The Round-Up of California’s Wasted Taxpayer Money

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The Round-Up of California’s Wasted Taxpayer Money

By Jon Coupal, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Anyone who has ever managed a household knows that it is not only how much money you make that matters. It is also how much you spend.  California’s budget is vastly more complicated, and less transparent, than family finances. So, it is even more important for taxpayers to watch closely as elected officials spend our money.  The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has found that, in many instances, California’s budget is a catalog of careless, excessive, and wasteful spending, or, as some might have it, business as usual.

For example, the Department of Motor Vehicles had years to prepare for the launch of the national “Real ID,” but failed to do so. The agency was rewarded with an additional $242 Million in new spending to try it again.  State Auditor Elaine Howle found misuse of state resources in county fair funds, documenting $318,000 in misspent funds, including more than $30,000 for “excessive and unauthorized travel expenses,” lavish dinners and alcohol.  In another audit, State Auditor Howle discovered that the California State University system hid $1.5 Billion in an outside account to spend on operating costs, while raising tuition almost yearly and asking the Legislature for more funding. CSU has nearly doubled tuition from 2008 to 2018.

Will a Wealth Tax Make California’s Wealthy Flee?

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Will a Wealth Tax Make California’s Wealthy Flee?

By Edward Ring
August 25, 2020

If you’re rich, there aren’t too many places on earth better than California to live. Sure, there are the perennial earthquakes and wildfires, but those are more than made up for by the Mediterranean climate and the scenic splendor; the Pacific Shore, the High Sierra. And apart from these natural disasters, nothing is wrong with California that money can’t cure.

If you’re a billionaire, then California’s punitive cost-of-living and its failed public schools are of no concern. The moneyed liberal patricians of California, from Tom Steyer to Jack Dorsey, have options. Who cares if your mega-mansion costs $12 million instead of $1.2 million, if you’re a billionaire? Who cares if the local public school is a war zone, if you can easily afford to send your children to the finest private school money can buy?

Low interest rates that affect estate planning in uncertain times

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Low interest rates that affect estate planning in uncertain times

There has been a lot of uncertainty during the last few months in 2020, such as COVD-19, the shutdown of our economy, high unemployment, increased national and state level loss of revenue and increase debt, besides the national protests in our country.  Adding to the continued uncertainty will be our national and state elections in November.  Given the uncertainty of our national and state governments, how will the national and state governments raise money to pay the loss of revenue and increase of governmental debt? 

COVID-19: Addressing Water Damage While Social Distancing

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COVID-19: Addressing Water Damage While Social Distancing

By Jesus Toro, President, Toro Water Damage and Mold Remediation

We are living during a time of so many uncertainties.  An unexpected disaster may only add to the already stressful situation we are living in. The government has deemed the water damage industry as essential workers because water damage services are imperative when water damage occurs from burst pipes, overflowing toilets, roof leaks and mold growth due to poor ventilation and high humidity.  Water damage happens whether we are in a global pandemic or not. Therefore, it is important for you as property owners or property managers to get the impacted units back to pre-existing conditions for the health of everyone at the property and for the integrity of the unit and value of your property. Under our present conditions of social distancing, face coverings and other protective measures, the job of water damage mediation does not change but the interaction does. What do I mean?

“Ask Kari”

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“Ask Kari”

By Kari Negri, Chief Executive Officer, SKY Properties

  • Question: Dear Kari, Should I be doing anything differently to lease my apartments now that things are opening back up?

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth new ways of living, thinking and even breathing, literally.  So, it should not be much of a surprise that changes need to be made for better leasing these days.  Being adaptive to change is a great way to stand out and help be proactive for all that is happening in our culture and what is to come.  Here are a few fundamentals that I would like to share with you to get the best out of renting your vacant units.  Cleanliness, being present and staying positive are factors today that may or may not be the seal for closing deals, but without them, you are bound for doom. 

Be Sure to CLEAN, CLEAN and CLEAN Some More

Your apartment unit does not have to be the cheapest or offer the best discount to get it rented.  It does not have to be in a specific location, a certain floor plan, a definite square footage or have the best finishes for people to be interested right now.  People will overlook a lot of things but cleanliness is not one of them – especially now.  To be “Clean,”, means to be free from dirt, marks or stains.  However, just this may not be enough in today’s world.  Clean, today may mean more to being uncontaminated or disinfected.  This new way of determining whether a unit is clean or not may seem excessive for last year’s way of thinking.  However, it may be the standard moving forward.

Here are ways to make sure you are promoting this modern thought of a “clean unit”.

  • Attend to the senses:  Sight, Feel, Touch and Smell.  Studies indicate that the human body sends 11 million bits per second to the brain for processing, yet the conscious mind seems to be able to process only 50 bits per second.  Attending to the human senses in relation to what seems clean, will put you in a great mindset to try to cover all aspects to a variation of prospects.  Showing vacuum carpet lines, having light pleasant smells and perhaps signs blatantly stating this has been cleaned help prospects consciously and subconsciously acknowledge and appreciate that your unit is clean.
  • Offer disinfecting gels, wipes, or foot booties upon entering/exiting the unit.  Being proactive with these added items also gives a good impression that the landlord or leasing team is aware and proactive on addressing dirt or germs.

In the end, there is no substitute for a clean unit.  Do not lose prospect interest by something that is 100% in your control.

Be Sure to Be PRESENT

I have heard that many renters have experienced only seeing or hearing from their Landlord on the day rent is due and have no other communication or interaction with them.  Or, once they have signed the lease, they never spoke to their landlord until moving out.  I think it is important to convey to potential renters and current renters that you are here and you are proactive, particularly during times like these where we are facing a global pandemic and community protests. 

Being present, believe it or not, is one of the best ways to keep renter’s and prospects happy.  In turn, putting your best foot forward for leasing during COVID-19.  As they say, the best defense is a good offense.   Except for those renters who will inevitably move out, a great way to keep your unit leased is having current renters satisfied in their home.  Staying in touch with them and communicating with them on a consistent basis has a significant influence when it comes to the decision to renew their lease.

As for those units that do become vacant, doing your research, and knowing the price of your unit is crucial.  It also helps to go look at one or two units listed in the same market and see if the advertising is accurate, how the unit shows and see how the rental rate compares with yours.  This is especially well worth your time if your unit is just sitting and not renting.  Keeping up with what is happening in your area and doing your market research and analysis is the best way to stay in the present and keep competitive with other units for rent.

In summary, practice being present to enhance leasing by:

  • Keep in contact with present and future renters.  This pays when renewals come up and when prospects are deciding where to go.  Communicating and following up consistently gives a good impression.
  • Answer your phone and return emails promptly.
  • Keep up with Market Research – stay competitive with other units for rent in area

Be Sure to STAY POSITIVE

The world may seem like a crazy place right now.  We turn on the news and we see reports on things happening that we never thought possible.  We are all living in the same place, dealing with the same issues and circumstances – so no need to reiterate the bad.  Instead, people are looking for new homes, new change.  For good or for bad reasons, finding a new home has underlying elements that are always presented:  change and a new beginning.  Be sure to take the side of the cup half full.  A new home can offer:

  • Hope – A better life; a better home
  • Financial Aid – Downsize and save money
  • Growth – Expand for a larger family or more space; start up business
  • Opportunity – New job; change of scenery; fulfilling a goal or dream

It is important that we promote these things and relay this feeling to potential renters.  People naturally are inclined to feeling good.  Helping them get there is our responsibility and service.  We do this by keeping positive. 

When speaking to a new prospect, whether in an email, over the phone or while touring a unit, focus on the positive by talking about the amenities the area, building and unit you are showing.  Talk about the potential activities the area has to offer.  Whether its walking distance to somewhere or quick access to freeways; eateries that you can order food from or remote location that offers peace and quiet; ease of street parking or being in such a highly desirable location – it’s all how you relay what is offered.

Sometimes, not even so much what you are saying but how you are saying it gives the feeling of positivity.  Focus on your body language, enjoyment, and genuineness.  As a smile can be contagious, so can your positive energy.  There is no point to discussing how bad things are right now, especially when you could possibly make someone’s life change for the better with a great apartment and great landlord.  Leasing during COVID-19 has taken many Landlords and Leasing Agents out of their comfort zones.  People are being thrown off by doing things that may have worked in the past but are not working today.  Following these fundamental practices to cleanliness, being present and staying positive will undoubtedly lead you in the right direction to better leasing.  Home is a sanctuary and we want to help you find one or keep one. 

Be Sure to do Your MAINTENANCE During COVID-19

Make sure you have all the proper gear – the Personal Protective Equipment referred to commonly known as PPE. Know what the CDC recommends and look at best practices published by the National Apartment Association and the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles.  For example, they recommend that you wash your hands frequently.  In regards to going into a tenant’s apartment use common sense and be sure to put on  a fresh pair of gloves, wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart, put on fresh shoe booties, wear eye protection when working on plumbing.  Please ask residents to cancel service if they are sick or have been around someone sick.  Post Centers for Disease Control (CDC) protocols in the lobby or mailbox area.

Because everyone is home 24/7 it is important to keep up on a/c maintenance.  Ask tenants to change or clean their filters – provide the filter and ask them to set the dirty one outside their apartment so you can keep track of which ones have been done.  If they are unable to do so please ask them if they will allow you to change it.  Take extra care to clean common areas to show residents that you value their tenancy and their health is important to you.  Communicate that you want happy tenants – you want them to be happy in their homes.  Ask what you can do to make their apartment comfortable. 

Be Sure to COLLECT RENT during COVID-19

If you are going to collect rent in person take all necessary precautions for you and your tenant.  Really, this is the time to set up on-line payments or auto drafts or any type of payment that does not have to be done in person.  Sometimes there is no avoiding it but also our mail has been slow and it bills are always due. Make paying rent as easy for your resident as possible.

The ”key” is keeping residents informed of their rights and their responsibilities which are not often explained well in the City of Los Angeles’ Eviction Moratorium Ordinance.  This is the time to be transparent.  Be flexible with your residents and waive credit card fees.  We have been able to find resources for our residents.

Be patient and show kindness to your residents.  We are so used to seeing rent collection as a mandatory part of our job and it is but demanding rent from someone you know is affected is not the right thing to do at this time.  At this time, we should be asking how we can help.  There is no reason to waive rent or give discounts but there is good reason to show compassion.  I have taken a soft approach on the collection of rents as we have no recourse anyway and this has proved to be a good approach as tenants are coming to us with a plan and that is what we hoped they would do.

If a tenant moves out owing money, they can be sent to collections. 

Kari Negri is the Chief Executive Officer of Sky Property Management and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles.  For questions, you can reach Kari at Kari@SKYprop.LA.

Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles Files Lawsuit in Federal Court Against the City of Los Angeles Challenging the City’s Eviction Ban and Rent Freeze Moratoria

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Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles Files Lawsuit in Federal Court Against the City of Los Angeles Challenging the City’s Eviction Ban and Rent Freeze Moratoria

The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA) has filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles on behalf of its members and the City’s housing providers.  The lawsuit, filed in Federal Court on June 11, 2020 is a constitutional challenge that essentially argues that the City’s prohibition imposed on residential and commercial landlords from undertaking eviction procedures for tenants financially or otherwise impacted by the pandemic singles out landlords and property owners throughout the City to absorb the residents’ claimed economic losses attendant to the crisis. The lawsuit further asserts that the City’s eviction ban illegally modifies existing contractual relationships by nullifying any late fees or interest while the emergency declaration is in place and throughout the one year period following the end of the emergency, and also imposes a moratorium on annual rent increases for any rent increase scheduled. 

California Commentary: How Will We Get Around After the Virus?

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California Commentary: How Will We Get Around After the Virus?

By Jon Coupal, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives by putting our health at risk, disrupting our work lives and robbing us of most of our recreational activities. It has also evaporated all our assumptions about transportation policy in California.

First, in one of the few positive consequences of the pandemic, California’s highest-in-the-nation cost of gasoline is way down. In October of last year, the average per-gallon price of gas in California was $4.18. Today it is $2.72. Naturally, no one could have anticipated the crash in the oil market because of rapidly diminishing demand. The low price of gas would be a cause for celebration if it were not for the fact that most are having to shelter in place at home.

California’s Rental Housing Providers May Now Receive Their Lost Rent…But, Not For More Than 10-Years and All Interest Free

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California’s Rental Housing Providers May Now Receive Their Lost Rent…But, Not For More Than 10-Years and All Interest Free

Mortgage Relief Also Proposed by California’s Lawmakers

As missed rent payments and delinquent mortgages have been piling-up across California, the State’s lawmakers have introduced a series of proposals aimed at shielding homeowners from foreclosure, protecting renters from eviction, and finally, some relief perhaps for rental housing providers, all of whom have been impacted by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, the relief being offered to the State’s rental housing providers may not be appreciated by many now struggling to survive under eviction moratoriums, rent increase freezes, and the weight of other overzealous and unfair regulatory burdens.

Back on the State Ballot this November: RENT CONTROL!

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Back on the State Ballot this November:  RENT CONTROL!

California’s rental housing providers are again under attack this November.  A new ballot initiative that we’re calling “Proposition 10, Version 2.0”, if passed, will drastically expand California’s rent control laws by repealing the protections we now have under the Costa-Hawkins Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which protects vacancy de-control and limits how far local governments may go in expanding rent regulations. 

Not much more than a year and a half after two-thirds of California’s voters rejected Proposition 10, backers of that measure have garnered enough signatures, nearly one million signatures, to qualify a similar rent control measure for the November 2020 ballot.  We must defeat this latest attack on rental housing providers!  This new ballot initiative is an extremely dangerous threat to all rental property owners!  If passed:

Public Sector Unions Continue Their Attack on Property Rights in California

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Public Sector Unions Continue Their Attack on Property Rights in California

By Edward Ring
April 30, 2020

California’s legislature is controlled by Democratic super-majorities in both houses. These Democrat politicians, in turn, are controlled by public sector unions. They are now considering Assembly Bill 828, which will empower courts to summarily reduce rents by up to 25 percent and create additional barriers to the eviction process.

Passage of this law would be a disaster. It’s not just a blatant usurpation of property rights. It also adds a hefty shove to an economy already teetering on the brink of an epic deflationary spiral.