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!
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:
- The complaint is investigated and no violation was found: case closed
- The condition was corrected and there is no longer a violation: case closed
- An investigation was conducted but the condition is not corrected: case remains open pending correction
- 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.