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In a U.S. mall owner’s world, ‘boring’ is actually pretty good

Mall landlords, besieged for the past two years by the rise of online shopping, are trying to push a new narrative of improving sales and increased demand for empty space at their properties.

Second-quarter earnings results for the biggest owners were largely in line with expectations, according to DJ Busch, an analyst at Green Street Advisors LLC, a research firm that specializes in real estate investment trusts. And that’s good news for an industry that’s struggling to stay relevant.

“We are pleasantly surprised — boring is pretty good in retail,” Busch said. “Incrementally, we’re moving in the right direction, but it’s going to take several quarters to get back to speed and get some of these centers leased backed up.”

U.S. mall REITs have been beaten up as the growth of e-commerce and a surge in retailer bankruptcies and store closures upends their business model. In the past 24 months, a Bloomberg index of eight regional-mall owners plunged 25 percent through Monday, compared with a 3.3 percent decline for all REITs. After a brutal 2017, landlords are trying to paint a rosier picture and convince investors that the worst is behind them.

“Demand from tenants for space in our highly productive centers is increasing,” David Simon, chief executive officer of Simon Property Group Inc., the largest U.S. mall owner, said on a call with analysts last week. “We continue to redevelop our irreplaceable real estate with new, exciting, dynamic ways to live, work, play, stay and shop that will further enhance the customer experience.”

 

 

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Oakland to vote on property tax, owner move-in eviction measures

Oakland voters in November will be deciding on three new measures.

The three new measures include a tax on vacant properties, increase the real estate transfer tax rate for properties worth more than $2 million and disallow landlords from evicting tenants on the grounds that the landlord lives in the property.

The vacant property tax, which must pass by a two-thirds majority, would impose a special parcel tax on all vacant property — including lots, industrial and commercial buildings, and units in apartment buildings and other multi-unit buildings like condo or townhouse complexes.

The measure was passed during Tuesday’s marathon city council meeting which lasted into the early morning hours of Wednesday. Landlords spoke out against the measures, mostly claiming they would put an unfair burden on small “mom-and-pop” landlords who may only have one rental property and rely on that income. Tenants’ rights activists supported the measures, and shared stories of landlords treating tenants unfairly, as well as the need for housing.

 

 

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Mall tenants had an out when giants like Macy’s left. Now landlords bar the door

The only thing more dangerous for America’s malls than a string of apparel-chain bankruptcies is when the trouble hits department stores.

Retailers like J.C. Penney Co. and Macy’s Inc. are considered “anchors” that keep malls humming and foot traffic flowing. They’re so important to the ecosystem that smaller tenants may refuse to set up shop without a promise that the anchors will stick around: Many leases include so-called co-tenancy clauses that let them cut and run or pay less if those key tenants depart.

Now, many landlords are pushing to eliminate or narrow the escape clauses in the wake of mass department-store closings. That means less flexibility for the remaining tenants.

 

Read more on Bloomberg

 

 

San Jose makes changes to housing policy

The San Jose City Council voted to allow landlords to evict tenants convicted of violent felonies.

As development in San Jose explodes and housing prices continue to soar, the City Council on Tuesday night adopted changes to the city’s housing policies that could benefit renters and provide protections for landlords.

At the Housing Department’s recommendation, the council agreed to prohibit landlords of rent-controlled apartments from dividing utility costs based on how many people live in each apartment and the unit’s size rather than how much gas or electricity they actually use. So the council is asking property owners to install sub meters at each apartment so families are charged only for what they actually use.

The council also tweaked the tenant protection ordinance it adopted last year, and will now prevent landlords from threatening to share information about their tenants’ immigration status with immigration authorities.

The city also will let landlords evict tenants with serious or violent felonies. Acknowledging concerns about the displacement of families, landlords must give renters a chance to evict such felons before ousting an entire family. Mayor Sam Liccardo supported the idea, and asked the city to provide an exception for children convicted of such crimes.

Also up for debate was an issue around the Ellis Act, which outlines when and how the owners of some rent-controlled apartments in the city — generally those built before September 1979 — can take them off the market.

Read more from The Mercury News

SF settles with landlord who rented ‘substandard housing’ to veterans

A Bayview district landlord accused by City Attorney Dennis Herrera of banking millions of dollars by squeezing formerly homeless veterans into cramped illegal dwelling units has agreed to pay the city a $2 million fine and bring all the buildings she owns into compliance with the law.

The terms of the settlement, which was reached last week on the eve of a trial of a city lawsuit, requires husband-and-wife landlords Judy Wu and Trent Zhu to bring 12 properties up to San Francisco building, fire and planning codes.

In a statement, Herrera said that Wu and Zhu “trafficked in substandard housing that endangered their residents and neighbors alike.”

“There is a reason we have building codes,” Herrera said. “They exist to prevent dangerous situations, like an improperly installed stove exploding and starting a fire that tears through a neighborhood.”

The lawsuit against the property owners identified 12 buildings with 15 legal units that were chopped up into spaces for 49 individual tenants. The leases, which brought in about $1 million a year in rent, contained jerry-rigged natural gas and water lines. Neighbors complained of over-crowding, noise, and sidewalks and backyards that became littered with mattresses, discarded furniture, stray cats and mounds of old clothing.

Read more from SFGate

5 Ways to Vet Potential Commercial Real Estate Tenants

Don’t expect landlords to rent out their commercial space to the first tenant who puts in an offer. In many cases, landlords have a lot of variables they consider when deciding to accept an offer to lease. This can include things such as background checks, reviewing tax returns, credit reports and references or even just connecting personally with a tenant. Here are five ways to vet a potential real estate tenant.

Read more from NAI Global