketing problem.

Building more housing isn’t as emotional an issue as beating down the “bad landlord.” Take away that emotional appeal and you lose donations and maybe your job. If their real value, which is to advocate for the construction of more housing, isn’t emotional enough to sustain their fund raising, then maybe it’s time to redefine their mission. Is there anything to be proud of in finding below market housing for a needy tenant by defunding the retirement income of a housing provider who spent a lifetime fixing leaky plumbing and repairing old roofs in order to have money to live on down the road? Not if you’re being honest with yourself.

Housing providers, for better or for worse, do have a sort of marital bond with tenants. One partner’s job is to make a good home for the other to live in. The other’s job is to treat their home with respect and pay the rent. It’s a fair exchange. When things are going well, it’s an easy relationship. When things aren’t going so well, that’s when the strength of the relationship begins to show.

The problems are usually financial. The housing provider may fall on hard times and not keep the property in the shape they normally would. For the tenant who finds themselves in a financial jam, one of their first pleas for help is to their housing provider. Most of the time, the problem on both sides gets resolved, but a major reason for this is their reasonable business relationship. Take that away with adversarial rules like REAP and Rent Control, and that bond is forever broken.

Let’s not let that happen! It’s in tenants’ and housing providers’ best interests to maintain a fair relationship. Tenants’ rights organizations won’t like it. They can’t profit by it. When you understand that, it makes all the sense in the world for housing providers and tenants to stick together.

Non-Payment of Rent

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At press time, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to hear and approve AB 2819 (Chiu) which amends California’s unlawful detainer (UD) “masking” law (Code of Civil Procedure Section 1161.2). Current law requires UD proceedings to be masked—barred from public view—for 60 days from the time of filing, after which the record is made public unless the tenant prevails in the action or successfully settles with the property owner. Assembly Member Chiu’s bill requires UD proceedings to remain masked or “hidden” indefinitely unless the rental property owner prevails on a default judgment, summary judgment, trial or stipulation by all of the parties. The bill also imposes an additional 60-day “masking” period measured if a default or default judgment is set aside.

The problem with the bill is that tenants can default on rent, force landlords to file a UD action, then skip town without any repercussions. Unless a landlord pays more money to go back to court to get a default judgment, no record of the default will ever be made public. And, no other type of financial default is treated this way. We argue that tenant default is a matter of public record and concern; failure to make the records public harms the rental housing and the mortgage lending industries, and is contrary to public policy. Among our reasons to oppose Assembly Member Chiu’s bill:

Requiring landlords to go back to court to get a default judgment will needlessly burden an overworked and underfunded court system. In 2013, the Assembly Judiciary Committee released an in-depth paper entitled “The Access to Justice Crisis Facing California Families.” In it the Committee re ported on the state of our impacted and underfunded court system.

Closed court rooms, reduced clerk hours and self-help pro grams, elimination of civil court reporters, and increases in the number of parties coming to court have contributed to incredibly long delays in getting matters in court heard and re solved. This bill will un nec essarily add to the problems our courts face. Forcing landlords to go back to court to get default judgments will wastefully tie up courts and resources, for reasons that are contrary to our public records and transparency policies.

Non-payment of rent is a matter of public record and concern. Like any mortgage default, credit default, bankruptcy, and other debt obligations, non-payment of rent is a matter of public record and concern. When California’s masking law first went into effect in 1991, this Legislature stated specifically that:

“It is the policy of the State of California to promote open access to public records. It is in the interest of the public to assure, to the greatest extent possible, that there is open public access to court records, including civil case files.” (See, SB 892, statutes of 1991, Legislative Counsel Digest.)

Public access to court records in UD cases not only serves to encourage people to pay their rent on time, property owners have the right to know whether a prospective tenant is a serial rent defaulter or vexatious litigant.

Legislation like this bill, that serves to keep important information from public view, is contrary to California’s open records and public access policies, and unfairly keeps rental property owners in the dark and from knowing the truth about prospective tenants.

AB 2819 unfairly places the cost, burden and responsibility for ensuring that tenant defaults are made public on the backs of rental property owners. Property owners are already burdened by the fact that they have not received several months of rent, they will likely never receive the lost rent, and they have to pay for attorney and court costs to bring an eviction action. Once they finally get possession, they will not have any incentive to pay their attorney to go back to court to get a default judgment. And they shouldn’t be required to do so. Legislation should instead focus on making it easier for tenants to correct their records if any mistakes occur.

AB 2819 will unfairly keep a majority of all UD actions hidden from public view. Most property owners who get possession of their properties before a UD proceeding concludes do not go back to court for a judgment. There is no incentive to do so. They’ve already lost months of rent, and they’ve paid court and attorney fees to file the UD action. The last thing they should be required to do is pay more court and attorney fees to get a judgment. Because judgments will not be sought, thousands upon thousands of rent default records will remain hidden from public view.

Requiring property owners to prevail in order to unmask a UD proceeding only serves to promote more delays and frivolous claims. UDs are supposed to be expeditious civil proceedings, and one of the few policies that encourages quick resolution is the masking law. Because proceedings become unmasked at the 60-day mark, parties are encouraged to settle or complete the trial within that period. This bill removes the incentive to settle quickly, while encouraging the practice of lodging baseless and meritless claims to further delay proceedings.

Like mortgage defaults, credit defaults, bankruptcies, and other debt obligations, non-payment of rent is a civil matter of public record and concern. Whether it’s a mortgage, credit, loan, or other extension of goods or property based on trust, credit and default histories are paramount to any decision to lend, loan or provide. That is why nonpayment defaults are always made public immediately upon a default filing without the need for a legal judgment. Non-payment of rent should be treated no different. Tenant defaults are a matter of public concern and relied upon by all other rental property owners in the state. Eviction records must be made public to ensure rental property owners are fully apprised of a tenant’s rental history. Count on the Association reaching out to you tocontact your Senator urging him/her to vote NO.

Ron may be reached at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

New 2016 AACSC Board President Installation

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Steve Schiro
2016 AACSC Board President

We invite you to the installation of the new AACSC 2016 Board President, Steve Schiro, on January 29th at the Virginia Country Club in Long Beach.

 

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