OAKLAND, Calif., March 1, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- With the City Auditor in the midst of an important audit of Oakland's Rent Adjustment Board, the East Bay Rental Housing Association is urging Oakland rental owners to come forward to report incidents in which Rent Board petitions and appeals were mishandled by board members or staff.
The audit of the rent board comes as major changes are being proposed to the Rent Adjustment Ordinance that will have a negative impact on rental owners in Oakland. Among the most egregious is a proposal to more than triple the per-unit rent board fee from $30 to $110.
"Rental owners throughout the city need to speak up now in order to ensure a proper audit of the Rent Board," said Jill Broadhurst, Executive Director of the EBRHA. "We continue to receive complaints from our members about the appeals process and the lack of transparency within the department. Some positions on the commission board have been left vacant for long periods, while others have been filled with advocates for renters with a clear conflict of interest. Now is the time to make those issues known with the city auditor."
Connie Taylor, Program Director of the Rent Adjustment Program, recently invited a select number of rental owners and renters to a meeting on the fee increase proposal during which attendees urged staff to put the increase proposal on hold until the audit is complete. Broadhurst and others in attendance also questioned the legality of the staff-called meeting and demanded that additional public hearings be held in front of the full City Council Finance Committee.
"These kinds of last-minute, select meetings raise serious questions about how invitees are chosen. Who received an invitation and who didn't, and how were they selected?" Broadhurst asked. "It should not be up to the Program Manager to decide who receives a meeting notice or not."
Broadhurst said EBRHA members who have attempted to pay the $30 rent board fee, which is now due, have had their money returned by city staff and told that no fees would be accepted because City Council would be increasing the fee amount. The fact that staff already assumes the fee will be increased – before a full Council vote – diminishes what is supposed to be a democratic process, Broadhurst said.
"Staff is acting as if the fee hike is inevitable even though the full Council has yet to hear the audit results or take a vote," Broadhurst said. "Rental owners deserve to be heard, and Council should not rubber-stamp every anti-rental owner legislation proposed."
Among other issues, the audit by the City Auditor is expected to address serious issues with the Rent Board petition process and the role of Rent Board commissioners in hearing appeals, and suggest ways to streamline the petition process.
Broadhurst urged all rental owners who have had an issue with the Rent Board to contact City Auditor Brenda Roberts at 510-238-3378 or CityAuditor@oaklandnet.com
SOURCE East Bay Rental Housing Association