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Mandatory Residential Rental Unit Registration Programs in Salinas and Monterey

By Danny Little, Attorney
Noland, Hamerly, Etienne & Hoss
As published in Coastal Grower magazine, Fall 2023

The City of Salinas recently adopted a mandatory residential rental registration program and the City of Monterey appears to be on the verge of doing the same (calling theirs a “rental inventory”).  The stated purpose of the two programs is generally the same: by gathering information about the residential properties that are available for rent within city limits, the respective city councils can make better and more informed decisions to make housing more affordable.  Many observers have speculated that the registration programs are the first steps towards further local regulation of the residential rental market, e.g., rent control ordinance or a residential unit inspection program, but for now, the core components of the two programs are the same: certain information about the units must be provided and a fee must be paid. 

Under both programs, “landlords” (a defined term that includes owners, sublessors, their agents, and in Salinas only, property managers) are to annually report the following information for their residential rental units: (i) name and contact information for the landlord, (ii) the address or APN of the property, (iii) the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in the unit, and (iv) the unit’s square footage.  

In Salinas, landlords are additionally required to report their business license number, and the name and contact information of the property manager.  Salinas landlords will be asked, but not required, to provide monthly rent, whether utilities are included, whether the unit is occupied, and whether rent is subsidized.   

In Monterey, landlords will be required to provide the year the unit was built, the occupancy status of the unit with the reason for vacancy if applicable, monthly rent, whether utilities are included, HOA fees, and any other information deemed necessary by the Community Development Director.

The cities plan to do different things with the information reported to them.  In Salinas, the City will keep the rental information in a secured database that can be used to generate reports about the City-wide rental market.  However, individual landlord and unit information is to be kept confidential.  In Monterey, the City plans to make much of the individual unit information public.  There, the plan is to obligate the Community Development Director to create a publicly accessible database that makes available the following information for each rental unit: address and/or APN, the year the unit was built, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the square footage of the unit, whether the unit is occupied or vacant and the current monthly rent.  All other information reported is to be kept confidential (and not subject to Public Records Act requests), unless otherwise legally required or if public interest in disclosure would clearly outweigh the public interest in nondisclosure.

Additionally, both ordinances require landlords to pay fees to help defray the cost of operating and maintaining the registry. The annual fees in Salinas range from $20 to $350, depending on the number of units; the annual fees in Monterey are expected to be similar (as of the date of drafting this article, a fee schedule was not yet adopted).  Salinas does not allow these fees to be passed on to tenants; Monterey plans to permit 50% of the fee to be passed through to tenants.  These fees are in addition to any amounts owed by landlords for business licenses to the respective cities.  Finally, both cities are authorized to levy additional fees for noncompliance with the programs.

As noted above, much remains unknown about the impact these programs will have and what additional local regulations will follow.  It seems likely that other local governments may follow suit, instituting their own residential rental registration programs, particularly if the Monterey or Salinas city governments are able to make a noticeable impact on housing affordability or they are able to generate funding from the program sufficient to offset operating costs and generate additional revenue.  Further, these programs could be laying the foundation for city-wide rent stabilization or rent control program in their cities, similar to those in San Jose and San Francisco.

This article is intended to address topics of general interest and should not be construed as legal advice.
© 2023 Noland, Hamerly, Etienne & Hoss