By and large, there are few tenant protections in place in Santa Clara, CA – which is one of the reasons why the city has been attractive to real estate investors. The landlord-tenant laws are straightforward (and aligned with statewide policy); prospective buyers, owners and Santa Clara property management companies don’t have to worry about navigating the complexities of additional rent control policies implemented at the local level. The City of Santa Clara has traditionally allowed the market to self-regulate prices.
But what happens within Santa Clara will soon be affected by a new policy enacted at the county-level.
In February, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of an ordinance that will force rental property owners to accept low-income residents who pay using federal housing subsidies, such as Section 8 vouchers.
Santa Clara property managers and landlords have been vocal in their opposition to the law. Many tried to explain that accepting Section 8 residents – or any residents who rely on government assistance – can cause delays and hardships when trying to release property. Some rental properties will end up sitting idle for at least 30 days as inspections are completed. This is particularly burdensome for small, mom-and-pop landlords, they explained.
“The lengthy process of inspections and bureaucratic red tape is harder on smaller property owners,” said Suzanne Yost, a real estate agent from the Santa Clara area who testified in front of the board. “The loss of a month or more of rent can be significant.”
Advocates argued that refusal to accept Section 8 tenants is discriminatory, and harms those most likely to face housing insecurity. “In jurisdictions where this has been enacted, there’s been a real meaningful difference in the ability for those who use vouchers to find housing,” says Greta Hansen of the county counsel’s office. “This is something that we know works.”
Here’s what Santa Clara property managers and landlords need to know about the county’s new policy:
- The ordinance only affects properties in the rural areas and urban pockets outside of city limits governed by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.
- Santa Clara property managers and landlords will not be required to prioritize renting to people who have Section 8 vouchers, but they will be prohibited from using those subsidies as a factor when considering rental applications.
- Apartment listings will no longer be able to advertise “No Section 8 accepted”.
- Rental property owners and Santa Clara property management companies will still be able to set their own rental rates; they will not be required to accept a lower monthly payment simply because someone is using a subsidized housing voucher.
- The policy goes into effect in January 2018.
It is important for real estate investors and property managers in the Santa Clara area to familiarize themselves with the board’s new ordinance before it takes effect. For additional information, contact the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.
Check out a copy of the full 4-page ordinance on affordable housing.