Holiday Construction is a No-No in Beverly Hills

Is this story familiar? You wake up on a holiday like Presidents Day. Pour a cup of coffee and enjoy the peace & quiet. Two guys hop out of an unmarked junk van with a contractor’s saw and a stack of plywood and set up shop on the front lawn. With loud banging they begin to remodel an apartment in the building. Who do you call on a weekend or holiday when city hall is closed?

The short answer: call the cops. Construction is not allowed on Presidents Day or any other federal holiday and it’s not allowed on weekends either without a special ‘after-hours’ permit. The municipal code is clear:

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 a holiday unless such person has been issued an after hours construction permit…. — B.H.M.C. 5–1–205

For the record the holidays during which construction is not allowed in Beverly Hills without a special permit:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Presidents Day
  • Memorial Day.
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Yom Kippur.
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • The Friday following Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

The prohibition on construction applies on Saturday too. But we see landlords undertake work on weekends or holidays because they aren’t aware of the prohibition or, more likely, they simply don’t care. Often that work occurs without the required building, plumbing and/or electrical permit.

Landlords largely get away with it because tenants aren’t informed about the law and the city doesn’t crack down on scofflaws that are caught violating it.

What Type of Construction Requires a City Permit?

The city regulates hours of construction only where there is a permit required. A good rule-of-thumb is that if it involves saws and delivery of building materials it needs a permit.

In general a permit is required for: removing and replacing drywall and installing laminate flooring (but not for interior painting or carpeting); replacing the front walk or the roof (but not for landscaping or most interior and exterior repairs); and for plumbing or electrical service work (but not for changing a faucet, say, or replacing an electrical outlet). If the work requires a licensed contractor then it is also likely to require a city permit.

Multifamily households are most likely to be affected by interior remodeling. Odds are the kitchen needs more than a new countertop and the bathroom needs more than a new faucet. Many of our older apartment houses have been neglected. Rain has seeped in, pipes have leaked and drainage has clogged and overflowed. Peek behind the tile work and it is a disaster (and possibly a health concern).

Even simply re-tiling a kitchen or bathroom requires a permit. But some landlords skip that step. In our experience, the landlord that works without the required permit is also a landlord more likely to do major work on a holiday.

To check if a permit has been issued you can call the code enforcement division at 310–285–1119 weekdays or go online to the ‘Citysmart’ portal and enter the address then scroll down for recent permits.

Tenant Help Thyself!

By way of background, recall that in Beverly Hills ours is complaint-driven enforcement. That means no enforcement officer is on patrol to look for violations (even on a holiday). The city depends on citizen code enforcement informers to rat on violators. Don’t feel bad — it is how the system is designed to operate. City inspectors won’t share a complainant’s name with the landlord.

Most residents generally aren’t informed about permit requirements or know about our complaint-driven system. And our rent stabilization division has done nothing — literally nothing — to inform us about what to do when construction on a weekend or holiday interferes with your quiet enjoyment.

So let Renters Alliance summarize the steps!

  1. Assess if the work is likely to require a permit. Use our rule-of-thumb (above) or have a look at the letter of the law in municipal code section 9–1–107. If no permit would be necessary — for interior painting for example — then the municipal code doesn’t disallow the work. If some problem with the work affects health and safety (a blocked exit or a hazardous condition) then there is cause for complaint.
  2. If the work is likely to require a permit and is undertaken on a weekend or holiday, then call the cops. Use the non-emergency number: 310–550–4951. Explain that the work should require a permit but that it is likely undertaken without the required after-hours permit.
  3. File a complaint via Ask Bev (aka ‘comcate’). Submit anonymously or create an account and click on ‘submit request.’ Choose the topic tab for resident information > renters issues. It’s a pain-in-the-ass but don’t let it discourage you. It is important to hold scofflaw landlords accountable. Confused by Ask Bev? Have a look at our handy guide to filing an online code enforcement complaint.
  4. If the cops stop the work then you can also give the rent stabilization division a heads-up about the weekend or holiday construction restriction violation. Reach the office at 310–285–1031.

I Complained: Now What?

If the weekend or holiday work does not stop with a call to police then follow up with police to ask whether they visited and what they found. Perhaps the work in their view did not require a permit; while that might not be the last word on it, it could the answer that’s available because nobody else is on the job on weekends and holidays.

If the contractor told to stop work but then disregarded that advice, call the cops again. Be sure to file a complaint too. Landlords feel a measure of impunity because the city historically has not held them to account for scofflaw behavior. Remember, the city says that’s our job!

Our President’s Day Experience

The truck pulled up about 9 am. Out came a couple of guys with a contractor’s saw and a stack of plywood. Getting ready for an interior remodel they set up shop on the front lawn. Now, on a weekday we might have called city hall to see whether it is proper to operate construction equipment on the front lawn. But on President’s Day city hall is on holiday too.

Bang-bang-bang came from inside the unit. Call #1 to BHPD. In short order a cop came out and after some protracted discussion it looked like peace and quiet was to return. But it was not meant to be.

Bang-bang-bang resumed after a short time. Call #2 to BHPD. The same cop came back out. This time the quiet lasted two or three hours. But again this holiday was not meant to be ours to enjoy quietly.

Bang-bang-bang again emerged from the unit around 2pm. Call #3 to BHPD. This time the cops came out and it stopped for good. Had we not known about the holiday construction prohibition, or known whom to call, that work would probably have continued into the evening.

Incidentally, that remodeling job was first undertaken without a permit. After pulling a permit and filing the required means and method plan the work resumed. And when work finally did commence of course it cranked-up on President’s Day!

Why Work on a Holiday?

Why would workers descend on a weekend or holiday? We can only speculate. Perhaps it’s because building inspectors are off weekends and holidays. A landlord may feel that the work — especially unpermitted work — will attract less city notice. And besides, when the neighbors notice there is nobody in city hall to call on a holiday.

Some landlords do their work on the cheap. They hire low-cost laborers who may be unlicensed and unfamiliar with industry practices. They show up after the work week on a side-gig. Here the truck is a giveaway: a beat-up van with no branding or commercial registration and probably no insurance.

Junk work van

Licensed contractors drive branded trucks which are licensed as commercial vehicles. They understand major construction doesn’t occur on a holiday. Because they are at home enjoying the holiday too.

Two years ago the city banned construction on just a couple of federal holidays. Renters Alliance succeeded in expanding that ban to include all federal holidays. Now if we all do our part, landlords will finally get the message that work can’t commence on weekends or holidays. Do you have a concern about holiday construction? Get in touch with Renters Alliance!