How to File a Complaint

Today the Rent Stabilization Program handles concerns about rent increases, evictions, landlord business practices and much more. Community Preservation handles concerns about property maintenance, building violations, home businesses, gas-powered leaf blowers and much more. Whatever the issue a tenant may want to make a complaint. We show how it is done.

First lets get straight about which inquires or complaints go to which department. Like so much about housing it is complicated. This table breaks it down.

RSO office (rent stabilization ordinance)
Unit habitability Rent increase
Housing services Termination
Utility or pass-through charges Lease renewal issues
Code enforcement (municipal code)
Exterior property maintenance Right-of-way maintenance
Safety violations Home occupations
Animal-related concerns Gas-powered leaf blowers
Los Angeles County (state law)
Infestation, vermin and visible mold Health-related unit conditions
Civil matters (state and federal law)
Rental agreement violations Neighbor and landlord disputes
Security deposit disputes Landlord harassment & discrimination

Notice that some issues are civil in nature. The city’s rent stabilization ordinance may not apply on matters of state law where there is not a specific provision in the rent stabilization ordinance. In those instances the city won’t get directly involved. The tenant’s recourse lies with a private attorney.

Some issues implicate Los Angeles County Department of Health, which is the enforcement authority of matters like mold and infestation. In any case contact the Rent Stabilization Program office first. They should be aware of conditions related to rental housing generally.

Contact the City by Phone

Reach out to the Rent Stabilization Program office at (310) 285–1031 or by email at bhrent@beverlyhills.org for any rental housing-related complaint.

Contact the Community Preservation division at (310) 285-1119 for problems with gas-powered leaf blowers, property maintenance and right-of-way issues (like parkway maintenance). Also ask about any remodeling or construction work already completed but perhaps not permitted.

Contact Building and Safety at (310) 285-1119 when construction is underway but which may not be permitted. This includes kitchen, bathroom and whole-apartment renovations. If it implicates plumbing or electricity or ripping out drywall and windows, it needs a permit! Contact Building and Safety to report any work-in-progress. If it is not permitted the landlord gets a stop work order.

No matter which division, get a complaint number or reference number for later follow-up. Persistence is the key to resolving a complaint about rental housing.

Contact the City Online

Reaching out with a query or reporting a problem condition online is a good option because it creates a document trail. The city’s Ask Bev portal enables a user to choose a specific department or division and allows for uploaded documents and images too. Also there is a case number that is useful for later follow-up.

(Note: online is the only option for an anonymous complaint. But follow up depends entirely on the user because there is no contact information provided to the city. It is up to the user to check on progress.)

The city’s online portal, Ask Bev, is a clumsy, outdated customer management relic. It should have been retired a decade ago. Nevertheless it gets the job done. But a bit of hand-holding for new users is necessary. Here is our guided tour.

Our Guided Tour of Ask Bev (aka comcate)

If using the system for the first time, create a new account. on the city’s My Beverly Hills system. Returning users should log in with the login link at the top right of the submit a request page. (When contacting the city anonymously, there is no need to create an account at this point so simply choose a topic area without logging in.)

Comcate screen 1: choose a topic
The Ask Bev platform. A taste of the 1990s internet in the 21st century!

Choose a topic area from among the available tabs. (For example, ‘Renters Issues.’) Then choose a subtopic (or don’t – it doesn’t really matter). Ignore the frequently-asked-questions if displayed and then click ‘next’ to advance to the details screen.

Comcate screen 2: choose a subtopic
Choose a topic and subtopic. The subtopics are not thorough or well-organized. Don’t fret!

Choose whether to log-in OR to ’remain anonymous.’

Comcate screen 3: login or register
Choose whether or not to report anonymously.

Choose anonymous feedback options if reporting anonymously. There are two options: no feedback from the city and feedback that the user can access via a temporary login ID. The latter is the recommended option. So choose “Yes, I would like to see responses online.” Create an anonymous username and password.

Comcate screen 4: report anonymously
When creating an anonymous submission no identifying information or email address is collected But it is up to the user to check on progress by logging in with the username and password so write them down!

Provide the details. Choose ‘request,’ ‘question,’ or ‘complaint’ as appropriate (it really doesn’t matter) and then provide the query, complaint or comment in the window. Attach up to five supporting documents using the ‘attach a file’ link below that window.

Comcate screen 5: make the complaint
The details screen. Some topic choices will show fields for providing a violation address. Ignore those fields. Put the address in the text of the request.

Click ‘submit.’

Follow up is essential! A complaint may be quietly closed (sometimes with insufficient investigation). So be prepared to pursue the complaint until a satisfactory resolution.

Follow up by phone or email. By phone, call the code enforcement line at (310) 285–1119 and reference the assigned complaint number. Staff will be able to see the assigned officer (if any) and the disposition (open or closed).

Finally, check back later. Return to the Ask Bev login page and then log in with the account credentials or, if the request was anonymous, log in with the temporary user and password.

Comcate screen 6: follow up
Logging back in to check on the status of a request or complaint.

Once logged-in, the system will send a user to the status page where prior requests are listed. (At any time when logged in, the status page is accessed by clicking on the ’check status’ link at the top of the portal.) Click through on any to see the city’s response.

After Filing What Happens?

After filing a query or complaint online one of several things will happen:

  • A query will be acknowledged with some version of “We will look into it.”
  • A complaint may be acknowledged with “A case has been opened.”
  • A complaint or query to the Rent Stabilization Office may be acknowledged with a referral to code enforcement.

When a complaint IS referred to code enforcement the next steps may play out in one of these ways:

  • The complaint is investigated and no violation was found (case is closed);
  • After investigation, the property owner was advised to correct the problem and did (case is  closed);
  • There was an investigation an the property owner was advised, but there is not yet compliance (the case should remain open).

The second response is verifiable: is the subject of the complaint any longer an issue? But the  first and third responses may require more follow-up because code cases not infrequently are closed prematurely. Follow-up with the assigned code enforcement officer if necessary.

As for substantiated violations that remain uncorrected, the Municipal Code specifies a schedule of notices, fines and sometimes prosecution. It can be a long wait. Here follow-up is really crucial to ensure that the case is not quietly closed without a resolution.

Have you reported a violation? Please share your experience with Renters Alliance. Get in touch!