Listening to tenants talk in City Council or at the facilitated dialogues I am astounded that significant health and safety issues go unreported. Situations where a property’s structure is compromised or where in-apartment conditions beg for an inspector from code enforcement. I also understand that some tenants fear retaliation and don’t want to go on record. But others might contact the city if they know to reach out, and how to make that complaint effective. Here I walk through the steps to file and online complaint and highlight how the form allows for filing a complaint anonymously.
Have you received a notice from the city asking you to confirm your rent as reported by the landlord? Appeal notices went out last Thursday to many – but not all – households that rent in Beverly Hills. If you did not yet receive one, don’t be alarmed; there may be a good reason (scroll down for more about that). If you did receive a notice, please pay attention in case you have been notified of an incorrect rent amount. Correct and certified rents is the foundation of any rent stabilization program, and that’s why the city created a rental registry in the first place!
City Council in Tuesday’s September 19th evening session adopted a resolution to create the rental unit registry. It was a formality, really. Council had decided to move ahead with it on September 5th despite a small parade of landlords who argued that the registry was not only unlawful but too costly and the product of an improper process. Councilmembers brushed those self-serving arguments aside, however, and at this meeting merely needed to adopt a resolution to formalize their decision. After hearing a few landlords again mount a last-chance campaign, the registry got Council’s OK in mere minutes.
After winding its way though the policy machinery for the past year, Beverly Hills City Council has unanimously supported a policy to regulate smoking in multifamily properties (including condominium buildings). Councilmembers spoke up strongly on Tuesday in favor of banning smoking in all apartments, for both new and existing tenancies, and will phase-in the prohibition over an accelerated one-year period. That means all smoking ceases in multifamily properties by January 1, 2019. Read the press release.
In my previous post I dispensed with the landlords’ disingenuous argument that the city’s business tax drives up their cost of operating rental housing. Their demand for a 7% allowed annual rent increase because of a 1.2% business tax is ridiculous on its face (and poor logic), I said. Then I closed with a question: the landlords complain about the business tax, but how many actually pay it? I surveyed rental properties in my neighborhood and found that 1-in-10 landlords not only pay no tax, they aren’t even licensed to conduct business, according to city records.
Tenants hear landlords time and again say they need a 7% annual rent increase because the cost of doing business here is higher than elsewhere. Without fail they point to what they say is our city’s too-high business tax. “In Beverly Hills we pay ten times the business tax that we would in Los Angeles!” While the tax is higher in Beverly Hills than Los Angeles, the landlords’ argument they need a fat annual increase is simply not persuasive. The tax is flat and predictable and has nothing whatsoever to do with a rent increase. What’s more, it is a cost of doing business that is already built into our rents!
Now that City Council has agreed to go forward with the rent stabilization program, proponents and opponents are continuing the policy dialogue in the media. Thankfully, recent exchanges have reflected the comity we enjoyed during the facilitated sessions. But some would malign, though personal attacks, anyone who would speak up with a different vision of a better Beverly Hills. Here we rebut Nathan Hirsch’s September 8th letter to the Courier – a model of how NOT to conduct a public dialog.
Mayor Bosse tonight was able tonight to focus councilmembers on several key issues that are necessary to move the rent stabilization program forward: proceeding with a rental registry, funding the program, and hiring a deputy director. There were other areas of council agreement, too, like forming a tenant-landlord committee or board and enact new habitability standards. While the program moved forward, though, the next steps are unclear. Should the key policy questions go to a Council workshop? Get tossed back to the community for more dialogues? Let’s take a look at were councilmembers at the September 5, 2017 meeting were able to find consensus.
We on the tenants committee have read Professor Singh’s summary report and commend his considerable time-investment and efforts to familiarize himself with the city’s rent stabilization policies. We particularly appreciate Professor Singh’s sensitivity to tenants’ concerns about the power imbalance. That concern makes reconsideration of no-just-cause eviction for us a priority. Read the tenants’ position on that policy and others in our open letter to City Council.
Ever since Beverly Hills City Council last January created a rental unit registry to underpin our stabilization program, staffers have been watching the calendar as the days get crossed-off: come January 22nd we will mark one year since the urgency ordinance was adopted, and state law says that any effort to create a rental unit registry (which certifies permissible rents) must resolve all landlord and tenant appeals within a one-year window. Time is running out. Can you step up on behalf of the registry and program?
Facilitator Sukhsimranjit Singh wrapped up dialogue #7 like a man with a mission. When tenants and landlords seemed divided on the allowed annual rent increase, Singh leaned in. “Let’s close the gap – I give the power to you but we need to move forward.” Moving forward is a challenge, though, when tenants and landlords cannot to come to agreement, even conceptually, on how to determine an allowed annual rent increase. Here’s my takeaway from the final facilitated dialogue that hinged on that critical policy recommendation.
Facilitator Sukhsimranjit Singh approached dialogue #7 with an agenda that focused on several items from the previous table dialogue: the annual rent increase; relocation fees; no-just-cause tenancy terminations; and exemptions from rent stabilization for up to 4-unit structures. (For background read dialogue #5 recap and dialogue #6 recap.) In this final facilitated dialogue, though, landlords and tenants found little more to agree on. This is my recap.
At the second roundtable dialogue #6 (August 13th), tenants and landlords seemed to find some areas of common agreement, including the formation of a tenant-landlord committee and that every apartment renting and leasing business should be registered and paying business tax. (Currently not all do.) But there were key differences in how we viewed these and many issues. Here is my takeaway from that meeting. Please read the full recap for all of the details.
This past Sunday, City of Beverly Hills convened the second roundtable dialogue involving committees of tenants and landlords. “We are moving towards a middle ground,” Facilitator Sukhsimranjit Singh said. “We will try to conclude these issues today without war stories.” Like July’s dialogue #5, this dialogue #6 was organized to allow representatives from each side an opportunity to search for common interests in a focused, facilitated discussion. What follows is my summary. (Don’t need to read the details? Read my takeaway from this the session.)
City Council in January created a registry of rental units to identify every rental property owner in the city and to inventory the apartments that are occupied, available for rent, or otherwise off the rental market. The registry is KEY to the rent stabilization program, which is why rental housing business owners are trying by hook and by crook to torpedo the registry in order to sink the program it. Let’s take a closer look at the landlords’ objections.
City Council handed residents who rent a major setback tonight when the majority agreed to step away from an earlier, unanimous commitment to create a rental unit registry. Indeed our councilmembers appeared to second-guess their decision to create a registry at all. In retreating, Council signals that Beverly Hills may not yet be ready to regulate rental housing. And that has significant implications for both tenants and landlords as we are a half-year into a rent-stabilization policy process that shows no sign of coming soon to a conclusion.
The rental unit registry was unanimously approved by City Council in January to be the foundation of our rent stabilization program. The goal of he registry, City Council said, is to “preserve the City’s rental housing stock, and to protect the health, safety and welfare of tenants and the public.” Now Council is having second thoughts. If tenants don’t fight for it we will lose it – just like we lost our last chance for a registry a decade ago! Read on to learn what we can do to safeguard our only opportunity to hold bad landlords accountable.
City of Beverly Hills last spring implemented an interim rent stabilization policy that capped at 3% annual allowable rent increases, mandated for all tenants relocation fees, and created a rental unit registry. Then Council tossed it to the community to hug-it-out over the key policy details. This latest in the series of sessions focused on these three key issues: tenant-landlord communication; habitability standards for individual units; and the allowed annual rent increase. This is my recap of Dialogue #5.
This third facilitated dialogue was yet another break from expectations: unlike the shared tables of dialogue #2, this session broke us out into two separate groups, tenants and landlords separately, and put us each in a room to talk about issue areas as identified in dialogue #1. Now, I don’t know what happened on the landlord side, but tenants found renewed purpose in working together. And we presented a unified front when it came to defending the current ordinance. Here’s my recap.
Professor Sukhsimranjit Singh facilitated the second scheduled tenant-landlord dialogues this past Wednesday. It was a departure from Monday’s first session in that this session drilled down to the one concern important to every tenant and landlord: How much can the rent increase each year? The ‘consensus’ position that emerged from this session will not make you happy! Read on for my recap.