Help! I’m Being Over-Regulated to Death in California

Breaking News,

Each and every year, during the so-called, approximately nine-month, several weeks of breaks throughout, four-day work week “Legislative Session,” our 120 elected officials are in competition. This competition is not to win a trophy or some prize, nor is it to “win” for Californians … it is a competition to see who can get their name on as many proposed pieces of legislation as possible. It is a competition of “throw ‘it’ against the wall and let’s see what sticks.”

Going into each new legislative session, we know to expect more than 3,000 proposed bills, including literally dozens of housing related bills that mostly harm our bottom line with increased costs, lower revenue, or by imposing greater risks. Many of the proposals we see are merely “re-treads” of ideas that have come during years before and that were soundly rejected … failed to make it through a required committee, not taken up for vote, voted down, or in rare instances, vetoed by our dear governor.

Ideas like “ban the box” have been proposed at least four times before, and we will likely see it again under some other friendly legislator’s name – “ban the box” is a concept that would prohibit asking the question about past felonies on a rental application to give a leg-up on housing to the formerly incarcerated who may (or may not ... who knows) served their time.

If only we could have fewer “friends” in Sacramento who work only part-time. Then, perhaps, we would not be leading our 50 other united states in the quantity of regulations … its true, we even far outnumber New York when it comes to regulations. It seems our legislators have never met an issue they have not wanted to fix. And, like so many other things, California is in the minority as just one of nine states with full-time state legislators along with Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Ohio. Just look at Texas … it’s state legislature meets every other year as does Nevada and many other states. Our problem is that we have far too many “cooks in the kitchen” creating far too much of the stuff we just don’t like and don’t have an appetite for.

This year’s folly of proposed legislation is no different. While many of the proposals being made so far are merely “spot bills” that have little or no substance, but had to be in some form of writing by a set legislative deadline, and which will be later “gutted and amended” possibly into some new attack on rental housing, there are a few standouts:


The “Good” – On the “good side” there are a couple of proposals to fund small rent subsidies we call “shallow rent subsidies” to renters to help make ends meet. The proposed subsidies will apparently come from the general fund and not tacked onto our property tax bills … at least this time they won’t. There’s also a proposal, which will likely never see the light of day, to protect housing providers from liability for habitability issues (or dilapidations) unless they are first notified by their tenants. There’s also a proposal to expand the types of professionals (in this case, civil engineers) that can perform balcony inspections and one that would require the state to publish the amount of allowable rent increases under the Tenant Protection Act (Assembly Bill 1482) by area so we are 100% certain what that amount is.


The “Bad” – As it always goes here in California, there’s always more bad than good, and the bad more often passes than the fewer good. Fortunately, I would say, we’ve had about an 80%-85% success rate “killing” or getting substantial concessions on some of the bad bills over the past many years due to the efforts of our lobbying team and our California Rental Housing Association (CalRHA) affiliates statewide. For this year, one of our Sacramento assembly members feels taxpayers should pay for the “Office of Tenants’ Rights and Protections” to make up more housing regulations because WE NEED more housing regulations…don’t you think? You can only guess where this would be going if it is passed, but wait … when do we get our own “Office for Landlord Rights and Protections?”

Then there’s the proposal from ardent socialist Assemblymember Alex Lee who wants to restrict homeownership in California to no more than 1,000 individual properties. Another idea include requiring that security deposits be deposited into interest bearing accounts and interest be paid at the end of tenancy – imagine the nightmare of calculating how much interest is owed when multiple tenant deposits have been comingled in an account for years and years? Then there’s the proposal that would prohibit deducting cleaning fees like carpet cleaning from a tenant’s security deposit – no problem, tenants always clean up after themselves, don’t they … Not!


Then There’s the “Ugly” – As Forrest Gump once aptly said, “stupid is as stupid does.” And boy oh boy, our state legislature often “does.” They did with this one. You can read it a weep for yourself: “Assembly Bill 2216 (Assembly Member Haney): Common Household Pets – This bill would state the intent of the Legislature [is] to enact legislation related to a landlord’s ability to prohibit common household pets in residential tenancies.”


Obviously, there is more to be drafted before this bill can be finalized, but you can see what’s coming … and, it’s not going to be good. Sure, why not impose this condition on housing providers forcing them to accept pets? No size limits or breed limits … no questions asked. As I understand it, asking about pets on a rental application will be banned by this proposal. Whether this bill will create a new “class” for discrimination consisting of pet owners remains to be seen.

There are so many reasons why forcing us to accept pets is very wrong.

First, most of our properties do not have yards for pets to go an relive themselves or play. Second, owners could be liable if they were aware a tenant’s pet has a bite history, and whether liable or not, a claim that is legitimate or not against an owners liability insurance policy can result in the loss of that coverage come renewal time.

Third, not every tenant is a responsible pet owner, does not clean up after their pet or let them out for sufficient exercise or curtail barking. Fourth, pets can and depending upon the owner, will do damage to a rental unit. And, last but not least, other residents may not want to live at a property that has a dog if they’ve had a past bite incident or even some residents may have allergies.

In the annals of bad ideas, this one could be historically significant … a standout. Look, don’t get me wrong … I love my once rescued, 140 pound female Saint Bernard who lives in my apartment building with me. But, that’s my choice because I own my building and I know I am responsible.

This forced pet situation will only cause havoc for us all. And, havoc can be costly.


Daniel M. Yukelson is executive director of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles