Code Enforcement: A Primer

If you have encountered a problem with rental housing in Beverly Hills you have likely spoken with our Community Preservation program. Code enforcement handled calls about a rent increase that seemed too high, or a poorly-maintained property, or a surprise termination notice. Today the Rent Stabilization Program handles most tenant calls. But not all of them. Read our primer to understand the difference.<–more–>

What is Community Preservation?

Community Preservation is a division of the city’s Community Development department responsible for providing code compliance guidance and enforcement of the Beverly Hills Municipal Code, local and State laws, says the code compliance website. It is a big job because the Municipal Code is a voluminous and evolving document. In addition to the rent stabilization ordinance, the Municipal Code covers building codes, fence heights, property maintenance requirements, administrative procedures and many laws that regulate life in Beverly Hills.

Ours is a complaint-driven system. Tenants are the unofficial housing inspectors. We refer a problem to Community Preservation. A code enforcement officer investigates. If substantiated, a notice of violation is issued. The landlord gets time (and more time) to comply. Eventually the matter may get referred to the city prosecutor (an outsourced function). That’s how it works in a nutshell. For more about filng a complaint, read our explainer: How to File a Complaint.

Rent Stabilization Program is the New Gateway

All inquiries regarding rental housing and rental properties once went to Community Preservation because Beverly Hills never had a rent stabilization program; instead code enforcement was our defacto housing program and it didn’t work very well for tenants. Today the Rent Stabilization Program office filters many tenant inquiries and passes certain complaints on to Community Preservation.

On these issues the Rent Stabilization Program should be the first call:

  • Rent increases
  • Eviction notices
  • Rental unit registration and rent amounts
  • Lease provisions
  • Mediation of disputes
  • Unit maintenance
  • Landlord harassment or other unsound business practices
  • Inquiries related to any section in chapter 5 or chapter 6 of the rent stabilization ordinance.

Find the Rent Stabilization Program office at (310) 285–1013 or bhrent@beverlyhills.org.

Some inquiries will then be forwarded to Community Preservation. The division includes Building & Safety and Code Enforcement, and those two serve different functions. Direct inquireis concerning construction or remodeling that is currently in progress to Building & Safety. Code Enforcement handles after-the-fact compliance. If the work is complete the call goes to Code enforcement. For example if the landlord is remodeling at all hours, call Building & Safety because that is work in progress.

Code Enforcement handles violations that are beyond the scope of Rent Stabilization Program. These include non-housing related issues such as:

  • Gas-powered leaf blowers;
  • Maintenance of the public right-of-way
  • Any safety issue related to a multifamily building exterior;
  • Animal control;
  • Unpermitted construction or renovation work already completed.

Areas of Shared Responsibility

Some inquiries will involve both the Rent Stabilization Program and Community Preservation. Take the example of construction in an apartment on the property. The landlord should have filed a Means & Methods plan if the work is intrusive or would interfere with the utilities. (The M&M plan is a roadmap for the work and tenants may obtain a copy from the landlord.) A concern about the plan should go to the Rent Stabilization Program. Likewise for concerns about exterior property maintenance and dilapidation: the Rent Stabilization Program office needs to be aware of problems with the rental housing stock.

A question about the building, electrical or plumbing permit (if any is required) or worksite conditions generally should be directed to Building & Safety. Reach Community Preservation at (310) 285-1119. For more information about making a complaint see our explainer: How to File a Code Complaint.

Example Areas of Tenant Concern

Renters Alliance often thumbs through the Municipal Code to reference suspected violations on multifamily properties. (Remember, ours is a complaint-driven system, and so the city depends on us, the unofficial housing inspectors, to report problems.) Here we have compiled a list of codes that address issues that resonate with tenants. Each would get reported directly to Community Preservation except for those with an asterisk * that should be directed to the Rent Stabilization Program.


Has the landlord not maintained the exterior of the property?*

5-7-4: CONDITIONS PROHIBITED ON PREMISES: The following conditions do not comport with a safe, clean, orderly, sanitary and aesthetic condition on premises and are prohibited by section 5-7-3 of this chapter:
(B) Buildings with deteriorating or peeling paint which allows the exterior building coverings to deteriorate or allows the effects of sun or water penetration so as to cause decay, dry rot, warping, or cracking;
(C) Broken windows, doors, attic vents, or underfloor vents;
(D) Improperly maintained landscaping which is visible from streets, including, but not limited to: 1. Lawns with grasses in excess of six inches (6") in height; 2. Untrimmed hedges; 3. Dying trees, shrubbery, lawns, and other desired plant life from lack of water or other necessary maintenance; and 4. Trees and shrubbery growing uncontrolled without proper pruning;
(E) Overgrown vegetation which is unsightly and likely to harbor rats or vermin;
(F) Dead, decayed, or diseased trees, weeds, and other vegetation;
(G) Trash, garbage, or refuse cans, bins, boxes, or other such containers stored in front or side yards visible from public streets and rear yards;
(H) Lumber, junk, trash, debris, or salvage materials maintained upon any premises which are visible from a public street, alley, or adjoining property;
(I) Abandoned, discarded, or unused furniture, stoves, sinks, toilets, cabinets, or other household fixtures or equipment stored so as to be visible at the ground level from a public alley, street, or adjoining premises;
(M) The accumulation of dirt, litter, or debris in vestibules, doorways on the premises, or adjoining walkways;
(N) Mounds of soil, dry grass, weeds, dead trees, tin cans, abandoned asphalt or concrete, rubbish, refuse, or waste or other unsanitary material of any kind;
(O) Building exteriors, walls, fences, driveways, or walkways which are cracked, broken, defective, deteriorated, in disrepair, or defaced due to any writing, inscription, figure, scratch, or other marking commonly referred to as "graffiti", which is subject to the provisions of chapter 9 of this title;
(Q) Any tree which overhangs a street, alley, sidewalk in such a manner as to cause an obstruction to any person using such street, alley, or sidewalk;
(R) Any other condition which adversely affects the public health, welfare, and safety.

Has the landlord allowed the property to deteriorate to the point that a structural deficiency or fire code violation has rendered it possibly unsafe?

9-1-119(A): UNSAFE BUILDINGS, STRUCTURES, OR EQUIPMENT: All buildings, structures, or building service equipment, or portions thereof, that are or hereafter become unsafe, insanitary, or deficient or which constitute a fire hazard, or are otherwise dangerous to human life, or which in relation to an existing use constitute a hazard to safety or health, or public welfare, by reason of inadequate maintenance, dilapidation, obsolescence, fire hazard, disaster damage, or abandonment as specified in this code or any other applicable ordinance of the city, are, for the purpose of this code, unsafe buildings or structures. As used herein, "abandonment" exists when a building or structure is not lawfully occupied and contains conditions that violate the Beverly Hills municipal code, and for which all required submittals and fees to repair, demolish or replace said building or structure have not been received by any division of the community development department for a period of six (6) months.

Did next-door remodeling take you by surprise?*

9-1-108 (L) Construction Means And Method Plan Required: 
(2) If the property is tenant occupied and, as determined by the city building official, the construction work could impact the habitability of any unit on the property, prior to obtaining a permit, the applicant shall submit a construction means and method plan to the city building official which contains the information required by this section. The construction could impact unit habitability if any of the following conditions may exist at the property for a period exceeding one working day: (a) Inadequate sanitation… (b) Structural hazards… (d) Faulty weather protection.. (f) The building, premises or portions thereof is not provided with adequate exit facilities [e.g., blocked stairway or hallway] 
(3) No permit shall be issued until a satisfactory means and method plan is approved by the city building official, if required.

Does construction cause you to loose sleep?

5-1-205: RESTRICTIONS ON CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITY:
(A) No person shall engage in construction, maintenance or repair work which requires a city permit between the hours of six o'clock (6:00) P.M. and eight o'clock (8:00) A.M. of any day, or at any time on a Sunday or public holiday unless such person has been issued an after hours construction permit issued…For the purpose of this section, "public holiday" shall mean: New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day. 
(B) No person employed for the purposes of construction, maintenance, or repair work which requires a City permit shall enter a site on which such work will be done prior to eight o'clock (8:00) A.M.

Tired of shabby for-rent signs?

10-4-502: REAL ESTATE SIGNS: Real estate signs shall not exceed five hundred (500) square inches in area.
10-4-506: NUMBER OF SIGNS PERMITTED: Not more than one real estate sign, one building identification sign, and one security protection sign shall be permitted on any site area, unless such site is abutted by more than one street, in which case one of each such signs may be erected, installed, or maintained on each street frontage.
10-4-509: PROHIBITED LOCATIONS: No sign shall be located less than five feet (5') from a street line [including sidewalk] except that if an established setback exists which is less than five feet (5'), a sign may be placed in front of or against the structure.

Hate that prison-like tall fence at a neighboring building?

10-3-2814(C): WALLS, FENCES AND HEDGES: The maximum allowable height of a wall, fence, or hedge located within the first twenty percent (20%) of the front yard, measured from the front line of the lot, shall be three feet (3'). The maximum allowable height of a wall, fence, or hedge located within the front yard at a distance from the front lot line of more than twenty percent (20%) of the front setback shall be six feet (6'); provided, however, that any portion of such wall, fence, or hedge which exceeds three feet (3') in height shall be open to public view.

Is the landlord’s new Astroturf looking crappy?

10-3-2813.5(C): SYNTHETIC TURF IN FRONT YARDS: Synthetic turf shall not be located: Within the public right of way/parkway; Within eighteen inches (18") of a front lot line (buffer shall be landscaped with living plant material); 4. Within three feet (3') of a multiple-family dwelling.

Are you kept awake by the neighbor landlord’s harsh exterior lighting?

5-6-1101: EXCESSIVE LIGHTING PROHIBITED: It shall be unlawful for any person, except governmental agencies, to install, use, or maintain any lighting which creates an intensity of light on residential property which is greater than one foot-candle above ambient light level; and provided further, all permissive lighting shall be arranged to focus on the property from which it originates, and shall not directly reflect upon any adjacent residential property.

Are gas-powered leaf blowers driving you crazy?

5-1-209: PORTABLE GASOLINE ENGINE POWERED BLOWERS: It shall be unlawful for any person within the city to use or operate any portable machine powered with a gasoline engine used to blow leaves, dirt, and other debris off sidewalks, driveways, lawns, or other surfaces.

Tired of car alarms?

5-1-203: MOTOR VEHICLE ALARMS: 
(A) It shall be unlawful for any person to cause, allow, or permit any alarm located in a motor vehicle registered in the name of or driven by such person to emit any audible sound within the city for a period of more than ten (10) minutes. The time shall be calculated based upon the emission of the first audible sound, and end ten (10) minutes thereafter, notwithstanding any variation or delay in the emissions of audible sound. 
(B) Any violation of this section is hereby declared a public nuisance and in addition to other remedies if the alarm continues to be activated for a period in excess of forty five (45) minutes, any police officer may have the vehicle removed from any zone in the city to abate such nuisance.

Tired of living next door to a musician?

5-1-201: SOUND AMPLIFYING EQUIPMENT: It shall be unlawful for any person within any residential zone of the city to use or operate any sound amplifying equipment between the hours of ten o'clock (10:00) P.M. and eight o'clock (8:00) A.M. of the following day in such a manner as to be distinctly audible at or beyond the property line of the property on which the equipment is located.

Or a DRUMMER?!

5-1-208: DRUMS: It shall be unlawful for any person to use any drum, other percussion or musical instrument, or device of any kind for the purpose of attracting attention by the creation of noise within the City. The provision of this section shall not apply to any person who is a participant in a school band [!] or duly licensed parade or who has been otherwise duly authorized to engage in such conduct.

Does your neighbor keep an unlikely pet?

5-2-101: KEEPING OF CERTAIN ANIMALS, FOWL, AND REPTILES PROHIBITED: No person shall have, keep, or maintain any animal, fowl or reptile with the exception of dogs, cats, rabbits, parrots, parakeets, mynah birds, lovebirds, and other normally accepted psittacine birds, on any real property within the city.

Is your neighbor a ‘shade-tree’ mechanic?

5-1-204: MOTOR VEHICLE OPERATION AND REPAIR: It shall be unlawful for any person within any residential area of the city to repair, rebuild, or test any motor vehicle [except on public streets] in such a manner that a reasonable person of normal sensitiveness residing in that area is caused discomfort or annoyance.

These and more nuggets can be found in a walk through the Beverly Hills Municipal Code. It goes without saying that anything that suggests a fire safety issues goes directly to the fire department. A complaint can be made using our explainer: How to File a Code Complaint.

Note: Interior maintenance largely gets a pass. Tenants often inquire about old paint, worn carpet, aged appliances and other interior conditions that should trigger landlord action. Because Beverly Hills has no local standard for habitability (our rent stabilization ordinance is silent on such matters) there is no role for Code Enforcement. We explain this in more detail in our explainer: Habitability Code Violations: What You Need to Know.