News

Menlo Park: Some landlords soon to be required to offer 12-month leases

 

Some landlords in Menlo Park will be required to give renters the option of a 12-month lease as early as February 2017. The policy was approved unanimously by the Menlo Park City Council Nov. 9.

The measure affects only those living in rental apartments that contain four or more housing units, and there is a long list of housing types exempted from the requirement: single-family homes, condos, duplexes, triplexes, secondary dwelling units, and government-subsidized housing. Hotel rooms, boarding houses and hospital rooms are also exempt.

Many of the exemptions are because of California law, but the exemption for duplexes and triplexes came after prodding by representatives from the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors and California Apartment Association.

Penelope Huang of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors suggested the council apply the policy to apartments of four or more units because that's the typical threshold for when professional management gets involved, she said.

It's not yet known exactly how many renters will be affected. Menlo Park currently has 3,148 housing units that are considered "multi-family" and have more than four units. The ordinance could affect roughly a quarter of Menlo Park's housing units.

The council built in a 60-day window to educate landlords about the new policy before it would take effect after final approval, which is slated to happen at the council's Dec. 6 meeting.

Mediation

The Menlo Park City Council was a little more wary about approving an ordinance that would create a system for renters and landlords in disputes over rent increases to meet with a third-party mediator.

Cities that have such programs, such as Palo Alto, sometimes contract the services out, but such a program would have as-yet-unknown costs. The program was initially called "mandatory non-binding arbitration" but mediation is a simpler, clearer term for what the program would be, said City Attorney Bill McClure.

The council agreed to ask the housing commission to research this further and make recommendations for the council.

Evelyn Stivers of the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County said that in her experience, such programs can actually give renters false hope about being able to get a rent reduction.

Generally, when people are at the breaking point of what's affordable for them, they need two things, she said: time to find a new place to live and enough money for a down payment. If the city implements a mediation program, it should have clear information about the success rate, and provide people with information about other resources that can help them.

Next steps

The council agreed to host a joint meeting with the housing commission in January to discuss other anti-displacement options and talk to local experts.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Joan
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 10, 2016 at 12:35 pm

This sounds great but if I find a cheaper apartment or must move elsewhere, does this mean I cannot move until the lease ends or I must pay for the entire year. I have had friends move back to Germany and Italy when their contract at Stanford ended. They don't want a full year lease. Is there provisions for this in the provisions? What are the provisions the renter must agree to?


3 people like this
Posted by No lawyer
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 10, 2016 at 1:42 pm

Joan:
The short answer is yes, you are locked in for 12 months unless an agreement is reached with the landlord. This is great for landlords and lawyers. Guarantee rent for 12 months even if you lose your job. If you can't pay you are sued for the balance of the lease payments. Great job MP Council!


4 people like this
Posted by Wrong.
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 10, 2016 at 2:04 pm

The landlord is required to offer a 12 month lease. But the renter and the landlord can which an alternative agreement under the ordinance.


5 people like this
Posted by Wrong
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 10, 2016 at 2:06 pm

The landlord is required to offer a 12 month lease. But the renter can reject it and the landlord can reach an alternative agreement under the ordinance. @nolawyer did you do any research at all before writing your post?


8 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 10, 2016 at 2:17 pm

this will have zero effect on high rents and low supply. Nor will it do anything thing interns of 'displacement'.

Good work for doing basically nothing. most rental leases are already for a year term. It is obvious that the city council is made up of of home owners who have zero clue about the rental market.


10 people like this
Posted by A concerned tenant
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 10, 2016 at 2:24 pm

A very simple solution to the rental housing market...we need rent control. A 12 month lease isn't the answer to our problem...it could create more problems for tenants. Rent control limits how often and how much a landlord can increase the rent. The Council needs to talk to other cities that have rent control before making policies.


Like this comment
Posted by MPer is wrong
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 11, 2016 at 4:55 pm

MPer is classically chastising the outcome without any research. The lease will keep any rental apartments from becoming month-by-month arrangements against the will of the renter. This is important. It also allows some control to the renter as they will have ample time to plan for the end of the lease -- and any changes that may result from that end. I don't know why the arbitration was kicked to the housing commission as it seems very benign. I expect to see more protections from council as well.


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