Beverly Hills landlords sat across the table from our tenants committee at the dialogues this summer and opposed in every way possible the city’s rental unit registry. The registry is the heart of the city’s rent stabilization program and is a means to hold landlords accountable. Which is why they have embraced a scorched-earth campaign to tank it. This landlord took another tack: demanding from the city any record of a tenant complaint about her landlord — as we learned by filing our own public records request on the landlord!
Introducing Harvey Miller, an attorney and local landlord who is among the most outspoken opponents of rent stabilization. Here is Mr. Miller’s remarks at the September 5th City Council meeting:
We understand the city’s goal: it’s simple: to protect the tenants. We agree with that; there are a lot of solutions. But we disagree with the way we are attempting to achieve it. We don’t think, and didn’t think then, that there was an emergency… For 30 years there was not a registry; for 30 years the city existed without any real problems – just at the fringes. If a problem does exist, the registry will do nothing to address it… Our suggestion is to improve the bureaucracy that you have in place. Improve the complaint based system. Improve the dissemination of data to tenants so that they understand their rights, can go to code enforcement….
That was his last-ditch effort to keep the city from requiring landlords to register their properties (but landlords didn’t succeed).
If Mr. Miller shares our concerns about tenant protections, he wouldn’t be doubling-down on the existing code enforcement system; he would be advocating for systematic inspections by trained housing inspectors. Our system fails tenants because it is designed not to hold landlords accountable. Additional staffing won’t improve it.
Harvey Miller spoke up against the registry no fewer than nine times this year at city meetings. In fact, Mr. Miller has appeared before City Council more often than any other landlord or tenant. He’s even surpassed the landlords’ own lobbyist who is paid to appear.
The problem is that Mr. Miller’s records requests seeks tenant-city communications too. He sat at the table for our tenant-landlord roundtable dialogues where he heard plenty about how tenants are loathe to complain to the city and fearful of landlord retaliation when they do contact the city. Were Mr. Miller seeking an accurate reflection of tenants’ concerns about their rental housing, the city record would be incomplete. Moreover he’s heard plenty from tenants at every city meeting he attended.
So why make a formal public records request for those documents if the purpose was anything other than to intimidate? Look at how far-and-wide Mr. Miller has cast his net for tenant communications. He wants all communications across 27 categories including code complaints about unit conditions and rent increases. Here’s his his public records request.
Mr. Miller has also called me out specifically in his public record request. Among the 27 categories is included “any documents from Mark Elliot” and “any documents from the BH Renters Alliance.”
Apparently he likes to keep an eye on tenant organizers too! But Mr. Miller can’t intimidate with his request. Everything we do at Renters Alliance is for public consumption. Happy reading, Mr. Miller!
If Mr. Miller is fishing for a housing-related complaint from me, he won’t find it in city records. I have never filed a complaint against my own landlord (she’s managed the place well enough). But if Mr. Miller wants to pore over my prior code complaints he will find a lot to read about some of our less-conscientious landlords. He’s see hundreds of complaints about gas-powered leaf blowers too (they are illegal).
For most tenants it should not be happy reading to learn that a landlord is doggedly looking for our communications with the city about problems we may have with our rental housing.
As for Mr. Miller’s tenants at 9925 Durant Drive, owned by Durant Drive Apartments LLC, which permits indicate is controlled by the Miller family, know that your landlord is among those most interested in keeping tenant protections from you.