After renting at Vantage Pointe apartments for a year, my wife and I were inclined to renew our lease for 2022 and beyond.
The new lease agreement came with sticker shock: A 21-percent increase, equating to a $518 bump per month.
We were stunned. Is that even legal?
Even if it's somehow legal, is it ethical to jump the price that steeply? Right after a mandated quarantine induced by a worldwide pandemic?
Vantage Pointe is a luxury, 40-story, mega high-rise with nearly 700 units in downtown San Diego's East Village. It's part of the Brookfield Properties portfolio.
The parent company is Brookfield Asset Management, an international investment company operating in 30 countries with 150,000 employees and assets totaling roughly $700 billion.
I'm a solopreneur writer who works from home.
I immediately started investigating local and state laws. Legal representatives and landlord/tenant experts I consulted with were uniformly confused on this issue.
A winding path led me to multiple readings of AB-1482. This is a state law referred to as the Tenant Protection Act of 2019.
According to AB-1482, over the course of a 12-month period, a California landlord may only raise a residential tenant's rent 5 percent plus the local cost of living rate.
The cost of living in San Diego is 4.1 percent. That means the total increase should legally be limited to 9.1 percent.
The rent increase I was presented with was more than double that percentage.
Both the leasing manager and the general manager at Vantage Pointe assured me that the 21-percent jump was simply in reaction to "current market conditions."
True, downtown rents are ballooning at an insane rate. But the law is the law, right?
After wrangling with the on-property leasing office for weeks, a provision in AB-1482 was pointed out to me. It seems Vantage Pointe owns an exemption from the rent-increase-cap law because the building is less than 15 years old.
Vantage Point opened for business in 2008. The building is 14 years old.
My wife and I conferred. We'd sold our residence over a year ago (a downtown condo) and were weighing options before possibly getting back into the market.
Sigh. No, we're not real-estate gurus.
We wanted to continue living downtown. My job, after all, is editor of a city-centric website.
But a 21-percent hike? That's amoral.
I went back to AB-1482. Another line in this inarticulate document seemed to give me some footing.
The law said landlords are required to inform tenants--upon signing of their initial lease--that the building is exempt from the rent-increase cap.
We'd had no such initial warning, verbally or in document form, from Vantage Pointe.
(To accurately state the facts, Vantage Pointe did give me 60-days notice prior to revelation of the big rent boost. Apparently that's a law that can't be circumvented.)
As mentioned, I spoke with more than half a dozen people whose business is landlord/tenant law. Some believed I'd found an out with the part about fair warning on signage of the lease.
However, AB-1482 (the Tenant Protection Act?) also does not require buildings less than 15 years old to acknowledgment the rent-cap exemption in a lease.
Wait, shouldn't buildings with exemptions be the very entities required to point that out?
Vantage Pointe's leasing manager did concur that the law can be confusing. She informed me that even though a rental agreement addendum is not yet required, the building will begin issuing them in leases moving forward.
When I reached up the chain of command to Brookfield on this issue, their central customer service team kicked my inquiry back to Vantage Pointe's general manager.
By March, the deadline was upon us.
Weighing all the pros and cons of the building itself, the necessity to live downtown for work, and the cost and hassle of relocating, we resignedly renewed the lease.
I'm publishing this story to send an advisory to current residents and prospective renters at Vantage Pointe: Buyer Beware.
Mine isn't a hardship case. But the affordable-housing crisis touches a wide swath of people up and down the socio-economic ladder.
It shouldn't escape notice that Brookfield, the parent company of Vantage Pointe, was part of local headlines this week.
The City of San Diego is looking to finalize its off-and-on search for a redevelopment partner for the Sports Arena/Midway District. Previous San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer had picked Brookfield.
However, Brookfield's bid was tossed aside because it didn't sync with the state's Surplus Land Act. Specifically, it lacked an acceptable affordable housing component.
Back to the drawing board. Five new developer bids were accepted.
On April 11, current Mayor Todd Gloria's team recommended tossing out two bids, including the "Discover Midway" plan presented by Brookfield.
The city ranked Brookfield's proposal last in terms of affordable housing.
Jessica Jones, a senior director with Brookfield, was quoted in The San Diego Union-Tribune: “Our commitment to San Diego doesn’t begin or end with the sports arena project. We will continue to follow the city’s lead on next steps in the process and look forward to further strengthening our local roots for the years to come.”
Brookfield's monolithic presence in San Diego doesn't deserve to be watered or nurtured.
Still, I'll be there to sing "Happy Birthday" when Vantage Pointe's roots turn 15 years old. SDSun