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.
Facilitator Sukhsimranjit Singh opened the city’s first tenant-landlord facilitated dialogue on Monday with three requests: be respectful, speak up, and listen. That acknowledged the divisions among tenants and landlords that emerged since the city adopted the first urgency ordinance in January. But it was also an admonition to the approximately 80 attendees: however passionate anyone may feel, the overarching goal across four scheduled facilitated dialogues was enhanced communication. Here is my recap.
Did you know that Beverly Hills provides free minor home repairs to multifamily households? This federally-funded ‘housing rehabilitation program’ can provide mobility improvements, weatherization, water conservation, security and other aspects of apartment maintenance to households long-ignored by the landlord. The only catch: households must qualify for the handyworker program [flyer].
On Thursday Beverly Hills wrapped up the second of two rent stabilization ‘education workshops.’ Residents and landlords were invited to these town-hall events to learn about major changes to the city’s rent-stabilization law (read about the changes in the ordinance). This is tenants first opportunity to hear directly from city officials about how the new policies will affect us.
To date, implementation of the rent stabilization program here in Beverly Hills is a mixed bag: the registry to track owners, units and tenancies is in progress, and Community Development Department is working with an outside contractor to develop the tools that we need to monitor compliance with our new policies. Public outreach on the rent stabilization policy, on the other hand, has been disappointing. Will Beverly Hills implement a program as robust as Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Los Angeles?
City Council at its Tuesday, May 16th 7pm meeting will discuss whether to fund a new housing rights legal services program. For the first time the city recognizes that residents who rent can find themselves at the wrong end of an eviction notice, or be harassed by a landlord or even suffer retribution for reporting mold, say. If this proposed $60,000 grant is supported by Council tonight, then residents will finally have access to free legal advice if we need it.