The Hardships of Renting in Davis

Eric Gudz (right) holds up a sign earlier this year for more student housing options

Eric Gudz, during public comment this week, explained to the council that having received such a large number of folks reaching out and asking what they could do to alleviate some of renters’ concerns, they started to collect stories about what it is like to be a renter in Davis.

Eric Gudz explained to the Vanguard that they had received over 30 of these stories.  They explained to the council, “I launched this last week.  I want to make sure that these voices are heard in the community.

“I plan to read one of these stories at every council meeting until we have a firm date on the council calendar for a workshop and we formally begin the policy discussions for improvements to the renters’ rights ordinance to make sure these voices are heard,” Gudz explained.

They added, “I’m urging you all to consider the additional protections that we need to put in place and please try to express the urgency from my words that this cannot wait another lease cycle.”

With that, they read the first story.

“I pay nearly 50 percent of my income in rent for a two-bedroom, one bath, that is in every sense of the word, dilapidated.

“My rental increases are nearly every year for the last five years I’ve been here.  There is no rhyme or reason.  The facilities are outdated and in disrepair.  So it’s not because they’ve become a luxury apartment complex.  Although I work part-time at a decent, but not market wage, I’m looking to move out of the city because I can’t juggle the rent, medical bills, car, utilities, and food.

“It would be nice to live by myself but I can’t do that while I’m here in town.  So despite being an adult with a degree and over 40 years old, I live like a college student with roommates and I struggle more than a college student because they want to live with people their own age – so I often have to go with the first person that says yes to my room rental.  It’s unsustainable.

“The landlord class of Davis and the developers all treat housing as a perpetual money tree.  Limited development and the council’s focus on pretending Davis needs to be more business parks and $700,000 entry housing plans make Davis a pretty difficult bedroom community of the Bay Area.

“If we would have infill development of 500 to 750 square feet, multilevel communities if possible.  We could have sensible rent control where the increases in rent have to be justified.  Instead, we have a landed class, an upper class, and an attitude towards people who can’t afford $1700 average for an apartment.”

Eric Gudz concluded, “Thank you for listening to these stories, there will be more to come.”


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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86 thoughts on “The Hardships of Renting in Davis”

  1. Keith O

    Although I work a part-time at a decent, but not market wage, I’m looking to move out of the city because I can’t juggle the rent, medical bills, car, utilities, and food.

    Not many people can on a part-time job no matter where you live.

  2. Tia Will

    The landlord class of Davis, and the developers all treat housing as a perpetual money tree”

    This is an over generalization brought about by a one sided view of the problem. Not all landlords in Davis are greedy exploiters of the working poor. There are in Davis, landlords who are very aware of the cost to renters who are not price gouging, but using the house they bought years ago as an essential part of their income. Some with children to support through college, mortgages, health care costs, & parents to support in their old age are in much the same situation as the renters, only with more dependents and more moving parts. How do I know? Until last year, I was one of them.

    I would encourage Mr. Gudz, especially if he still has aspirations to sit on the City Council, to take a broader look at the dynamics of single home rentals in Davis as well as the admittedly onerous conditions for renters. This might provider a border perspective from which to seek a win-win as opposed to a win-lose strategy.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      In fairness, Eric Gudz was simply reading the account of someone else. I do agree that the problem is over-generalized, but given the individual’s experience, I’m not that surprised. Yesterday someone told me of a landlord who kicked the tenants out two weeks before the end of their lease – basically challenging them to do something about it. Why did he did it? To put an extra room in the place so he could increase the rent. Yes, I know there are good landlords, I’ve had some of them over the years, but the bad ones give the goods ones a bad name.

      1. Ron

        Yesterday someone told me of a landlord who kicked the tenants out two weeks before the end of their lease – basically challenging them to do something about it. Why did he did it?

        I’m not so curious as to “why did he did it”.  🙂

        I’m curious as to “how”, unless the landlord suddenly changed the locks. Landlords can’t simply kick folks out whenever they choose, prior to the end of their lease. Isn’t there a new regulatory board in the city, to help prevent this kind of thing?

        1. Ken A

          If a CA landlord actually ever tries to kick tenants out two weeks “BEFORE” the end of a lease the tenants can call the cops and have the landlord arrested “plus” sue for money damages (and probably win) down the road.  If this story is true and already happened there are plenty of legal aid groups that will go after the landlord (and probably win).  I have heard stories like this in the past and more often than not after asking a few questions I find out that the real story is something like “The landlord offered the actual tenants who signed the lease $1,000 to terminate the lease two weeks early so he could renovate the home and the tenants buddy not on the lease  that had been crashing on the couch was also forced to move out early”…

        2. Ken A

          I know half the population is not as smart as the “average person”, but even the people I know with a way below average IQ are pretty clear that a Landlord can’t just ignore a “written” contract or lease in California.  I’m wondering what percentage of renters in Davis, that David thinks need to be “educated” and are not currently aware that a landlord has an obligation to do what they have agreed to do in writing.

          My guess is that over 99% of the Davis renters born in America who graduated from High School know this (and if we are going to fund any “education” program it should target the undocumented with limited English skills who are probably the only group of people in town that has any significant number of people without a basic understanding of American contract law).

        3. David Greenwald

          Inexperience and power assymetries are powerful disincentivizers. I hear enough stories from credible people to know this stuff happens a lot more than you think and that the process to complain about landlords is not clear or straightforward and most give up even when they have a legitimate grievance. I know because I have been personally involved in some of them in advocacy capacity.

      2. Tia Will

        David

        the bad ones give the goods ones a bad name.”

        This is a commonly heard expression. However, I think it involves very lazy and sloppy thinking. It is the same kind of rational that is used to stereotype by race, nationality, religion, gender…

        It is precisely the type of thinking I am arguing we not use to score points,, political or social. Each case is individual and generalizations of this type, while they may benefit a small group or individual in the short term, are terrible for getting beyond the stereotype to actual consensus building.

  3. Tia Will

    David

    I completely agree and am aware that this was someone else’s experience. However, when a public figure uses or promotes the use of phrases such as “landlord class” and “all treat housing as….” the dynamic established is one of them vs us. I think a more productive path might include an understanding and sharing of why people choose to raise their rents rather than the assumption that it is greed, conveniently ignoring that a homeowner can also be in need.

    1. Ken A

      I want to thank Tia for her post and it is nice to hear someone with a left of center worldview remind people that it is wong to make broad general statements about a big group of people they dislike without really knowing.  We all know that “some” landlords are greedy and treat housing as a money tree (just like “some” college renters are pot smoking slobs that thrash rental homes and skip town owing rent)…

      1. Keith O

        Ken, I think you and Tia have touched on something here this morning.  All we ever here is about the rich greedy landlords but we never here the other side of the story.  Maybe the landlords should start sharing some of their experiences with bad renters.  I’m sure there are some very eye-opening revelations.

        Maybe David can do a story?

        1. David Greenwald

          I’d be inclined to do a story on good landlords and their practices.  I would be less inclined to do a story on bad renters.  The first story in my view gains us something, the latter, really doesn’t.

        2. Keith O

          I suggested that tongue-in-cheek.  I know you would never do an article on what landlords have to deal with and their perspective when dealing with bad renters because it doesn’t fit the agenda.

    2. Jim Hoch

      “However, when a public figure uses or promotes the use of phrases such as “landlord class” ”

      It would be interesting to see who owns the buildings. Many of the larger ones are likely owned by pension funds.

  4. Tia Will

    Keith

    I do have stories I could share about landlord’s nightmares. I will not because I have no desire to judge, point fingers or generalize. I have had extremely thoughtful tenants and one real disaster which ultimately ended up in small claims court.

    Ken

    I have no idea why you felt the need to emphasize my “left of center world view”. Like almost everyone, I am left of center on some issues and as my partner will attest, right of center on others. It is called considering each issue on its own merits. I simply do not believe that political perspective necessarily has much to do with rental imperatives from either the renters side or that of the landlord. I do know that many like to score political points by stressing exclusively one side or the other.

    1. Jeff M

      Please tell us what you are “right of center” on.  I cannot imagine.  Maybe you mean right of center of an extreme left view.  That is not really “right of center”.   Even your position on landlords is way left of center… that you would offer below market rent for altruistic or egalitarian reasons.

      By the way, to some of my Texas friends I am a flaming California liberal.

    2. Ken A

      I’m not one to try and “score political points” since I equally dislike both major political parties and my dream would be for both of them to go away. I am happy that just like the population of of the state is becoming more “diverse” racially with a dramatic increase in the number of “mixed race” people the state is also becoming “diverse” politically with more “mixed” political views resulting in less and less people joining the two big political parties and/or mindlessly repeating the RNC or DNC “talking points”.

      With that said I’ve noticed that the WWII generation and older Boomers have been slower to come around.  Just like Jeff may go a day or two without watching Fox news and even posts something that would get a thumbs up from Bernie voters “every now and then” it is only “every now and then” that I read a post from Tia that would not be “re-tweeted” by the DNC (but hope to read more posts like this from Tia, Jeff and others who take a step back from the corporate media that tries to keep the masses “outraged” about illegal aliens or homophobic bakeries and get them to vote for the corporate approved candidates in both parties that their advertisers want elected)…

      1. David Greenwald

        Ken: You never responded to my message the other day – I can fix your ignore commenter issue but that means logging into your account and giving you an ugly password.  Let me know if I have the go ahead for it.

  5. Ken A

    When Keith commented: “Not many people can on a part-time job no matter where you live.”  it reminded me that it would be nice to “reality check” some people and remind them that it would be “nice” to be a college student and pay for your own apartment (with a view of the pool) with your part time job (or UBI check) but that has never been possible in the past and it is unlikely to ever be possible in the future.

    #1 Doing the math on the person that “pay nearly 50 percent of my income in rent for a two-bedroom, one bath, that is in every sense of the word, dilapidated” it looks like they are probably either part time or at “minimum wage”.  Reminding them that a part time “or” full time minimum wage job was never enough to pay for a decent two-bedroom apartment in Davis (“and” typical living expenses) might make them feel better and reminding them of the good news that when you at the “minimum” figuring out how to make more money should not be hard with a little effort.

    #2 “rental increases are “nearly” every year because property taxes and other expenses are going up “EVERY” year (we now pay MORE per month for “city services” than we did just eight years ago for TWO months of “city services”)…

    #3  If “It would be nice to live by yourself” and you are “an adult with a degree and over 40 years old” you just need a specific “plan”, not a “dream” where you sit in your room while your 20 year old roommates play beer pong in the living room but an actual plan with “specific” steps toward getting bettera job (like almost every 40 year old with a degree already has) that pays enough to rent your own apartment.

    #4 Saying stuff like: “and the council’s focus on pretending Davis needs to be more business parks and $700,000 entry housing plans” means you that even though it is legal now, it may be a good idea to smoke a little less pot.

    #5 “If we would have infill development of 500 to 750 square feet, multilevel communities if possible.”  Nothing stopping this guy from trying to get investors together to build some “infill development of 500 to 750 square feet”.  As he digs in to the numbers he will probably soon find out why we don’t have others asking the city for the OK to build “infill development of 500 to 750 square feet”…

     

  6. Jeff M

    Wife and I will watch House Hunters International from time to time.  It provides a quick overview of places we might like to visit (not surprisingly, Davis is never featured on the show).   The plot is silly and repetitive (couple disagrees on features and location, and has a budget which constrains choices and realtor has to deliver on trade-offs)… but this approach generally gives a good overview of the mid-level or low-level market in the city.

    The common explanation for cost is supply vs demand.   Also, the closer to the city center the higher the rents, the smaller and older the property.

    Cities with a large university always have fewer and most costly rents near the university.  Davis has this in common with almost every other comparable place.

    But I noted an interesting difference between Davis and most of these other comparable places of any size.   I think the “charm” of Davis’s downtown… and the thing that causes some people to resist development change of the downtown is… TREES.   Frankly, I think we have tree-brained people that cannot see the downtown vision forest for all the trees.

    The aesthetics of these other places seem to be beautiful 4-6 story buildings lining the streets.  Wide sidewalks with outdoor seating… but with umbrellas for shade… and in general, many fewer large trees on the streets.   Instead there are parks and open spaces scattered around.

    This week, ever single morning I had to shut my slider to my office to stop the sounds and draft of 2-cycle leaf-blowers raging all around me.   I think a few less trees would be good for the downtown and my senses.  I think a re-visioned downtown having beautiful buildings instead of so many trees, would be a fine aesthetic replacement.   Let me know if you need some images of beautiful streets in Europe that would help make this point.

    1. Keith O

      My nephew and his new wife announced their marriage while doing a House Hunters International show from Puerto Rico where my nephew was stationed in the Coast Guard.  That’s how the family got the news that they had married when the show aired.

    2. Ron

      Jeff:  “I think the “charm” of Davis’s downtown… and the thing that causes some people to resist development change of the downtown is… TREES.

      Yeah, I’m “sure” that’s the reason that some are concerned about the “residentialization” of downtown.  Damn tree-huggers!

      Not sure if you noticed, but Davis is pretty hot in the summer – especially without shade.

      1. Howard P

        With enough 5+ story buildings downtown (which I do not oppose, it could well be a way to make downtown vibrant, and get more eyes and feet on the ground there 24/7/365 [or, 366], and as it might quiet/placate no-growthers as to “sprawl”), shade will not be an issue… as Ronnie reportedly said, you see one redwood tree, you’ve seen them all…

        1. Ron

          Regardless of other concerns in reference to the changes proposed for downtown, I’m pretty sure that there’d be significant opposition to the idea you presented.  (I was kind of chuckling to myself, when I saw this.)

          I suspect that even some of the “development activists” on here would oppose this idea. (Perhaps not “personally” opposed, but they might realize that it would draw attention to what they’re trying to do.)

          Jeff:   “I think a re-visioned downtown having beautiful buildings instead of so many trees, would be a fine aesthetic replacement.”

        2. Jeff M

          I would personally work very hard to make sure that Jeff’s anti-tree vision never gets realized.

          Well there you have it.

          Tree-filled or people-filled downtown.  Take your pick.  You cannot have both.

          1. Don Shor

            Take your pick. You cannot have both.

            Of course you can. You just need professional guidance as to how to make it work. Believe it or not, there are people who know about these things. Protecting existing trees during construction, ensuring that their roots are protected, replanting with fastigiate (upright) varieties if appropriate.
            You sure seem to see the world in binary terms.

        3. Jeff M

          You sure seem to see the world in binary terms.

          I see the world in endless shades of gray, but recognize decision support is often assisted by binary choices and considerations.

          My point wasn’t really to suggest we cannot have a functional downtown without ripping up all the trees (although the cost of protecting trees will certainly be a disincentive to develop) it was to attempt to diagnose the rage against development.  It seems mostly aesthetic.  And since most of the building downtown are not very attractive, I think it is that people are attracted to Davis’s tree-full-ness downtown.

          Where is the model for what you think Davis’s downtown should look like?

          1. Don Shor

            Where is the model for what you think Davis’s downtown should look like?

            Davis, with some taller buildings. Not Europe.
            Now I suggest we get back on topic. I believe all rental units in Davis should have trees.

        4. Jeff M

          Davis, with some taller buildings.

          Tiny downtown with narrow streets.  Tall buildings with narrow sidewalks.  Sorry, little room for trees and they won’t get enough sunshine.

          I say put the trees in the parks.

          1. Don Shor

            Tiny downtown with narrow streets. Tall buildings with narrow sidewalks. Sorry, little room for trees and they won’t get enough sunshine.
            I say put the trees in the parks.

            Now I know how women feel when men “explain” the things about which the women are experts.

        5. Howard P

          Downtown streets are not ‘tiny’, nor “narow” especially if parking is changed, as to configuration… generally, sidewalks are wide… I would strongly oppose any reduction in street R/W downtown… how that R/W is used, is open to discussion, in my view…

    3. Tia Will

      The aesthetics of these other places seem to be beautiful 4-6 story buildings lining the streets.”

      This post neatly summarizes the subjectivity of beauty. I rarely find a 4-6 story building “beautiful” unless it is a very old building such as one might find in Europe. I do not find any of the larger buildings in Davis including Chen to be beautiful. I do not see any builders offering to put up buildings that resemble those of Europe.

      Trees to me, are beautiful. So I am confirming that I am one of a population that aesthetically speaking, prefers trees to buildings. I realize that trees do not add to the short term economic growth of our city, or to the wealth of its citizens, but they certainly enhance the life quality for those of us who see them as highly desirable living contributors to our environment.

    1. Ron

      Probably not what developers envision, for downtown Davis.  (Not to mention the differences in climate/need for shade.)

      In any case, I’d like to see what happens if local developers propose mass removal of trees, downtown. (I’m pretty sure I’d find it amusing, at least.)

      But, I’m sure that it would be easier to redevelop, if they removed those “pesky trees” that are in the way of bulldozers.

      Go for it!

      1. Tia Will

        By “useful” I’m thinking that you mean “useful to humans”. I take a broader view of “useful” to include habitats for other occupants that happen to share this world with us. When walking along the railroad tracks to downtown last night, we saw at least 5 squirrels whose habitat has been sacrificed to the tearing down of trees at the end of J St. in preparation for Lincoln 40. The squirrels will be fine as they will relocate into trees elsewhere in our neighborhood. But it does illustrate the tradeoffs of thinking that trees are simply nuisance leaf droppers that we would be better off without. Short sighted at best.

        1. Howard P

          European squirrels (opposed to native ground squirrels) are vermin… the former I care not about their “habitat”… the latter I’d like to protect, but the European variety are the main cause for the dimunation of the native species.  

          I’d have no problem completely eliminating the non-native species…

          Unclear to which you refer to…

      2. Jeff M

        When walking along the railroad tracks to downtown last night, we saw at least 5 squirrels whose habitat has been sacrificed to the tearing down of trees at the end of J St. in preparation for Lincoln 40.

        This comment in criticism of my comment is nonsensical as squirrels love to live in the parks frequented by humans.

        1. Don Shor

          we saw at least 5 squirrels whose habitat has been sacrificed to the tearing down of trees at the end of J St. in preparation for Lincoln 40.

          Excellent. Removing habitat is considered one of the most effective strategies for reducing populations of invasive vermin.

    2. Tia Will

      Also, compare the beauty of these buildings with the Trackside ( modified industrial), Sterling, Nishi and Lincoln 40 proposals. In the latter case, one of the developers was honest enough to say to me at a public meeting that they were admittedly not aesthetically pleasing but did “pencil out” without of course, specifying what that meant.

      1. Matt Williams

        Tia, there is no legitimate aesthetic comparison of the architecture in the image of Oxford to the architecture in Davis.  Architecturally, Davis is a wasteland.

        The problem we face is the cost of creating architecturally interesting buildings is, more often than not, considerably more than the cost of creating buildings in the “modified industrial” style.  Further, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I had a conversation on this subject with one of the nine 2018 Council candidates and he/she cited the Schmeiser Home at 334 I Street as architecturally meritorious.  My response was that while it may be the most architecturally meritorious home in Davis,  it wouldn’t even come close to being in the Top 25 buildings/homes in Woodland.

        Another problem is one that Howard has illuminated many, many times over recent months (and years), the property rights of the person(s) bringing the development proposal to the City.  Do we have any right to tell them that “modified industrial” does not rise to a sufficiently high level.

        1. Tia Will

          Do we have any right to tell them that “modified industrial” does not rise to a sufficiently high level.”

          As I have also stated many times, the answer to your question is “no” if what they are planning is within zoning and design guidelines. If they are asking for a vote of the council for modifications ( or favors), then my answer would be yes, the city does have the right to ask for allowances in return.

        2. Tia Will

          My response was that while it may be the most architecturally meritorious home in Davis,  it wouldn’t even come close to being in the Top 25 buildings/homes in Woodland.”

          I don’t understand your point in saying this at all. We don’t live in Woodland. We also don’t live in Europe, or San Francisco. We live in Davis and it is Davis that I am concerned about. Yes, I understand that beauty is subjective. I also understand that “industrial” is cheaper. So who benefits are the developers and the investors to the detriment of those whose homes are adjacent. The “winners and losers” strategy that I see as one of the worst aspects of our society.

        3. Matt Williams

          Tia, in my opinion the challenge is not “winners and losers,” it is having a standard that can best be described as “lowest common denominator.”

          The reason I made the Woodland reference is that people tend to make comparisons (set expectations) based on what they are used to, and what we are used to in Davis is a very. very low bar from a design perspective.

        4. Howard P

          Tia, your 11:08 post:

          the answer to your question is “no” if what they are planning is within zoning and design guidelines

          Therein lies the rub (where have I heard that?)… pushing for restrictive zoning and design standards, in many cases, is a legal ‘politically correct’ way of telling other people what they can or cannot do.

          And those restrictive zoning/design standards give folk the ‘moral high ground’ to point to, without being able to be criticized for their narrow views… their preferences… reminds me of another thread about restrictive CC&R’s, which I’m guessing, you would not support, nay, would regale against.

          Not saying I support “anything goes”, but  lately, folk seem to want to “micro-manage” to force hegemony… to match their view/preferences… hardly ‘collaborative’…

        5. Ron

          Howard:  “Therein lies the rub (where have I heard that?)… pushing for restrictive zoning and design standards, in many cases, is a legal ‘politically correct’ way of telling other people what they can or cannot do.”

          I’m wondering if you (or anyone) can point to even one recent example where zoning and design standards have become more “restrictive”.  In fact, the exact opposite has occurred (e.g., the Families First site, Lincoln 40, Davis Live, Nishi, probably Plaza 2555, 3820 Chiles Road, the Cannery, Chiles Ranch, Hyatt hotel, Trackside . . .)

          I understand that ALL of these sites have either already been rezoned for, or probably will be rezoned to accommodate development proposals.

        6. Ron

          David:  I understand that the zoning was changed to accommodate ALL of these development proposals. For example, Families First was previously zoned industrial. 3820 Chiles Road and Plaza 2555 were/are commercial. Not sure how the Lincoln40 site was previously zoned, although that information is readily available. Nishi was likely agricultural zoning.

          If you were actually interested in objective reporting, you’d probably discuss/show how existing zoning/plans are being changed throughout the city to accommodate development proposals.

          Here’s some more (pending, or approved):  An Affordable housing site that was densified (near 5th and Pena), a commercial site that was changed from commercial to mixed use (at that same intersection), University Mall (still in the early stage), and probably others that I’m not immediately recalling.

           

        7. Ron

          No, David.  It’s you who is attempting to backpeddle your way out of the facts.

          Howard specifically mentioned zoning (as well as design standards).

          Again, I’m asking Howard, you, or any other development activist for an example where any standard that you’d like to use (whether it’s zoning, guidelines, or plans) have been made more “restrictive” in recent years, as Howard implied.

          In fact, zoning and plans have been changed to accommodate development proposals.

        8. Ron

          Oh, and let’s not forget the entire downtown, where some are pushing for high-density, multi-story residentialization of space that is currently zoned for commercial use.

        9. Ron

          Even the Affordable housing ordinance has been changed (significantly “relaxed”) to accommodate development proposals!

          And some development activists are essentially making the case (on behalf of developers) that it should be extended (e.g., for mixed-use developments).

          At least is seems as though a line has been tentatively drawn, regarding mass destruction of trees downtown (while simultaneously deriding the occupants of said trees as “vermin”.) 🙂 But, I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of this, either.

  7. David Greenwald

    Ken wrote: “If a CA landlord actually ever tries to kick tenants out two weeks “BEFORE” the end of a lease the tenants can call the cops and have the landlord arrested “plus” sue for money damages (and probably win) down the road”

    I suspect, but needed to confirm, calling the cops would not be an option.  It’s not a criminal violation.   They could file a lawsuit.

    The other point Chief Pytel made to me is that they probably could have just stayed there because the landlord would not have had the time to legally remove them.  But that would have taken a level of sophistication as to the law.  It points again to the need for renters to know their rights and their options.

    1. Ron

      David:  “The other point Chief Pytel made to me is that they probably could have just stayed there because the landlord would not have had the time to legally remove them.

      The landlord would not have the right to legally remove them during a lease.  There would be no way to legally do so (unless lease terms were claimed to have been violated, etc.). As another commenter pointed out, leases are written, enforceable agreements.

      Even when leases end, (or are not in place), I’ve heard that it’s quite difficult, time-consuming and expensive to evict someone. (I recall reading a case where someone even had trouble getting rid of a “temporary” tenant who claimed residency, at an Airbnb.)

      Bottom line is that you’re not getting the complete story, here.  (As another commenter noted, as well.)

    2. Rik Keller

      Another huge consideration is that many renters are scared to complain about landlords violating their rights because they want to have recommendations from their landlord for their next rental application. Landlords know this.

    3. David Greenwald

      No Ron, the bottom line is that the renters left when they didn’t have to because they didn’t know their rights.  As Rik said, too scared or intimidated to complain.

      1. Rik Keller

        Another thing that goes hand-in-hand with that is a landlord who withholds all or part of a security deposit as a punitive measure for a departing tenant. In a later comment, I will describe my personal experience with that and how the property manager/landlord (one of the big companies in Davis) completely flouted the law and, when this was pointed out, challenged me to sue them. Landlords know that very few people will do that.

        1. Ron

          Rik:  Maybe that’s it, then.

          I recall not getting a security deposit back when I was a renter, but I had asked to be let out of the lease (so at the time I figured it was kind of a “wash”).  Still, they didn’t respond to my inquiry either, as I recall.  (A big company, as well.)

          I’m not sure why folks would hesitate going to small claims court, if they believe they have a good case. (I suspect that landlords want to avoid that, perhaps more than tenants do.)

          Security deposit disputes seem to take up about 1/2 of the cases on the reality “court TV” shows. (With dog attacks taking up a significant portion of the remainder.)

        2. Rik Keller

          Ron,

          You said “I recall not getting a security deposit back when I was a renter, but I had asked to be let out of the lease (so at the time I figured it was kind of a “wash”).  Still, they didn’t respond to my inquiry either, as I recall.  (A big company, as well.)”

          You have a legal right to get out of a lease early [scroll down to the “Landlord’s Duty to Find a New Tenant in California” section of this article: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/tenants-right-break-rental-lease-california.html].

          Sounds like you wrote off your right to a security deposit return because you were not fully aware of your rights in lease termination and the landlord took advantage of that. This is not a criticism of you: just an illustration of how this dynamic plays out all of the time.

          You also said: “I’m not sure why folks would hesitate going to small claims court…”

          In your case, did you go to small claims court to get your security deposit back. If not, why not?

        3. Ron

          Rik:  I haven’t looked at your link yet.  But, I had understood that it’s primarily the tenant’s responsibility (when a tenant breaks a lease) to find a “replacement” tenant.  In fact, when I was first looking for an apartment, I recall a student who seemed rather desperate to get out of their lease (because he did not need it, over the summer).  I ended up renting a different place.

          I’m not sure if the landlord was able to immediately replace me, but I probably could have found out (had I taken the landlord to court). I suspect that the apartment was vacant for at least awhile (with the landlord receiving no rent), after I left. In any case, it was a long time ago, at this point.

          I understood that both parties had responsibilities, and that the landlord couldn’t just “end” the lease prematurely.  (And, neither could I, without possible repercussions.) In fact, I think the tenant can be fully responsible for the entire lease period, if a replacement tenant cannot be found.

        4. Jim Hoch

          I’ve filed against two landlords but both settled before small claims court both times. They just want to see whether you are serious or not. That’s why the mediation service in Davis is so stupid. It signals to the landlord that the tenant is an idiot.

    4. Ron

      David:  In your example, there was 2 weeks to go, before the lease ended.  Presumably, with the understanding that their lease would not be renewed.

      What, exactly, would the tenants be afraid of in that situation? (Or, are you simply stating that they weren’t given sufficient notice regarding the non-renewal?)

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        Important: It was not an example, it was an incident.

        “What, exactly, would the tenants be afraid of in that situation? (Or, are you simply stating that they weren’t given sufficient notice regarding the non-renewal?)”

        They were told to leave, they didn’t know their rights, and they complied. My understanding is that these sorts of things happen more often than people would like to believe. For the most part, renters rarely challenge the landlord in such situations which is why they do it.

        1. Ron

          It’s scary that anyone would sign a lease without understanding that it binds both parties. 

          If they fail to understand this, I suspect they’re (unfortunately) at risk of being taken advantage of in future transactions, as well. (Not just with leases.)

    5. Ken A

      David’s quote was:

      “Yesterday someone told me of a landlord who kicked the tenants out two weeks before the end of their lease” that implies that the landlord actually “kicked” aka “forced” the tenants out and that would be a criminal matter where the police would respond since there is no “legal” way to “kick” or “force” a renter to leave their apartment in the last two weeks of a lease.

      You may want to go back and get more info from the person that told you they were “kicked” out and ask a couple questions like “did they sign the lease” and were they “forced” out and see if the landlord just “asked” them to leave early and they just “decided to leave” for some reason (like Rik mentioned) because they wanted a letter saying they were great renters to show their next landlord…

      1. David Greenwald

        Kicked out was my word – as in told to leave in an authoritative manner even if it was not legal.  I never said it was done legally, in fact the point of the story, is that it was done illegally and was improper.

        1. Ken A

          If someone tells you to do something “in an authoritative manner” and you “decide” to do it it is completely legal (it is only “illegal” if force or threats are used).

          If I think a friend is making a fool of himself at a public event it is “legal” to ask him “in an authoritative manner” to leave the event two hours early.

          It is only “illegal” if I actually “kick” or “drag” him out of the event or threaten to light his car on fire if he does not leave.

          Since I meet a lot of college kids in Davis who know a lot less about the legal system than I do I’ll often try and help when I hear someone is getting “kicked out” or “evicted” and almost every time after asking a few questions it turns out that “the lease is ending” or “the landlord did not renew their lease”

          I just went to Google and when I typed bad landlord help I got 40.6 MILLION hits (can a landlord kick me out “only” got 6 MILLION hits).

          P.S. To David thanks for fixing the blocking problem.

    6. John Hobbs

      “They could file a lawsuit.”

      They might as well play the lotto. Superior Court judges prefer landlords over tenants better than 80% of the time, even when the tenants have evidence and the landlord perjures themselves.

      1. Ken A

        My first college landlord kept our entire $500 deposit and I took him to small claims court (with the help of a Nolo Press book) and got him to pay $1,000 (this was back when the minimum wage was $3.35/hour and $1,000 was a LOT of money).

        I have only been to small claims court one other time (keeping my 100% win record intact) but I have helped dozens of people get back security deposits over the years in Davis and in San Francisco (where the best landlords are like the worst Davis landlords) by helping them write demand letters making it clear that if they don’t get back their entire deposit they will take the landlord  to small claims court and not only will they make the guy take a day off work but he will have to pay for court costs and probably damages since the SF small claims court are super “tenant friendly”.

        Since no sane person wants to spend a day in Small Claims court almost all landlords will refund a deposit to avoid going.

        P.S. I think that John’s 80% number is low landlords win well over 90% of the time in “Superior” Court, but I read something a while back that said that over 90% of the landlord tenant “Superior” court cases were for non payment of rent and over 90% that went to trial were just desperate people with no money (no credit and no options) going to court to stretch out the time they could stay in the rental for free…

  8. Alan Miller

    I plan to read one of these stories at every council meeting until we have a firm date on the council calendar for a workshop . . .

    . . . or until I am elected to the City Council, whichever comes first.

  9. Tia Will

    Ok, I was not going to share this, but I will in view of the lack of balance in the stories to date. For a year, we rented a three bedroom, two bath house in a Bay Area community to a group of law students. Repeat, law students. They trashed the house including not cleaning bathrooms, kitchen, and left bags of trash piled on the front porch. After departing, despite being given extra time to clean up due to their schedules, they did nothing. They then took us to small claims court to get back their cleaning deposit. Fortunately we had taken before and after pictures. My then husband took the day off for small claims court where not only did they lose, but the judge read them the riot act as law students for trying to exploit us since they didn’t think that we as doctors could afford the time, and for wasting the court’s time.

    I share this only to demonstrate that personal responsibility, understanding your rights, and exploitation go both ways. Mr. Gudz seems to be focusing on only one side. It would be to the advantage of an aspirant to City Council to make an effort to see, and address the bigger picture.

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