Our Recap of the Landlord Community Education Workshop

City of Beverly Hills recently divided the community education workshop into separate tenant and landlord sessions. We recapped the August 12th tenant session and here we look at the September 12th landlord session, RSO Basics and Updates for Housing Providers. With two additional landlord sessions in coming months focused on specific topics like rental unit registration, turnout for this basics session was pretty light.

Rent stabilization office director Helen Morales walked through a fairly elementary overview of the city’s rent stabilization ordinance. The presentation appeared similar to the one presented to tenants with perhaps a greater focus on the ordinance relative to the state tenancy laws. (There was no representative from the state to explain them.) In fact the session seemed overall less informative than the tenant’s August session.

Turnout was light — about 20 landlords — and among them were just a few whom we recognized from earlier city meetings. Two had sat at the summer 2017 roundtable where seven tenants and seven landlords aired our grievances. Tonight most attendees were mom-and-pop owners.

(Notably there was no representative from the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles. The industry association has brought a federal lawsuit against the city to invalidate our rent stabilization program. That would be United States District Court case CV–18–06840. Perhaps the association’s leadership is simply boycotting all RSO activities.)

Content was also fairly light. Even with questions the event wrapped in exactly an hour. And those landlord questions did not reflect a real familiarity with the city’s rent stabilization ordinance. Want to watch? Scroll down for the replay schedule on BHTV.

Interestingly the landlord questions predominantly concerned eviction causes and specifically the city’s ‘disruptive tenant’ provision. That new section of the ordinance allows a landlord to recover a unit through a local process (adjudicated by a City Council committee) when a tenant’s behavior disturbs the peace, intimidates, or otherwise disrupts tenant life.

Notably a couple of landlords were concerned that it should also address unacceptable behavior towards anybody on the property including contractors. (Hard to disagree with that.)

Other questions concerned the pass-through of utility bills like trash (allowed but only if the lease does not say the landlord pays trash) which we covered in more detail in a recent explainer, How Much Can My Landlord Bill Me for Trash Pickup?

There was a question asked about building managers. Would a terminated building manager collect a relocation fee? Yes, Helen said, if that manager is a Chapter 6 tenant. But Helen was careful to say that the requirement applied only to Chapter 6. However our reading of the the ordinance doesn’t support a distinction between Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 when it comes to paying a fee when a manager is involuntarily terminated. (We will take a deeper dive in an upcoming post.)

Next was a quick review of the purpose of the means & method plan which is required whenever building work will affect a tenant. That includes noise, dust and conditions that affect habitability like loss of utilities or access to the kitchen or bathroom. The plan is not mentioned in the rent stabilization ordinance however and most tenants never knew such a plan was long-required pursuant to Municipal Code subsection 9–1–108 (L)(1):

Construction Means And Method Plan Required: (1) When applying for a permit to alter, repair, or rehabilitate any structure that contains one or more dwelling whether the property is occupied by tenants.

Work impacts are a real point of contention between tenants and landlords. Helen helpfully called out the means & methods plan as an “opportunity for good communication between you and your tenants.” Indeed! Since the city began to actually enforce the longtime requirement, the rent stabilization office has been playing a mediating role of sorts between landlord and tenant.

How would a tenant get hold of a means & methods plan? You have to ask the landlord. We have called for the plan to be provided to tenants in some form, but the city’s position remains that it is up to the tenant to ask. And that puts the tenant in an awkward position. Besides, there is no heads-up to tenants that a plan has even been approved by the city.

Another question concerned short-term rentals (like AirBnB). Helen discussed how short-term rentals are regulated and referred it to code enforcement. Ultimately short-term leasing could lead to eviction (which is why we caution that unauthorized occupants could trigger a 3-day notice). We wish Helen had cautioned landlords not to withhold units from the market for short-term leasing purposes!

One question broached what we know is a challenge for landlords: dealing with tenants who may be difficult owing to advancing age or mental disability. “When I have an incapacitated tenant,” one landlord asked, “Where do I turn?” The short answer is service providers affiliated with the county or nonprofits that work at county scale to stem homelessness. The longer answer — that the patchwork of support services and social safety net is a hail-Mary pass for an incapacitated senior — wasn’t on the agenda for discussion (but it should be).

The next upcoming community education workshops are landlord-focused too: rent adjustment applications and Mills Act (read more) on October 10th and annual rental unit registration on November 7th. There is no tenants’ advanced workshop yet scheduled but we hope to see one soon.

BHTV schedule for community eduction replays:

  • Mon. 9/16 6:00 pm RSO Basics and Updates for Housing Providers
    Thurs 9/19 12 pm RSO Basics and Updates for Tenants
    Thurs 9/19 2 pm RSO Basics and Updates for Housing Providers
    Tues. 9/24 8 pm RSO Basics and Updates for Housing Providers