How to File a Code Enforcement Complaint

Code enforcement is compliant-driven in Beverly Hills. Unfortunately the city has no systematic rental housing inspection program, so City Hall relies on the public to report violations. Lax code enforcement has enabled some landlords to practice ‘managed decline’ where money that should go to maintenance is taken as profit. Renters Alliance encourages tenants to file a complaint because that is how we hold landlords accountable. Heck, landlords agree because they don’t want regular inspections. Here is our step-by-step guide to filing a complaint.

There are two ways to file a complaint: by phone by calling (310) 285–1119 (weekdays) and providing the property address and violation details; or using the city’s online Ask Bev platform. We favor filing online because Ask Bev acts as a central repository for prior complaints. However it is a 1990s relic that has its own logic. Renters Alliance can draw on a decade’s worth complaints to the city — literally a thousand of them from leaf blowers to health hazards — to walk users step-by-step through the process. Enjoy!

How to File a Code Complaint Using Ask Bev

Bookmark this handy link for Ask Bev or find the link in the footer of the city’s website. Following the link shows the Ask Bev landing page with an array of topics from which to choose. Choose a topic and a subtopic. But don’t sweat it too much because staff will redirect the query to its proper place. Once a topic is chosen the user then provides contact information and details about the complaint.

Note: We recommend creating a password after submitting an initial complaint. After some time the system will time-out. At next login Ask Bev will ask for a password. So it is easier to set it at the outset instead of setting it later. Simply follow our steps!

Ask Bev tour: Ask Bev landing page
Upon navigating to Ask Bev the user finds this landing page with a variety of topics and subtopics. This is the city’s main stakeholder portal, believe it or not! File a complaint or ask a question using Ask Bev.
Ask Bev tour: Choosing a complaint topic
Choose a complaint topic. Here we will file a building permit complaint because so many landlords undertake construction without one. If the topic is rent stabilization then look under ‘resident information.’ If no topic fits the issue, then just choose ‘general inquiries’ and click next to advance to the user contact screen.
Ask Bev tour: Provide contact details
This is the next screen for a new user. (Existing users would use the second tab to log in.) Contact details are important because we want to hear from the city. Was a case opened? Was a code enforcement officer assigned? The city should contact the user by email within 24 hours. Note that there is no opportunity to choose a password. We will get to that shortly. In the meantime, clicking through takes us to the complaint form.
Ask Bev tour: File a complaint
Clicking through the contact window brings us to the complaint form. It is not necessary to enter an address; simply put the necessary information into the text box. At the bottom is a file uploader. The maximum is 5 files. No PDF or movies allowed. Submitting the request brings us to the confirmation page.
Ask Bev tour: confirmation page
After submitting the complaint a user is shown a confirmation. The case number can be referenced in follow-up communication with city staff. Note: the system does NOT send a username and password. (That function seems to be broken.) So we suggest clicking on the ‘change username or password’ link to select a password which will be needed later for the next login. The next screen shows the password dialog.
Ask Bev tour: choose a password!
Clicking on the ‘change username or password’ link brings us to the password change dialog. Note: though no password had been set, the dialog confusingly populates the password field with dots as if a password had been set. Ignore it. Choose a new password, enter it twice. Save the change and expect to see a confirmation.
Ask Bev tour: password change confirmation
After updating the user account with a password the dialog changes to show the update was successful. (Again, no username or password is sent to the user’s email address — this feature is broken.) To complete the registration navigate to the profile page link at the top to verify the information is correct. The next page is the profile information.
Ask Bev tour: user profile
If all looks fine, then click the logout link to return to the initial landing page. To submit another complaint, or to see past complaints, on the landing (topics) page use the top right ‘login’ link to log in again.
Ask Bev tour: logged-out and back on landing page
The landing page is the same page that is accessed via the Ask Bev link in the city website footer. To log in again just click on the link in the top menu (top right). That calls up the log in page where email and password is entered.
Ask Bev tour: login screen
Clicking on the top menu ‘login’ link brings us to the login dialog. Enter the email and password and then the user is back at the status page to view prior complaints. Here the user has submitted only one complaint so far, so the status page shows just the one complaint.
Ask Bev tour: status page
After login we land on the complaint status page. Here we see complaints that were filed and whether city staff has responded. Click on the case number to view the complaint.
Ask Bev tour: view prior complaints
Having clicked on the case number we see the complaint and details of the city response (if any). The user can also update the complaint with new notes or attachments (limited to five total) To get back to the status page click on the top menu link ‘check status of request.’ To file a new complaint click on ‘submit request.’ Click logout to log out. Then we’re back to the initial landing page. And that’s it!

Ask Bev tour: return to the landing page

Follow-up is Essential!

After filing a complaint the user should receive an email within about 24 hours that a case has been opened and assigned to a code enforcement officer. The information should include also a phone number and email for the officer. (The same information is added to the Ask Bev complaint.) If a question rather than a complaint was submitted the city should get back to a user within 24-48 hours.

The emailed information is important because in our experience it can go one of three ways:

  1. The complaint is investigated and no violation was found: case closed
  2. The condition was corrected and there is no longer a violation: case closed
  3. An investigation was conducted but the condition is not corrected: case remains open pending correction
  4. The case was quietly closed with or without a correction to the condition

Outcome #1 is often the case when a tenant makes a habitability-related complaint but the condition does not violate state law or local ordinance. As bad as it may seem it is technically not a violation. Probably 9-in-10 habitability complaints are closed without a violation or a correction to conditions. Read more in our explainers: Interior Habitability: Weak Standard, Few Violations and Exterior Maintenance: Our Code Violation Spotter’s Guide. Also see our explainer about permits: What Type of Construction Requires a City Permit?

Outcome #2 is the preferred outcome: there was a violation and now the condition is fixed. Appropriately the case is closed. But is the violation actually fixed? Renters Alliance keeps a close eye on our cases and it is not uncommon that a case is closed without a fix. We open a dialog with the code inspector to clarify why the case was closed and whether the case should be reopened.

Outcome #3 is a challenge because time works against us. When a case remains open for some time our attention wanes. Sometimes it legitimately takes time to correct a condition (like an old roof). Sometimes a recalcitrant landlord is dragging his feet. Whatever the reason the case can remain open and unresolved. This makes follow-up essential!

Option #4 — the quietly closed case — is all too common because attention does wane. One problem is that Ask Bev does not show if a case has been closed. So often it happens quietly. That puts the obligation on the public to stay on top of the case until the condition is fixed. How many times have we followed up on an old complaint, concerning a condition that still exists, only to find out that the complaint was closed?

Unfortunately it is up to the public to ride herd on these issues. But it is also a responsibility of the code enforcement officer to work with a complainant to resolve a complaint. Some officers will let us know when a case will be closed and why. We encourage tenants to stay in touch with the code enforcement officer until the problem is resolved.

Pro tips: When you see a potential violation take a picture and attach it to your complaint. And when you file a complaint include the address and issue in the first 100 words of the complaint. Why? Because Ask Bev is a throwback to the Internet past. The status page which lists prior complaints shows only the first 100 characters of each complaint. And there exists no search tool! Take it from our experience filing a thousand of these complaints: front-load the key words. That way prior complaints can be scanned quickly to find the relevant prior complaint.

In closing we want to suggest that tenants take an active interest in spotting and reporting code violations because that is exactly how the system is intended to work. Remember Beverly Hills has no systematic housing inspection program. So we are the lay housing inspectors. Need help making a complaint? Get in touch with Renters Alliance.