Owners of rental property in Richmond will soon face a cap on rent increases and find it harder to evict problem tenants.

On the evening of Tuesday July 21, the City Council approved a rent control and just-cause ordinance on a 4-1 vote. At the time of the decision, Mayor Tom Butt and Councilman Vinay Pimple had left the meeting, having been denied an opportunity to speak about the proposal.

That denial came when Councilwoman Gayle McLaughlin successfully pushed to halt debate and hasten a vote  [see video] following Vice Mayor Jael Myrick’s announcement that he would support rent control, a political about-face from his position just 72 hours prior.

The ordinance is scheduled to take effect Dec. 1, and base rent is fixed as of July 21, 2015.  The rent control portion of the ordinance will apply to approximately 10,000 of the city’s 21,000 rental units.  The just-cause portion of the ordinance will affect all 21,000.  The ordinance will add seven full-time city employees and will cost the city up to $2.2 million annually, which will solely become the responsibility of rental property owners in Richmond, regardless of whether they have rent-controlled units. They will have no ability to share any of the program fee costs with tenants.

The vote followed several months of negotiations between the California Apartment Association, city staff and council members. During Tuesday’s session, which extended into the wee hours, CAA members, from independent rental owners to those with large portfolios, filled the room with red shirts. Rental property owners, many of them retirees who depend on their rental income, spoke passionately about how rent control would affect their lives. They urged the council not to vote for rent control but consider establishing a rent mediation board, but to no avail.

Richmond joins about a half-dozen other cities in the Bay Area to adopt a form of rent control. Threats of either introducing rent control or strengthening existing programs continue to loom throughout the region, including San Jose.

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