Rental Housing Mediation Task Force

The Santa Barbara Rental Housing Mediation Task Force (RHMTF) is trying to save two part-time positions and their voluntary Board which are on the City Council’s chopping block. The City of Santa Barbara budget will be up for vote today/ Thursday, June 2nd, from 9:00am-12:00pm in the City Council Chambers.

According to RHMTF… The program has been providing mediation between landlords and tenants since 1976.This is an essential service that resolves conflicts without costly legal challenges. By eliminating staff available to conduct client office visits, and only allowing over the phone information makes RHMTF services less accessible to people with disabilities. RHMTF is a benefit to both landlords and renters, we cannot lose this valuable resource. Tenants depend on this service and many have benefited and were able to avoid homelessness as a result.

Below is their appeal letter:

Dear City Council,

The Rental Housing Mediation Task Force (RHMTF) provides an essential service to residents of Santa Barbara through mediation for landlords and renters. In Santa Barbara, 60% of residents are renters. The RHMTF has provided mediation through an all-volunteer board since 1976. This program makes a huge impact on residents at risk for homelessness and saves the city money by avoiding lengthy court trials.

The City Housing and Redevelopment Manager, Brian Bosse has presented the City of SB with a recommendation that the RHMTF cut two part-time staff, leaving only one full-time staff, and eliminating the mediation services and “disbanding” the all-volunteer Board who provides the mediation services.

Please join me in supporting this vital service for the residents of Santa Barbara and ensuring that RHMTF is funded through the general funds RHR has identified or other City Resources.

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16 Responses to Rental Housing Mediation Task Force

  1. local (with small "l") June 2, 2011 at 8:03 am #

    Who wrote this letter? I hope they can document the saving of a “huge” amount of money by avoiding “lengthy court trials”. A worthy service, still, it’s hard to understand why they need 1 full-time and 2 part-time employees.

  2. Anonymous June 2, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    The reason no one wants to build rental housing in Santa Barbara is all rights accrue to the tenants who can bully and thug landlords into financial ruin. The law and regulations are all stacked in favor of tenants who rather than appreciating this system, abuse the system for their own financial gain. Tenants often walk away with up to 6 months free rent with their retaliatory actions including phony bankruptcy filings. Landlord/tenant relationships are voluntary – mutual benefit relationships and that is as far as they should go. The system should not be so stacked against the landlord. Ergo – few ever want to get into the rental business and rentals are converted to short-term vacation rentals instead. Law of Unintended Consequcnes strikes again.

  3. Anonymous June 2, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    One person sounds like plenty. Would rather have another cop, or two parttime police officers.

  4. Tenant Rights Trump Tower June 2, 2011 at 9:38 am #

    The reason this agency even exists and is supported by landlords is because the law is so out of balance in the tenant’s favor. Clean up all the pro-tenant laws and regulations that are choking landlords first and there won’t be the need for this agency which exists only as a backstop buffer as a desperate attempt to bring some equity into this onerous legal relationship that has curtailed all new rental housing development — which we need, but will never get built under this current inequitable pro-tenant legal setting. One more progressive political plank failure in need of deregulation. If a landlord maintains a slum, don’t rent it. This is not rocket science folks. Landlords like good tenants and they are the ones that need protection from the armies of scofflaws and slobs that trash their rental properties.

  5. el_smurfo June 2, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    At the end of the day, the landlord still has several thousand bucks of your deposit money. I’d bet the balance sheet is pretty equal on shady deposit claims vs bogus bankruptcies…

  6. Tenants Trump Tower June 2, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    Renter deposit money is one of the most regulated parts of the pro-tenant law. There are very limited exceptions for a landlord to retain this money past a few short weeks. Sit in small claims a few times and see how much power the tenant has over their deposits and how little rights the landlord has to exercise their ability to cure tenant property damages. Do legal search in the California Civil Code for all the pro-tenant laws on the books. Landlords know these because once burned, twice shy. So put some meat on your speculation, smurfo because it is not the way the law works. We The People will file a bankrupcty petition for a few bucks and that buys at least 6 months more after the scofflaw tenant has been served with a valid unlawful detainer judgment for past due rent. Speculate instead why there has been so little traditional rental property built in SB in the past few decades and why so many traditional rentals converted to short-term vacation rentals only.

  7. Bob June 2, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    I always thought this was a useful service and it was totally voluntary. Maybe the Lawyers think this is a profit center they should completely own.

  8. Tale of Two Cities June 2, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    In order to keep sucking federal HUD grant dollars, the city has to prove it is keeping people housed (aka landlords hosed). This rental task force which strong-arms landlords to keep bad tenants is just one way the city throws away our autonomy and protection of private property interests to keep federal dollar HUD grant money flowing into Homeless Inc. The HUD grant money scam needs some full sunshining to see what we get, and more importantly what we lose taking this money. When city city puts on a dog an pony hearing for renewal of their HUD grant justifications, do not miss this self-congratulatory echo chamber. All the recipients line up and tell the city how valuable they are, and the city calls this a proper analysis for renewal. And the voracious maws of Homeless Inc continue to get fed – like the unforgettable Little Shop of Horrors Feed Me, Feed Me scene.

    • local (small "l") says June 3, 2011 at 11:01 am #

      Mediation does not “strong-arm” landlords (or tenants); if you have had that happen or have proof that it happened, please share it. This has nothing to do with “Homeless Inc” but some people who lose their housing do become homeless.

      That said, I think this is an excellent program but on the face of it – I am not involved with it and don’t know the details other than what was said at the meeting – think that it is expensive and only questionably a function of city government.

      Responding to the next as well: Realtor Silvio di Loreto is a strong supporter of the program and also spoke yesterday and is, I think, a landlord.

  9. Spending other people's money is easy until it runs out June 3, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    N-P reports a line of tenants stood up to speak to continue this program; no landlords were mentioned. That alone tells you something. Here is a classic example of the folly of taking “spending people’s money”. First this group was funded by federal HUD dollars. Then the feds in an act of necessary austerity, pull the plug on spending. So now the local tax payers get stuck with keeping this highly dubious program. This is what happens when city councils suck off the federal trough – they create dependency organizations that lack proper local scrutiny, and then get stuck maintaining them when the federal free ride is over. Had they required use of local funds first (our money and not “other people’s money”) maybe there would have been a far more sober cost/benefit analysis made of this program in the first place. Sunset clauses need to be built into ALL programs using “other people’s money”. When the money runs out, so does the program. It has to then be initiated all over again from square one with a clear cost/benefit analysis and not just noisy mobs showing up who want the free ride to continue. This is exactly why good councils go bad – letting noisy, greedy mobs control the public debate.

  10. Tenants Trump Tower June 3, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    Landlords are for this program because it is the last defense before the long-arm of the massive pro-tenant retaliatory legislation gets unleashed against them. Yes, threatening an extended 6 months free stay with a bankrupcty is “thugging” a landlord into accepting less than owed due to the sheer cost of wasteful litigation getting a valid unlawful detainer judgement against the offending tenant only to watch 6 more months of lost costs get eaten up with the threatened bankruptcy. Yes, this program is very much part of Homeless Inc, from its very inception to “prove” to HUD the city is doing what it can to keep people who can’t afford to live in Santa Barbara a free ride to continue living here at someone else’s expense. Private property rights went out the window in Santa Barbara. And please note programs like this is why no developer will ever build new rental housing in this town. Live with these consequences. And tell your clients to live within their means and not off the backs of their vulnerable landlords.

  11. local (with small "l") June 3, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    Who are you writing this to? I am not a tenants’ lawyer but, in fact, fwiw, am a small, very small landlord. I have never used the RMTF (or whatever it is called). Private property rights continue to exist here in this high-priced city. Seems to me if you don’t like the laws that protect tenants, work to change them. As for rental housing, I doubt it’s because of LL-tenant laws but because of the city zoning that rental housing is not being built – actually, just about nothing is being built now.

  12. Tenants Trump Tower June 3, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    local: Willing renters with accomodating landlords is the happiest combination and more power to you. Most landlords know this is the best situation to have and work hard to achieve even to the point of under-valuing the rental just to get and keep good tenants. Private property and market forces at their best. However, sit in small claims court for a few sessions and get a good lesson about what else goes down in the rental world. Sure, some are scummy landlords but just as many are scummy tenants. Really scummy tenants. Except the laws being so pro-tenant along with tenants rights organizations makes a landlord wish he/she never got into the business when something goes wrong or the landlord wants to assert their perfectly reasonable private property rights over their own property. That is when you see this is a very unhappy balance of legal rights and crafty tenants who know how to and do exploit this imbalance. Wake me up when we get a Republican and not a public employee union Democrat controlled Legislature. Then we can talk about “changing the laws”. One more area when progressive over-reach caused regressive results. They starved out the rental market with excessive regulations, thereby increasing scarcity of rental units which thereby increases rental costs. Bummer, eh?

  13. DJ June 21, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    is this the correct forum to ask a question about tenant rights when they have paid rent, however, the owner let the house go into foreclosure and the house is going up for auction in two weeks.

  14. brc June 21, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    If the tenant is low income s/he might want to contact the Legal Aid Foundation. S/he might also want to call the Rental Mediation Task Force that might provide information; telephone numbers: http://tinyurl.com/424qsdk. Also: Nolo Press publishes reliable books on landlord-tenant law, some of which are in the public library, although not the most recent versions: http://tinyurl.com/ycjdp9n

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