ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. — The Alameda County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted on Thursday to launch a $665,000 two-year pilot program for complaint-based rental inspections in unincorporated parts of the county, using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
The program, a result of Assembly Bill 838, which became law in September 2021, requires cities and counties to investigate tenants’ complaints and lays out a process for holding property owners accountable for violations. The initiative will allow renters to report issues such as lead, mold and pest infestations, and will require landlords to remedy the violations within a specified time frame or face fines and penalties. The county will also be training Code Enforcement staff on how to look for violations related to substandard housing conditions and doing outreach and education in the community so tenants and landlords understand their rights.
The program is designed to target slumlords who create unlivable and unsafe conditions for their tenants, 1st District Supervisor David Haubert said.
“If you’re a slumlord and housing people in deplorable conditions,” Haubert said, “watch out. Get ready. We’re coming after you.”
Edward Labayog, county code enforcement manager, said the program would allow the county to collect data on the condition of rental units and provide a yearly report to the Transportation and Planning Committee on whether a complaint-based program is working or if the county would be better served by a proactive rental inspection program.
Members of the public were largely supportive of the program but emphasized the need to ensure it functions as intended. Castro Valley resident Sandra Macias said properly funding Code Enforcement is crucial for the program to succeed and that the supervisors should make sure there are no loopholes that might inadvertently harm tenants.
“The landlords do have a lot of the power and we don’t want to create a situation where we’re trying to help tenants and improve the quality of the units, but then that’s weaponized to get them out,” Macias said, “as a way to displace families with this wave of gentrification that we are seeing.”