El Nino is back! The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued a flash flood advisory with as much as a half-inch to three-quarter-inch of rain expected into Friday. Our days of nearly nonstop rain means that water leaks can strike. Leaks from broken windows. Improperly sealed air conditioners. From the roof behind cupboards and in closets. Not every landlord is responsive to a complaint about a water leak even thought the law is clear: the rental agreement implies a warranty of habitability, and that means proper weatherproofing. Let’s recap the remedies available to the tenant if the premises don’t meet that standard.
A tenant advocate’s highest praise is to be called out by a landlord in print or in a public forum for being a “zealot” or a “dog-and-pony show orchestrator”. It is even more gratifying to be the focus of an amateur gumshoe investigation that purports to uncover some measure of hypocrisy for calling for a sustainable rent stabilization ordinance. Behold this letter to Apartment Age magazine from a local landlord. It’s practically an expose!
Vice-Mayor John Mirisch posted a rhetorical question on Instagram: Do Communists celebrate Christmas? “The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles evidently thinks so. They sent our mayor a ‘present’ equating our efforts to craft a rent stabilization ordinance with Communism.” The Apartment Association likes to equate rent control with socialism but the ‘red scare’ tactic invokes the specter of Leninism. That implies no classes, no private property and of course no religion. So it is ironic indeed to make a Christmas gift of the Communist Manifesto!
The New York Times today published another installment in its year-long series focused on predatory landlords and the damage they do to tenants. ‘Bad Landlords Dodge Full Bite of a Watchdog’ drills down to learn why recidivist property owners aren’t held accountable by City of New York: lax enforcement, paltry penalties, and a bureaucracy insufficiently committed to protecting tenants. Sound familiar?
One of the most common disputes between landlords and tenants concerns the tenant’s security deposit. The law allows for deductions from the deposit under certain circumstances (such as when the apartment is damaged or left unclean after move-out) but an unprofessional or unscrupulous landlord can make unwarranted claims in order to withhold part or all of it. Check out our new About that Security Deposit page to learn more about how to protect yourself from an unscrupulous landlord.
Here is a sight nobody wants to see early on a Friday morning before Christmas: a Sheriff’s deputy probably on his way to serve a tenant his notice to vacate. It is heartbreaking to see it in my neighborhood and even worse to see it on the next block. The only thing worse is the Sheriff showing up for a lock-out. The notice to vacate is the penultimate step. When the Sheriff shows up, that means time is up.
One of the more interesting proposals to emerge from the City Council’s rent stabilization discussion concerns a benefit for a ‘qualified subset’ of tenants who pay a low-dollar rent to pay more than 30% of household income in rent. An estimated 400 households under the program could ‘qualify’ for a cash subsidy to cushion rent increases. Councilmember Bob Wunderlich proposed it as a way of focusing rent control on “those who really need it” and Council supported it. Yet now it seems pushed to the back burner.
There is an important step in the policy process where the needs of the public are served or thwarted by hidden hands: when a staff report and draft ordinance is presented to City Council. A draft ordinance should reflect the broad intent of City Council but also nail down the policy particulars necessary to codify Council direction into law. Sometimes there are surprises. I call these Easter eggs.
City Council recently discussed the maximum allowed annual rent increase. The good news is that councilmembers agreed to keep it indexed to the annual change in consumer prices (CPI). We can call that a win! The bad news is that Council will keep it at 100% of CPI. That generates the allowed increases of 4.1% and 3.8% (for Chapter 6 and for Chapter 5 tenants respectively). That more than is necessary to provide the landlord with a ‘fair return’ under the law.
Beverly Hills City Council appears ready to exempt ‘luxury’ units from the reach of the city’s rent stabilization ordinance. Along with the exemption for duplexes this represents another major break from the past. Since 1978 the ordinance has applied to every unit in multifamily rental properties of 2-units or more. That will further change if City Council embraces a ’luxury’ unit exemption because tenants paying higher rents would be denied tenant protections. Will you be affected?
Since Beverly Hills enacted rent stabilization in 1978 the RSO ordinance has applied to multifamily rental properties of two units or more. A few rental properties escaped its reach, namely condominiums and buildings built after 1995. Now City Council appears ready to categorically exempt many more, including owner-occupied duplexes. It is a major break from precedent with real implications for hundreds of families. Here’s what a duplex exemption means for tenants.
City Council’s immediate end to no-just-cause tenancy terminations was a clear sign that the residential stability was a priority. As part of that deal, though, City Council created a new, lower standard for termination and defined a new City Hall process to terminate so-called ’disruptive’ tenants. How will it work? A two-member subcommittee of Council would hear a landlord request and render a determination. What’s more, Council appears ready to let a neighbor haul the tenant before the subcommittee for termination too.
City Council’s most significant step since it revisited the rent stabilization ordinance is the new prohibition on no-just-cause termination. Unfortunate tenants will remember the traumatic moment they received notice to find a new home. Some didn’t even know it could happen. We are grateful that the city put an end to it. But City Council recently backtracked by agreeing to create a probationary tenancy by making the first lease year a ‘trial’ period, after which the landlord could terminate for no cause and with no relocation fee. The provision would affect more than 400 households with new tenancies each year.
City Council came in for some bruising this week from the Courier, which took the city to task for rolling back some tenant protections at the November 20th RSO study session. The Courier has done a good job of tracking the rent stabilization policy process through twenty months of Council and commission meetings, facilitated dialogues and urgency ordinances. In the same issue the Council’s action comes in for criticism from Steve Mayer and Thomas White, both longtime community advocates. And I recap in my letter to the editor my top concerns. (I reprint it here.)
With the third City Council rent stabilization study session behind us, we can see more clearly what the next rent stabilization ordinance will look like. It is a decidedly mixed picture for those who rent in Beverly Hills. We’ve gained several important protections since this process kicked-off in early 2017. The allowed annual rent increase is limited to the change in consumer prices. Relocation fees assist displaced tenants. The city banned no-just-cause evictions. And landlords now have to register their properties and pay the required business tax. But what Council giveth, Council can take away. Here’s our recap of the third and final rent stabilization study session.
In October Beverly Hills ended no-just-cause evictions for all residents who rent. This important change repealed the ‘original sin’ of our rent stabilization ordinance: with just 60 days notice a landlord could terminate a tenant with no reason necessary and no relocation fee payable. Beverly Hills allowed that abuse to occur for three decades (only Chapter 5 tenants were spared). Finally the current City Council heeded the call to end it by outlawing it with the adoption of an urgency ordinance.
There’s no way to sugarcoat the voters’ rejection of Proposition 10: it was a shellacking and a thumping that has set the cause of rent control in California back decades. And it has emboldened already-empowered property interests to push back on any legislative effort to repeal or amend Costa-Hawkins (which limits how every locality regulates rents in California). No matter that voters — and even the tenants it could benefit — may have not understood the measure. The voters have spoken.
It is that time of year! Our election ballot is loaded with propositions and the No-on–10 campaign is sowing a small crop of political signs across lawns in town. (That’s what $75M in landlord money buys.) What’s a tenant to do? Plant a Yes-on–10 sign, right? But there is no Yes-on-10 sign available. So we must fashion them from the opponents’ signs as one self-starter on Reeves has done. But…is it lawful for a tenant to post a lawn sign on the landlord’s lawn? Yes it is!
City Council held the first scheduled rent stabilization study session last Thursday. This latest step in the 18-month process to reform the ordinance is a sign that the endgame is near. In this first study session, our councilmembers suggested what a final rent stabilization ordinance might look like. However they continue to discuss both the key issues and the process itself. Here’s our recap as we look ahead to the second study session on October 18th.
Multifamily residents from Reeves to Crescent recently received a mailed notice that the Traffic & Parking Commission would consider modifying the preferential parking permit zones on the 200 and 300 blocks of Canon Drive. These blocks are in the ‘Q’ zone, which is shared with multifamily households on Reeves, Canon, Crescent and Elm. We said NO to the petition and the commissioners supported us. No change to Canon parking!