UCR Student Rental Complaints By The Numbers

June 29, 2013 by Alicia Robinson

Hilary Barnett, left, and Patricia Verwiel live in Riverside’s University neighborhood, where they say some students renting single-family homes are making life intolerable.

Hilary Barnett, left, and Patricia Verwiel live in Riverside’s University neighborhood, where they say some students renting single-family homes are making life intolerable.

Riverside officials appear to be starting to coordinate and step up their efforts to address University-area homeowners’ concerns about student rentals in their neighborhood. One sign of this is that police are compiling statistics to see where the problems have been and what their response was.

In roughly the first half of 2013, police responded to 153 calls about loud music or problem parties in the neighborhoods around UC Riverside, according to information from Lt. Andy Flores.

The addresses with the most complaints in that period – four locations had eight calls each – were apartment complexes, and it wasn’t known which apartment number generated the complaint, Flores wrote in an email explaining the numbers.

Some of the addresses with repeat complaints are single-family homes that are rented out. If you cross-reference Flores’ noise complaint spreadsheet with city information on building permits to add extra bedrooms (creating what neighbors are calling “mini dorms), you start to see why homeowners chose those permits as their point of attack.

(Homeowners asked for a moratorium on extra-bedroom permits, which the city attorney has said officials can’t legally do.)

Of roughly 30 different streets where police got calls, five of them are also streets where someone got a permit to add bedrooms within the last three and a half years. In the case of 3962 Mt. Vernon Ave., those two data sets intersect: a permit was granted in February 2012 to turn the living room into two more bedrooms, bringing the total to six; in the first half of 2013, that address had three noise complaints.

To be fair, we don’t know whether any or all of the people living at the addresses generating complaints were students. But some anecdotal evidence supports homeowners’ concerns. Several property owners or managers I spoke with said they’d like to rent to families, but none seem interested. Some owners even solicit student renters in online ads.

The problems homeowners describe – noise till the wee hours, drunk driving, and trash, vomit and worse in other people’s yards – will take a variety of efforts to solve. (I wrote earlier, here, about how many renters are allowed per home under city policy, which is itself a thorny issue.)

But homeowners say one place to start is with real penalties for people who break the rules and make the neighborhood unlivable for others. According to another spreadsheet Flores created, on a list of 22 student rental addresses where complaints were made, it appears police gave citations in just three cases.

Flores wrote that he’s working on tracking problem addresses so officers can take a “zero tolerance” approach to future complaints and, if appropriate, the city attorney can send letters to owners that their properties are a nuisance. That’s already been done in a few cases.

What will satisfy homeowners remains to be seen. They’ve been to two City Council meetings so far, and some have vowed to keep coming until their concerns are adequately addressed. I’ll be writing more about the history of this problem and possible solutions in the weeks to come.

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