Del Medio Manor owner Elizabeth Lindsay originally filed her petition more than a year ago, seeking permission to raise rents on about two-thirds of the 105 apartment units owned by her family. Initially, she sought rent increases ranging from $125 to $900 extra a month. She later lowered that request to $100 to $500 a month on about half of her units.
A coalition of tenants organized to protest the increases, and attorneys with the Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto took up their cause.
Under the city's rent control program, rents are normally allowed to increase by only the cost of inflation except in special circumstances. Those cases require landlords to prove that the routine costs of running their properties are lowering their profit margins.
In a hearing held in May, both Lindsay and her tenants presented their cases before Dalesandro in a meeting designed to resemble a court hearing. In her decision, Dalesandro rejected nearly all the claims made by Lindsay and her partners, saying they relied on faulty accounting and inflated expenses.
In August, Lindsay appealed the case to the city's Rental Housing Committee, which appeared to be more sympathetic to her complaints. The committee decided to bounce the decision back to Dalesandro, urging her to modify her ruling or provide more evidence to back up her decision. Ever since then, the case has been in a holding pattern as all sides waited to hear from Dalesandro.
In her new decision, Dalesandro doubled down, lambasting the Del Medio owners for failing to provide evidence to back up their claims. Listed expenses that they cited to justify higher rents, such as repaving a parking lot or elevator maintenance, were not supported by any financial records they provided, she wrote.
Lindsay did provide hundreds of pages of her own typewritten summaries of her expenses, but she did not provide any of the original documentation, such as checks or invoices to back up her claims, Dalesandro wrote. She also disputed how the landlord calculated their management expenses, pointing out that about 20 percent of the property's revenues were being listed under this expense. The city's rent control policies allow only 6 percent to go toward management fees.
The Del Medio apartment owners have until next week to appeal the decision.
While the new decision is a victory for tenants, it also reinforces a frequent complaint made by critics that the rent control program's petition process is too slow and burdensome for landlords to use. In her public comments, Lindsay has complained that her rent increases sought for 2016 weren't processed for a decision until late 2018. City housing officials have been working on a simplified petition for landlords to use.
This story contains 551 words.
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