New RSO Workshops are Scheduled

This Monday, August 12th at 6pm the city will host a rent stabilization workshop specifically for tenants. RSO program staff will provide an overview of the rent stabilization ordinance amendments and discuss next steps in the policy process. But tenants need more than a high-level overview; we need help with our problems. Save the date and join us at City Hall with your own tough questions for city rent stabilization officials!

This summer the city will host a third round of RSO workshops starting this Monday. The schedule as posted on the RSO website:

RSO Basics and Updates for Renters: August 12, 2019
RSO Basics and Updates for Housing Providers: September 12, 2019
Rent Adjustment Application / Mills Act: October 10, 2019
Annual Registration: November 7, 2019

Workshops are held in the City Hall Municipal Gallery at 455 N Rexford Drive from 6PM to 8PM. Please call (310) 285–1031 or email to RSVP.

A Workshop with a Difference

This round of rent stabilization workshops kicks-off with a crucial difference: we tenants get our own session separate from that provided to landlords. That is an important difference for a few reasons. First, tenants and landlords may have many mutual concerns but they diverge when it comes to protecting our interests under the law. Rent stabilization staff should respond to our concerns without having to walk a neutrality tightrope.

Second, tenants will have have specific questions about the rent stabilization ordinance and city processes that affect us. (Landlords will have different questions.) By extension, tenants are better able to identify areas where the rent stabilization ordinance should be improved, and where city processes could better serve tenants. That should be our own conversation with city officials.

Finally, a rent stabilization workshop should be about tenant empowerment. An educated and informed tenant is an empowered tenant. That means understanding tenancy law (and its limitations) so we can protect our own interests. Moreover, we want to encourage every tenant to participate and we don’t need tenants fearful of speaking up if the landlord is in the room.

We pushed for a separate session and thankfully the city agreed. Monday’s workshop is ‘RSO basics.’ Let’s hope it is eventually followed by an ‘RSO advanced’ workshop (as in West Hollywood).

What’s on the Workshop Agenda?

The rent stabilization office has not described the format for this workshop. Based on prior workshops we can expect a dry PowerPoint presentation followed by a Q&A. Earlier workshops saw Community Preservation (aka code enforcement) take the lead. That wasn’t entirely successful. And understandably so: enforcement of the municipal code is a responsibility that is wholly different from a mission to educate and empower tenants. The prior workshops delivered a message about what tenant’s can’t do.

This time we expect that RSO program director Helen Morales will deliver a presentation that suggests what tenants can do to protect our rights.

The city also declined to make available some topics that will be covered. As this is an ‘RSO Basics and Updates for Renters’ workshop, we expect at a minimum an overview of the rent stabilization ordinance and a preview of ordinance amendments. (As Renters Alliance previously noted, the new Rent Stabilization Commission will be discussing ordinance amendments, so that’s your spoiler right there!)

Our Take

The value to tenants from a separate workshop is that we get clear answers for our pressing problems. That means more than an overview, which the city could accomplish simply by (finally) updating the Rights and Responsibilities booklet and handing it out. Instead we are looking for a substantive discussion about key tenant concerns like:

  • What to do when the landlord fails to make necessary repairs or refuses to repair appliances;
  • What to do when the landlord unlawfully deducts from, or fails to return, the security deposit;
  • What do do if the landlord wants to undertake a major remodeling;
  • What to do when the landlord comes calling with a ‘cash for keys’ buyout offer; and,
  • What to do when a tenant suspects mold or some other toxin is compromising her health.

The latter is especially important given our city’s older, less well maintained stock. Water damage and cosmetic repairs allows mold to fester. Yet the city will not assist a tenant in testing for mold; nor will the city even inspect for it. (We discuss those challenges and more in Mold in the Unit: It’s Complicated!)

Now maybe those are topics for an advanced workshop. But there is no advanced workshop on the calendar! Let us not let-off staff easy with a simple PowerPoint presentation. Much more can be done to communicate effectively with tenants and we hope that this workshop establishes a template. On that note, the workshops could use a catchier name and logo. We would also like to see more meat on the bones in the office’s next RSO update (read the RSO update for July 2019).

Please join us for the first Beverly Hills ‘RSO Basics and Updates for Renters’ workshop on Monday August 12th and come prepared with issues you face as a tenant in rental housing in Beverly Hills.