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Vacancy Rate Cited : Thousand Oaks Adopts Expanded Rent-Control Law

September 11, 1986|SAM ENRIQUEZ | Times Staff Writer

The Thousand Oaks City Council has unanimously adopted rent ordinances that will limit yearly rent increases to 7% for the city's more than 3,600 apartments and mobile homes.

The action late Tuesday expands the city's 6-year-old rent controls, which applied only to tenants who had been living in their apartments and mobile homes since May, 1981. Only 25% of the rental units in the city are still covered by the ordinance, which expires Oct. 31, a city study said.

"We believe the measures are fair to all parties," Thousand Oaks Mayor Alex T. Fiore said of the new rent controls.

Council members said the expansion of the rent controls was prompted by the limited number of vacant apartments in Thousand Oaks, where a recent study found a 1.4% apartment vacancy rate and the need for "affordable" housing. The vote drew applause from the nearly 300 residents, most of them senior citizens, who attended the council meeting.

Vacancy Rates Disputed

Landlords testifying against the measure disputed the city's contentions, saying that there are high vacancy rates in some larger apartment complexes in the city. They predicted that the controls would discourage apartment construction.

"It's just galling to me that I am subsidizing people who make $40,000 a year," said Joseph G. Leggett, president of the Janss Investment Corp., an active builder in the city.

The City Council rejected a proposal by Leggett under which landlords would voluntarily contribute 5% of their gross rental receipts to a trust fund that would subsidize rent for the poor.

The new ordinance allows landlords to raise rents at least 3% yearly, but no more than 7%. Rent increases would be permitted between those percentages based on the Consumer Price Index. The rent increase can equal 75% of the annual increase in the CPI.

Landlords would be able to apply to the city manager for additional rent increases based on money spent for building improvements.

Rent increases under the new law, scheduled to go into effect Oct. 14, will be based on tenants' monthly rents as of July 1, 1986.

Unlike the existing rent-control law, which also allows 7% annual increases, the new measure provides that apartments remain under rent control even after tenants move out. Although there is no limit on the initial rent charged new tenants, the 7% rent ceiling applies after that.

Now, when a tenant moves out of an apartment, the unit is no longer covered by the city's rent limit.

A landlord who violates the law is subject to a $500 fine and is liable for civil damages of three times the amount charged in excess of the rent ceiling.

A separate measure was adopted providing the same rent restrictions for the city's 678 mobile homes.

The mobile home rent ordinance expires in 1991, however, whereas the law governing apartments has no expiration date, although it is subject to annual city review.

Those living in apartments covered by the city's original rent-control law pay 14 to 53% lower rents than tenants who moved in after the law went into effect, a city report said.

Tenants in rent-controlled apartments now pay an average of $400 to $485 a month for a one-bedroom unit, contrasted to rent of $474 to $644 for similar apartments not covered by the controls, a city study said.

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