Tenants Should Not Depend on a Tarp to Keep Dry

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: the property declines and prematurely reaches the end of its useful life. And there is no clearer sign of decline than a tarp on the roof!

205 South Reeves Drive

The building under the tarp at 205 Reeves Drive (above) clearly needs some attention. Not only is the roof evidently leaking, but a look around the place shows other signs of deferred exterior maintenance: worn paint; weathered windows and doors; and cracked walls. The apartments behind the main building set the mood for neo-noir.

That tarp is all that stands between the tenants of 205 Reeves and the weather. It betrays a degree of degradation that can’t be hidden behind a coat of paint and announces that the housing beneath is substandard even by the state’s own low bar: “fit for human habitation.”

The apartment house with a tarp on the roof suggests the property can’t meet even the very first requirement for a ‘tenantable’ dwelling under the state’s Civil Code:

A dwelling shall be deemed untenantable for purposes of Section 1941 if it substantially lacks any of the following affirmative standard characteristics.... (1) Effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls, including unbroken windows and doors. -- CIV ยง1941.1(A)

153 South Crescent

Take this once-lovely center-hall apartment house at 153 South Crescent. Back before the bad carriage lamps, ill-advised renovation, ugly brick facade, and ungainly balcony, this was a character-contributing part of our neighborhood and was even identified as a contributor to a potential historic district.

153 Crescent Drive with tarp
153 South Crescent Drive: another example of an income-generating property squeezed for cash flow by an absentee owner.

Today 153 South Crescent is just another example of the decline in our rental housing stock. The tarp that keeps out the rain out is a signal that yet another apartment building is headed for a premature demise. It is an example of a precious renewable resource, relatively affordable rental housing, that will meet its end because it is starved for the maintenance it needs.

Blight Comes to Town

Water is an insidious invader. Where water penetrates, other problems follow: mold, mildew and damage to personal effects. Each creates a problem for the tenant that she is at pains to resolve with the landlord.

It shouldn’t ever come to tarps-on-roofs. The Beverly Hills Municipal Code (section 5-7-4) regulates the condition of exterior building coverings and makes unlawful conditions such as “decay, dry rot, warping, or cracking.” The point is to keep the weather out.

Yet these tarps have been up there for months. But no code enforcement inspector has flagged them. Renters Alliance finally filed a complaint as we grew depressed looking at them. They suggest the kind of blight that City Hall says it is at pains to avoid: the deterioration of housing that negatively affects the health, safety and welfare of both occupants and the larger community.