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 however.
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!
One of the more frustrating aspects pro-tenant work is recognizing how the deck is stacked against those who rent. There are many provisions in the law to keep the tenant in line. Keep a pet or live with an unapproved partner or roommate? The 3-day notice may come. A few days late (or a dollar short) on the rent? Sudden death for the tenancy. Yet the rules are much more lax for landlords, and the bad apples among them withhold repairs, enter the unit unlawfully, and even retaliate. Holding them to account is the tenant’s challenge because often the city won’t.
Beverly Hills City Council has endorsed Proposition 10 for the November ballot. If passed by voters, Proposition 10 would enact the Affordable Housing Act to repeal the state’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing law — the legislature’s ‘gift to landlords’ because it ties the hands of any city that would enact rent controls. Our city’s endorsement is a statement in support of local control and self-determination and anyone, tenant or landlord, who is concerned about local control for Beverly Hills should support Proposition 10. That’s why our City Council voted unanimously to endorse it.
Landlords claim that we tenants were a happy lot before City of Beverly Hills mucked around with the rent stabilization ordinance last winter. They say they hardly ever hit us with excessive rent increases; that properties were maintained just fine; and that no-cause eviction was not even a thing. So why fix what wasn’t broke? To back up those claims they have analyzed four years of Code Enforcement complaints. However this latest Hail Mary attempt to tank our rent stabilization program will persuade nobody that the system didn’t need fixing.
Dialogue #2 was convened to address three issue areas up for discussion at City Council this fall: rent banking, exemption of certain properties from rent stabilization, and the rent adjustment process. Like dialogue #1, city consultant HR&A Advisors presented each issue then passed the microphone to tenants and landlords for comment. Like dialogue #1, this session was less ‘dialogue’ and more call-and-response to have us reflect on a set of defined policy options.
Dialogue #1 kicked off with an introduction by Susan Healy Keene, Director of the Community Development Department, and then moved straight to a series of four issue presentations from city consultant, HR&A Advisors. Each was followed by followed by an open mic for public comments. Unlike last summer’s roundtable discussions, this series of dialogues is highly structured. There is a walk-through of each issue; then a bit about what the issue means to Beverly Hills tenants and landlords; and finally HR&A provides policy options to which the public is invited to respond.
Longtime tenants know this story: worn carpets long past their prime get to looking downright threadbare. Yet pleas for renewal find no sympathy from an inattentive landlord. Even a request for a carpet cleaning falls on a deaf ear (so to speak). When the quality of interior furnishings like carpets declines, it can fall to the tenant to pick up the slack: new paint, new carpet and the occasional carpet cleaning at her own expense. We’ve done that and more over the past twenty years and most recently hired a carpet cleaner. Here are our lessons learned!
When rental property owner Sharon Darnov appeared before City Council on August 7th she shared an observation. “There are good landlords and there are bad landlords,” she said. “There are good tenants and there are bad tenants.” Darnov didn’t talk about bad landlords but did have a word to say about ”extortionists” and “grifters” among her tenants. Every landlord has a story! Watch the video for Darnov’s story.