Once again, the Santa Barbara Tenants Union (SBTU) and CAUSE have joined together to propagate their self-serving narratives about how all landlords are bad, gouge tenants, don’t maintain their properties, and don’t want tenants to know their rights, just to mention a few key takeaways from their latest Halloween rally. As small S.B. landlords who have been in the business for years, it’s becoming more difficult to remain silent in the face of such lies.

“The rents are too damn high!” they proclaim, but so is everything! Food, gasoline, insurance, utilities, labor costs, construction materials, taxes — and nothing is exempt! Inflation is at an over 40 year high! For some reason, these groups seem to believe that property owners are exempt from the rising costs everyone is experiencing.

Nick Welsh just reported in his article titled “Santa Barbara’s Housing Crisis: How Bad Is Bad? Economic Report Reveals 93 Percent of South Coast Renters Can’t Afford a Median-Priced Home.” I’m sure that CAUSE and the SBTU would say that rent control will solve this problem, but the story about the Association of Realtors’ report ends: “Not surprisingly, the report also concludes that rent control and inclusionary housing requirements would make a bad situation only worse.” https://www.independent.com/2022/11/01/santa-barbaras-housing-crisis-how-bad-is-bad/

If you want to know what would really happen if Santa Barbara implemented rent control as CAUSE and SBTU suggest, you should listen directly to the leading (and perhaps the most respected) independent economist in our area: Dr. Peter Rupert, UCSB Professor of Economics. A great interview by Josh Molina can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKiJnLdrdAc

The SBTU and CAUSE would have you believe that landlords are afraid of their tenants and don’t want tenants to know their rights, and yet that couldn’t be further from the truth! Recently a small group of mom-and-pop landlords wanted to attend the S.B. Housing Day to hand out tenant right brochures but were told that since we were not a nonprofit, we would be unable to participate. Another SBTU and CAUSE lie debunked! Fortunately, Michelle Roberson, a member of the S.B. Rental Housing Mediation Program, did a tenant’s rights presentation. (Note to SBTU and CAUSE: this is a program that the City of SB funds to help tenants! Free! With no membership dues or donations requested, which we note SBTU requests. Free tenant rights information! Decisions are legally binding and enforceable against bad-acting landlords!)

CAUSE is a well-funded nonprofit, with millions of dollars in their bank account, but are they using these funds to help the tenants they claim to care so much about while they pay themselves over a million dollars per year in salaries, other compensation, and employee benefits ,according to their 2020 tax filing?

A 20-year advocate for CAUSE retold a story of a mother living in a studio with her three daughters who was being evicted. How is it that a supposed CAUSE advocate does not know that four people living in a studio can potentially be illegal overcrowding? Yet she continues to berate the landlord. They don’t disclose the location of this rental or complete information of all the facts of this incident. It is referenced that it is a multi-unit building which in most circumstances requires that a landlord pay to the tenant relocation expenses for no-cause tenancy termination under California law. If this unit was within City of Santa Barbara limits, the relocation benefit would be three times the rent. Did they get it? Do they know they are entitled to it under the existing laws?

They claim that the tenant did not get the full security deposit back, which under current law in California a tenant is entitled to 100 percent of it if the tenant complied with their part of the law. Do they know this? Did they go to the free Legal Resource Center to help them file a claim where they could get two times the security deposit should they be on the right side of the law? A tenant has many legal rights if the landlord here acted poorly, but did they?

It’s just another story with the desired goal of eliciting sympathy for the tenants. It would be interesting to hear the landlord’s side of the story, as there are always two sides. Having the correct knowledge to inform the underrepresented, marginalized community CAUSE claims to fight for would be an enormous benefit for all of Santa Barbara. Instead, they share incomplete information while keeping these communities in the dark of their actual legal rights and remedies so they can continue to raise money for causes (or CAUSE).

If truth could be told, most landlords do respond to maintenance requests by their tenants, they follow the tenant-protection laws, and these stories propagated by these supposed tenant-protection groups are the rare, extreme examples designed to elicit sympathy for their cause.

I’d love to know why CAUSE and the SBTU focus on telling horror stories instead of holding free community workshops with well-sourced information to get the legal help tenants need and take steps against the very few bad actors. Why are they always demonizing all landlords? All of us are not terrible, worthy of a horror story!

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