By Matt Levin and Elizabeth Castillo | CALmatters
In a quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of south Sacramento, the property looks like any other on the block: a single-story house that could use a new paint job, a large front yard that could use a little tidying, a chain-link fence circumferencing the lot.
The tenants inside have no complaints — they have a good relationship with the property manager, and broken things get fixed on time. But like millions of renters in this increasingly costly state, they say that if their landlord raised the rent, they couldnt afford to stay.
State law doesnt do much to protect against such a scenario. Because they rent a single-family home, they wouldnt benefit from rent control even if Sacramento votes to adopt it next year. They could be evicted without being given a specific reason why.
The tenants — who declined to be identified for this story — were unaware their monthly rent checks were going to the wife of a man with significant sway over whether those state laws will change this year: state Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. A Democrat from Los Angeles, Rendon and his wife collect rental income from four properties: three single-family homes in Sacramento and a condominium in downtown L.A.
Rendon declined to be interviewed for this story. A spokesman wrote via email that Rendon “is aware of the cost pressure that many tenants face and has voted for a host of tenants protection bills that have been before him in the Assembly.” He emphasized that the Speakers wife owned three of the rental properties well before marrying Rendon.
Lobby of a Los Angeles condominium building housing a unit being rented out by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. Photo by Julie Cart for CALmatters
Hes not the only lawmaker to double as a landlord. A CALmatters analysis of state-required financial disclosure documents reveals that at least 30 lawmakers — more than 25% of the Legislature — own one or more properties that generate income from tenants. Six sit on one of the Legislatures housing committees. Many are renting out multiple homes, receiving, at a minimum, tens of thousands of dollars a year in rent checks.
While comprehensive data on legislator living arrangements is hard to obtain, CALmatters could locate only one lawmaker who did not own a home: Assemblyman Todd Gloria, A Democrat from San Diego. (Email us if we missed one.)
Over the past three years, bills to expand rent control, require “just cause” evictions and provide other tenant protections have failed to make it out of the state capitol. Tenant advocacy groups say that while the influence of the landlord and developer lobby is their biggest obstacle in convincing lawmakers to support their legislation, the fact that so many lawmakers are landlords themselves probably doesnt help.
“In a very real sense, theyd be taking money out of their own pockets,” said Elliot Stevenson of the Sacramento Tenants Union, an advocacy group for Sacramento renters.
Where the “mom and pop landlord” narrative resonates
Debra Carlton, a spokeswoman for the California Apartment Association, a prominent landlord interest group, said legislators who are are also landlords arent necessarily biased against tenant legislation.
“I dont know if its anything different than a legislator who has a tax benefit from owning a home,” said Carlton. “I think they just better understand what the issues are.”
Carltons group opposes a suite of pro-tenant legislation — bills that a group of progressive lawmakers says will help California renters struggling to afford to stay in their homes. A bill from Assemblyman David Chiu, a Democrat from San Francisco, would impose a “rent-gouging” cap on allowable rent increases. Another from Assemblyman Richard Bloom, a Democrat from Santa Monica, would allow cities to apply rent control to single-family homes and apartments built after 1995.
Assemblyman Rob Bonta, a Democrat from Alameda, has reintroduced a bill that would require landlords to give tenants a “just cause” for terminating their lease. Supporters say “just cause” protections prevent arbitrary and discriminatory evictions while preventing landlords from circumventing local rent control protections.
Last year, that bill received only 16 votes in the Democrat-controlled Assembly — it needed 41 to pass. Bonta said he had conversations with fellow lawmakers who would cite their own personal experience as landlords in explaining their reluctance to vote for the bill.
State lawmakers own properties across California that generate income—including this Sacramento house rented out by Democratic Assemblyman Kevin McCarty of Sacramento. Photo by Matt Levin for CALmatters
“Were all shaped by experiences,” said Bonta. “If they had a really bad experience with someone who really shouldnt be a tenant because of all the things they were doing, violating the lease…that could color their view.”
But Bonta, who himself rents a unit in Alameda to a family member, stresses that just because some legislators are landlords doesnt mean they wont support sensible tenant protections, and that being a landlord helps them understand the parRead More – Source