Most tenants don’t need to research the landlord because their relationship is business: the tenant writes the check and the landlord provides properly maintained housing. Every tenancy starts uneventfully and most continue so. But sometimes complications arise and disputes can find the courthouse. When the going gets rough it pays to do some due diligence!
City of Beverly Hills has posted the new maximum allowed annual rent increase percentages for both Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 tenants effective TODAY. For the first time, landlords will be allowed a higher percentage increase for Chapter 5 tenants than for Chapter 6 tenants. The world has turned upside down!
Residents who rent in Beverly Hills and had a housing problem likely came into contact with a code enforcement officer. The rent increase seemed too high; or property maintenance was lagging; or perhaps an eviction notice was posted. For decades those inquiries went to code enforcement. But today we have a Rent Stabilization Program to handle most calls. So where does code enforcement come into the picture now?
Does this sound familiar? “Housing campaigners have hailed a groundbreaking shift for tenants’ rights after the government announced plans to scrap ‘no-fault evictions” (reports The Guardian). Tenants groups called it “the biggest overhaul for renters in a generation.” It should sound familiar because six months ago Beverly Hills ended no-just-cause termination for many of the same reasons driving this change of law now in the UK. It turns out that we in hills of Beverly have more in common with the UK than we might have thought!
City Council created a new Rent Stabilization Commission in April and applications are now being accepted. There are nine seats total and one third of them are designated for tenants (two voting members and an alternate member). The application window closes end-of-day on May 24th. Let’s look at some problems with application — chiefly a question about past eviction.
City Council at the April 2nd meeting formally created a new Rent Stabilization Commission comprised of tenants and landlords and tasked with recommending changes to the city’s rent stabilization ordinance. This is only the latest step in a two year effort to amend our ordinance. Yet it is a bold move to give tenants and landlords a real voice in the process. And it is the most tangible sign to date of the city’s commitment to the effective regulation of rental housing in Beverly Hills. Read on about the membership, scope and duties of the new commission as well as the next steps in standing it up.
In a previous post we followed up on a real estate listing for 169 North Clark Drive that local landlord (and Executive Director of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles) Dan Yukelson had helpfully forwarded to city power brokers. His message: long time landlords are being forced out of business by rent stabilization. He also groused about “over regulation” and suggested (against all indications to the contrary) that rent stabilization makes rental property ownership a losing proposition. We called that an AAGLA fallacy: 169 North Clark was Exhibit A: a cash cow property with even more upside for the new buyer. Here is 9683 West Olympic. It is Exhibit B to show that a professional owner knows when the time is right to reap his gains!
Local landlord Dan Yukelson recently circulated an email to city power brokers to claim that rent stabilization harms mom-and-pop multifamily property owners in Beverly Hills. The email links to multifamily properties for sale. He says, “These are ‘long time’ housing providers being forced out of business by over regulation and bad housing policies in Beverly Hills.” We had a look at the listings. But rather than support specious claims about harm to landlords, these listed properties make the opposite point: multifamily is still a money-minting business and landlords have nothing to fear.
Moderate-income households take it on the chin in today’s tight rental housing market. Demand for rental apartments is rising because high housing costs have pushed more families to rent. Now our region is attracting employers paying higher salaries and those job-takers need housing too. Yet Beverly Hills has not meaningfully increased the supply of apartments over the decades, and when housing is built it is predominantly luxury condominiums. We take a look at one recent development to see how these dynamics play out to the disadvantage of residents who rent in Beverly Hills.
When a tenant receives a cash-for-keys buyout offer her logical question would be whether the money is worth the trouble of moving. Today’s Westside market is tight and the cash may not stretch as far as she would like. But is that even the right question to ask? Rather the tenant with a buyout offer in hand should ask, What is my vacancy worth to the landlord? As it turns out, quite a bit.
The city has identified two objectives for rent stabilization: to enhance the stability of renting households and to maintain and improve rental housing. But when landlords put profit before maintenance neither objective is accomplished. There is no clearer sign of disinvestment in housing than a tarp on the roof. And it comes at the expense of our community and the apartment houses we call home.
Last week City Council voted to make landlords and tenants a majority on our own commission and to task that commission with discussing the policy specifics of the next rent stabilization ordinance. That is a big change in direction, but we wouldn’t it from a visit to the city’s rent stabilization program website! In lieu of a recap of that recent development, the website still posts the announcement for last week’s meeting…as if it were still upcoming.
There isn’t even is a posted link to the meeting video. This communication breakdown is not new. We’ve griped about the lack of outreach. Where is the RSO bulletin or newsletter? Where is the monthly or quarterly email update? Where are the tenants’ rights seminars?
The Community Development Department’s webpage needs some help too. The mission is too focused on code enforcement and development and not enough on ‘community.’
Communication is simply not job #1 but it should be. Check out Santa Monica’s rent stabilization webpage. There is just a ton of information there. Or West Hollywood’s RSO webpage. Packed with news-you-can-use! Beverly Hills need not reinvent the wheel. Crib this stuff!
Why keep tenants better informed? It keeps us engaged. Give us a simple process timeline so where know where we are. Let us know what are the next steps as the process changes. At least let us know that the city has not dropped the ball on rent stabilization.
Finally, it is not only the rent stabilization program that’s falling down on what should be job #1. Its the city’s whole communication apparatus. How often does City Hall communicate with you? Hardly ever. Even the city’s weekly online newscast (vimeo) gives us the cold shoulder. Rent stabilization affects 7,700 households in Beverly Hills but you wouldn’t know it from Beverly Hills This Week. Not a mention of it over the past ten weeks.
Here is the message that SoCalGas has for Dr. Stephen Copen’s tenants at 152 South Reeves: Pay up the $1,359 your landlord owes or we’ll shut off your gas. Helpfully this NOTICE TO TENANTS lets residents know that they could take this burden off the landlord by assuming “individual or joint responsibility” for the account (and then be on the hook for the money). Tenants could then deduct the arrears from the rent. Good luck with that!
There are many issues up for discussion at the Tuesday City Council meeting, but among the most important for Chapter 6 tenants is the proposed 3.5% floor on the maximum allowed annual rent increase. Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 tenants may be increased annually by the percentage change in consumer prices (CPI) but with a crucial difference: only Chapter 6 tenants could see their rent increased as much as 3.5% in any year even when the landlord’s costs don’t increase at all. This is nothing more than a City Council subsidy to landlords and it should be removed from our rent stabilization ordinance.
Today is rent day, and that makes it an opportune moment to revisit City Council’s tentative consensus on a 3.5% floor for the maximum allowed annual rent for Chapter 6 tenants. As Councilmember Bob Wunderlich honestly described, this is a straight-up subsidy to landlords. We see it as an unearned bonus. Let’s take a look at what the floor is and what it means for tenants that could pay it.
The rent stabilization websites for West Hollywood and Santa Monica are chock-full of news-you-can-use: tenant-specific workshops (both basic and advanced), archived program newsletters, FAQs on topics like pets and security deposits and much more. Each city also provides a well-organized overview of the rent stabilization ordinance as well as state tenancy law. Why not Beverly Hills?
The Rent Stabilization Ordinance requires landlords to register their rental units with the city. That includes ownership and management information, property information, utilities and amenities included, and most important the current rent amount. The city has mailed notice to landlords so tenants will soon be contacted. That is an opportunity to contest the reported rent or tacitly verify it. Tenants, pay attention! We want all rents accurately reported. Here we review the purpose of the registry and the why it is so important to certify an accurate rent.
City Council will revisit rent stabilization at its upcoming February 5th meeting wherein agreement could be reached on the next rent stabilization ordinance. Key policy choices lie ahead. But behind us have been some hasty decisions by Council, though, which is why some tenants at the December 18th meeting urged councilmembers to press the ‘pause’ button. At that meeting City Council agreed, but continued to discuss several issues. Some consensus emerged but other issues were set aside for further analysis and debate. This is our recap of that December 18th meeting.
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!