Tenants’ temperatures rise with rent rates

No tenant would be happy if you decided to raise their rent by several hundred dollars. But if the tenants feel that you are doing that while simultaneously cutting back on maintenance, then temperatures are really going to rise.

And hot tempers are exactly what management officials of the 697-unit Hillsdale Garden Apartments are likely to see at a neighborhood meeting Tuesday, the latest of several attempts by city and neighborhood leaders to improve relations between the sprawling complex’s residents and management.

Until September 2006, the large complex, located near Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo, was owned by a family who kept rental rates very low and responded quickly to maintenance requests.

But then the apartments were purchased by Essex Property Trust, a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange that immediately raised rental rates to market value, in many cases raising rates by $400 in a single year, according to residents then interviewed by The Examiner.

Essex management did not return calls for comment.

Many of the longtime residents have moved out, but some have remained, among them Susan Churchill, who has lived there for more than 20 years. Churchill was paying $1,245 a month for her two bedroom apartment in 2006, and today pays $1,781.

She said she wants to move out, and plans to in the next year or two, but in the meantime has decided to stay near her ailing mother.

She said the rate hike would be more palatable if the company had fulfilled its promises of replacing the complex’s roofs, renovating apartments and purchasing new appliances.

Instead, she said Essex cut the security staff and became nearly impossible to reach for maintenance problems.

Anne Arnold, president of the Beresford-Hillsdale Neighborhood Association, said the reduction in security led to a crime problem, not just in the complex, but in the surrounding neighborhood.

Indeed, San Mateo police Sgt. Dave Norris said there was a crime spike in late 2008 and through 2009 in and around the complex, which required police to engage in a pointed crime reduction operation in the area. Since then, crime has slowed, with just about a dozen thefts and auto burglaries in the last six months. Nonetheless, he said, police would like to see management of Essex work more closely with tenants to solve these problems.

Bay Area NewsHillsdale Garden ApartmentsLocalSan Mateo

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