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.
Beverly Hills landlords have never liked the city’s rental unit registry. That year-old ledger of landlords, properties and tenancies is a must-have tool for the city to hold landlords accountable. That’s why landlords fought tooth and nail against it. Last fall their Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles brought a lawsuit in Superior Court to tank it. Having failed, the AAGLA is back with a literal federal case and a local landlord as plaintiff. Let’s take a look!
The HR&A analysis underpinning the rent stabilization policy discussion has done our city a service: policymakers, landlords and tenants now have some idea about the character of rental housing stock in Beverly Hills and the tenants who inhabit it. Our city has had a rent stabilization ordinance on the books for four decades yet our city had no accurate tally of rental properties. We had no comprehensive assessment of character or ownership. Nor did the city understand the rental market and where Beverly Hills fit in. The city’s rental unit registry and the HR&A Advisors study has filled in those gaps.
City Council at the
July 24th August 7th study session will continue a long discussion about how to fix structural deficiencies in about 300 residential buildings identified as seismically-vulnerable. Affected are predominantly ‘soft-story’ wood frame buildings (where the building overhangs outside parking) that comprise nearly a quarter of the city’s entire rental housing stock. They also provide much of the city’s relatively-affordable housing. So the suggestion that the cost of seismic retrofit be pushed on to tenants should give us pause. What is euphemistically termed “cost recovery” in reality would make nearly 2,000 renting households investors in their landlord’s property. But we would hold zero equity. Is this the right approach for Beverly Hills?
City of Beverly Hills has released a raft of draft rent stabilization issue papers produced by the city’s consultant, HR&A Advisors. As we explained in a recent post, The City’s Roadmap for Rent Stabilization, the consultant’s work will shape the City Council’s policy discussion this fall. That includes key issues like the no-just-cause eviction, rent increases and relocation fees; but it also includes proposals that favor landlords like rent-banking and exemptions from the rent stabilization program. Let’s look at what the city laid on us this week.
The city has announced the return of rent stabilization facilitated dialogues beginning August 15th and wrapping up in September. These topic-focused dialogues will offer the community (tenants and landlords) and opportunity to review and comment on the findings of the city’s rent stabilization consultant. (View the materials.) We will see a return engagement by Sukhsimranjit Singh, who facilitated the earlier round last summer, wherein considerable time and energy was expended. City Council then kicked it over to a consultant for further study. Now tenants and landlords will again have their say.
Here is a slew of links from around the web that remind us that our struggle for residential stability is not ours alone. Beverly Hills is only one of the many jurisdictions across California, and even the western world, where renters are locked in a protracted battle with both landlords and policymakers to remain housed.
Landlord Kevin Davis penned a letter to the Courier in the June 13th issue that warned of a “massacre” upon those who lease apartments should the Beverly Hills rent stabilization program continue. While we are accustomed to hyperbolic bloviating by property interest associations (like the hammer-and-sickle theme from the Apartment Owners Association of LA), when landlords offer specious and unfounded claims they should be knocked down. Here is the Renters Alliance rebuttal was published in the July 20th issue.
Do you live in near the future Metro station at Wilshire and Reeves? If so you are likely to experience construction-related disruption from the project. But If you rent housing near the future Purple Line station, your problems are only beginning. Households near the station are quite likely to be displaced over the coming years, so I’ve asked City of Beverly Hills to consider strong-arming Metro for compensation. Read on!
Beverly Hills City Council continues its 18-month long discussion about rent stabilization starting at its August 7th meeting, where staff will present findings from the city’s consultant study for consideration. Council will also identify the next steps in the policy process, which may include yet more facilitated dialogues between tenants and landlords. Then City Council will get down to business on a final rent stabilization ordinance in September or October. This process will move very quickly come the end of the summer with the process wrapped up before the holidays. Here’s what to expect!
The summer heat has finally arrived! And with it comes special dangers for a senior who may not have air conditioning in her apartment. A recent heat warning spelled out the danger:
…EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 10 AM FRIDAY TO 9 PM PDT SATURDAY.. HIGH TEMPERATURES…Record heat likely. Increased potential for serious heat-related illnesses, especially for the young and elderly, those performing outdoor activities, as well as those without access to air conditioning.
Seniors without air conditioning who reside on the upper floors of older buildings are most vulnerable. Check for the latest posted Los Angeles County heat alert and then consider these resources.
When Sacramento legislators won’t represent our interests, then we who rent have to do it ourselves. That’s the message sent by 447,834 voters to landlords. We signed a petition to put the Affordable Housing Act on the ballot in November. The measure would return to localities the authority to establish tenant protections that fit with local needs. That capacity was stripped by the state’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. Now Costa Hawkins repeal is headed to the November ballot!
A couple of months ago I got to thinking about how Beverly Hills calculates allowable annual rent increases. A formula tied to consumer prices long kept increases very low for Chapter 5 tenants. Indeed in a period of low inflation Chapter 5 increases long averaged about 1% annually. Then it jumped to an average of 1.7% this year in a reviving economy. But now the annual rent increase effective in August nearly doubles to 3.3%. What’s going on?
City of Beverly Hills announced that relocation fees will incrementally rise come July according to the percentage change in consumer prices for our region: a 4.1% increase. While this small bump-up is intended to allow the relocation fees to keep pace with rising rents, tenants will actually lose ground because even with the hike the fees lose ground relative to the cost of rental housing.