RSO Commission Seeks Tenant Representatives [Updated]

The city is seeking two residents who rent housing in Beverly Hills to join the Rent Stabilization Commission. The commission has been tasked by city council to make recommendations concerning certain amendments to the rent stabilization ordinance and to adjudicate certain appeals. In addition to two tenants, this unusual six-member commission includes designated seats for two landlords and two ‘at-large’ members (neither tenants nor landlords). No experience is necessary!

Update The application period has now closed with five applications submitted for two available tenant seats. (Commission seats usually attract 5-10 applicants per seat.) Despite the relatively few applicants interested in a commission seat, the five applications submitted meets the minimum required to allow city council to make appointments. Next step: council will undertake interviews and then likely move quickly to make appointments (probably at the next scheduled city council meeting on July 15).

Commission Responsibilities

The Rent Stabilization Commission is tasked with making recommendations to city council concerning amendments to the rent stabilization ordinance that were not resolved by council in the council’s last round of discussions in 2019; and to “perform such other duties and functions as may be designated” by city council (B.H.M.C. 2–2–502).

One of those “other duties and functions” is to hear and adjudicate tenant appeals in cases where the landlord has denied rent forbearance during the COVID–19 emergency. Since beginning to meet in May 2020 the commissioners heard four such appeals (two were denied and two were withdrawn). As far as we know there has not been any new appeal filed.

The rent stabilization issues that city council tasked the commission with discussing include:

  • Annual maximum allowable rent increase percentage;
  • Examination of Beverly Hills habitability standards;
  • Proactive rental housing inspection program;
  • Allowable pass-through for charges related to water reliability, seismic retrofit, refuse and annual registration;
  • Remodeling expenditure dollar threshold that could trigger an involuntary tenancy termination;
  • Regulation or disclosure of ‘cash-for-keys’ tenancy buyouts; and,
  • Evaluation of current relocation fees.

Commission Progress

The commission first met in May of 2020 to appoint a chair and vice-chair and, since then, the meetings have been somewhat rocky as commissioners and staff tried to find their bearings. In terms of substantive issues, the commission in its short tenure discussed only remodeling thresholds, cash-for-keys and relocation fees.

The commission agreed to discard the remodeling threshold entirely, which is good because tenants don’t need another reason to fear a no-fault eviction! The commission declined to require that tenants be informed of their rights under the law where it comes to cash-for-keys transactions. The commission also declined to track (much less regulate) buyout transactions in Beverly Hills. Not good!

The commission’s discussion about relocation fees bogged-down over the course of three meetings amid commissioner tension. The February meeting in particular highlighted the frustrations that seemed to divide commissioners along tenant-landlord lines and that ultimately kept at bay any recommendation on relocation fees. Review all of the meeting videos at the commission’s archive.

More Information About the Commission

Commission service generally requires Beverly Hills residency and, as regards tenant-representative seats, residence in a rent-controlled apartment. (Moving out of the city ends the commission appointment.) Applicants can’t have been a legislative advocate or lobbyist for at least two years prior to the start of the commissioner’s term and can’t serve as an advocate or lobbyist while on the commission.

Commissioners do not receive monetary compensation however one key benefit is the all-areas commissioner parking permit! Commission terms run eithher two or four years and commissioners are eligible for reappointment to another four-year term.

This commission is unique in having six seats divided equally between tenants, landlords and at-large members. City council intended there to be some balance on the commission with at-large members in effect serving to balance interests that can appear zero-sum (i.e., when a tenant wins a landlord loses and vice-versa). Rent Stabilization Commission meetings generally take place at 6:00 PM on the first Wednesday of the month, in Room 280-A on the second floor of City Hall.

Application Deadline: June 18th

To apply to serve as a tenant representative visit the commission vacancy webpage and download the application. City council reviews applications, interviews candidates and appoints. The application period closes on June 18th. It is likely that city council will make appointments at the July 15th meeting. Questions should be directed to the City Clerk’s Office at (310) 285–2400.

Here is the City Clerk pitching commission service:
Huma Ahmed talks RSO commission vacancy

Yet More Information About the Commission

Seats for two Rent Stabilization Commission tenant representatives became available in March when the two tenants serving on the commission unexpectedly resigned. The departing commissioners expressed frustration with the tenor of commission deliberations. They also believed that the city did not sufficiently prepare commissioners to grapple with technical discussions about the rent stabilization ordinance and state tenancy law. Read our post: The Wheels Have Fallen Off the Rent Stabilization Commission.

Renters Alliance has watched every commission meeting — and watched them again on video replay — and we share that frustration. In the beginning, commission progress could be expected to be slow as members came to understand the commission process and the rent stabilization ordinance and administration. But challenges to effective and constructive deliberation arose early as we recounted in our recent memo to designated commission liaisons councilmembers Lili Bosse and Les Friedman.

In that Rent Stabilization Commission memo we make three recommendations:

  1. Better prepare commissioners for service by providing sufficient training in the law — namely the local rent stabilization ordinance and also key state codes related to tenancy law;
  2. Find opportunities to build trust among commissioners and prepare them to find common ground where it is often elusive;
  3. Provide the commission with regular and informative reports from the rent stabilization division so that the commission can exercise some oversight over rent stabilization administration.

City staff appeared ready to simply appoint two new tenant representatives and call it a day. Instead we called for a special meeting of the Rent Stabilization Commission liaisons to discuss what when wrong and what needs fixing. “Rent stabilization affects about 60% of the city’s households so it is too important for city council to simply ‘set it and forget it,’” we said in the memo. “It is important to review what went wrong with this commission in order to identify opportunities for improvement.”RSO commission on hiatus