Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hayward landlords raise rents 50%. Tenants fight back

Tenants are not prepared to take this lying down.
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I attended a meeting of some  Hayward tenants today whose landlords have raised rents 50% that amounts to increases of anywhere from $600 to $900.  The word “terrorism” is very popular these days though the mass media rarely uses it to describe domestic acts of terror and never when it comes to Landlords. But we should recognize that what is happening to these tenants in Hayward is an act of terror, economic terrorism. One person I spoke to is on disability retirement and also has a daughter. For him it will mean being on the street. There are people serving time for much less than this.

The tenants, residents of 21631 and 21663 Garden Avenue in Hayward CA, are fighting back and have formed the Hayward Gardens Tenants Association. Through a lawyer they have managed to slow the process down as the Landlords through their property management company violated numerous legal procedures. 

One important violation is that California state law requires a landlord to give tenants a 30-day notice of any rent increase. But this period rises to 60 days if the increases are above 10% as far as I understand it.   A rent increase of 10% is considered “seriously high” as one attorney put it.  An increase of 50% is savage. Imagine one’s mortgage increasing by 50% in a month. What sort of human being is this?

The landlords, like most of them with any significant rental income property, hire property managers as they do their best to keep as much distance as possible between themselves and their victims.  These particular Landlords, Sammy Chan and Francis Leung also have their own accounting firm, called 9 Kearny Street LLC.

One tenant said that they want to appeal to the landlords so they understand what this means to them but someone that can do this does not care. They see their tenants simply as income-----unit 12, unit 35 and do so on.  The other problem is that they can legally raise this rent 50%, they have simply not followed procedure. The courts and the politics of city and state governments are all dominated by landlord interests, everyone knows that.  And while any rent control is welcomed, the bigger fight is for affordable and decent social housing.

In this case, the complex is in what is called an unincorporated area so it does not fall under Hayward City Council’s jurisdiction but the Board of Supervisors of Alameda County, the county that Hayward is in.  There is no rent control at all in unincorporated Hayward.

Skyrocketing rents and gentrification is making it almost impossible for people that work in some urban centers from living in them. This is particularly the case in San Francisco across the bay and increasingly in Oakland a few miles north of Hayward. Municipal bodies do next to nothing to prevent these type of assaults on working or people and our need for affordable housing. And we cannot rely on the courts as money always wins in these forums, any success we have in them is very limited as the law is on the side of the landlord.

I was invited to the meeting of the tenants to share my experiences as I was involved in a renters’ rights group some years ago and we had some major successes.  I stressed that the bottom line is the that law is against them, that the landlords can legally do what they are doing.  The tenants’ strength lies in organizing and using more direct action methods, relying their own strength and not the politicians who will only act if forced to do so. What works is mobilizing people and not just those directly affected as if this landlord gets away with this others will be encouraged.

When a landlord(s) intervenes in our lives in such a way that our health and welfare and the welfare of our families and our children are affected, we can retaliate by intervening in theirs lives as well as the lives of politicians who do nothing or who pay lip service when complaints are brought to them.  “You have to follow protocol” is the common refrain which means us as victims taking the road that will ensure defeat and a sense of helplessness. They want to wear us down until we go away.

Landlords often have other business that organized tenants and their allies can picket. They go to church where we can turn up and leaflet the congregation explaining the harm they are doing to others through their business lives. We can find out where they live and leaflet their neighbors. All sorts of direct activity that hurts their pocket books or reveals their darker side can be used as long as there are no threats of violence and other counterproductive activity. The main point is that they are interfering negatively in our lives and we can do the same with theirs. It is when their economic interests are threatened that they listen and act regardless of any laws.

Even if this particular landlord is using the 50% figure as a bluff in order to lower it and show the tenants he has compassion, that itself is an act of terror. It is terrorizing people, threatening to make them homeless.

The 22 tenants at today’s meeting decided to organize a “call in” tomorrow (April 25th) to the Office of Scott Haggerty, the Alameda Board of Supervisors representative for their unincorporated area of Alameda County. It is a disgrace that this can occur at all.

They are asking any and all friends and allies to do the same. The tenant’s address is 21631 and 21663 Garden Avenue in Hayward CA and their group is called the Hayward Gardens Tenants Association.

Scott Haggerty is the representative for Alameda County District 1. His number is 510-272-6691. His official webpage is here.

The landlords, Sammy Chan and Francis Leung, business address is:

Sammy Chan Francis Leung
9 Kearny Street LLC
50 Victoria Ave, Ste 210
Millbrae, Ca 94030

Their phone number is: 415-546-7718 If you can call them as well that would help. Lets put some pressure on these people and let them know we know what they’re doing and we don’t like it.


lorraine said...

Hi Richard. I have been looking at senior no Ile home parks in Hayward BECAUSE I was told they are rent controlled. Is this untrue? Lorraine

Richard Mellor said...

I think there is some rent control in Hayward. This apartment complex is in unincorporated Hayward so I comes under Alameda county. I'd check if I were u to make sure.