City Council at the
July 24th August 7th study session will continue a long discussion about how to fix structural deficiencies in about 300 residential buildings identified as seismically-vulnerable. Affected are predominantly ‘soft-story’ wood frame buildings (where the building overhangs outside parking) that comprise nearly a quarter of the city’s entire rental housing stock. They also provide much of the city’s relatively-affordable housing. So the suggestion that the cost of seismic retrofit be pushed on to tenants should give us pause. What is euphemistically termed “cost recovery” in reality would make nearly 2,000 renting households investors in their landlord’s property. But we would hold zero equity. Is this the right approach for Beverly Hills?
City Council at the
City of Beverly Hills has released a raft of draft rent stabilization issue papers produced by the city’s consultant, HR&A Advisors. As we explained in a recent post, The City’s Roadmap for Rent Stabilization, the consultant’s work will shape the City Council’s policy discussion this fall. That includes key issues like the no-just-cause eviction, rent increases and relocation fees; but it also includes proposals that favor landlords like rent-banking and exemptions from the rent stabilization program. Let’s look at what the city laid on us this week.
The city has announced the return of rent stabilization facilitated dialogues beginning August 15th and wrapping up in September. These topic-focused dialogues will offer the community (tenants and landlords) and opportunity to review and comment on the findings of the city’s rent stabilization consultant. (View the materials.) We will see a return engagement by Sukhsimranjit Singh, who facilitated the earlier round last summer, wherein considerable time and energy was expended. City Council then kicked it over to a consultant for further study. Now tenants and landlords will again have their say.
Here is a slew of links from around the web that remind us that our struggle for residential stability is not ours alone. Beverly Hills is only one of the many jurisdictions across California, and even the western world, where renters are locked in a protracted battle with both landlords and policymakers to remain housed.
Landlord Kevin Davis penned a letter to the Courier in the June 13th issue that warned of a “massacre” upon those who lease apartments should the Beverly Hills rent stabilization program continue. While we are accustomed to hyperbolic bloviating by property interest associations (like the hammer-and-sickle theme from the Apartment Owners Association of LA), when landlords offer specious and unfounded claims they should be knocked down. Here is the Renters Alliance rebuttal was published in the July 20th issue.
Do you live in near the future Metro station at Wilshire and Reeves? If so you are likely to experience construction-related disruption from the project. But If you rent housing near the future Purple Line station, your problems are only beginning. Households near the station are quite likely to be displaced over the coming years, so I’ve asked City of Beverly Hills to consider strong-arming Metro for compensation. Read on!
Beverly Hills City Council continues its 18-month long discussion about rent stabilization starting at its August 7th meeting, where staff will present findings from the city’s consultant study for consideration. Council will also identify the next steps in the policy process, which may include yet more facilitated dialogues between tenants and landlords. Then City Council will get down to business on a final rent stabilization ordinance in September or October. This process will move very quickly come the end of the summer with the process wrapped up before the holidays. Here’s what to expect!
The summer heat has finally arrived! And with it comes special dangers for a senior who may not have air conditioning in her apartment. A recent heat warning spelled out the danger:
…EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 10 AM FRIDAY TO 9 PM PDT SATURDAY.. HIGH TEMPERATURES…Record heat likely. Increased potential for serious heat-related illnesses, especially for the young and elderly, those performing outdoor activities, as well as those without access to air conditioning.
Seniors without air conditioning who reside on the upper floors of older buildings are most vulnerable. Check for the latest posted Los Angeles County heat alert and then consider these resources.
When Sacramento legislators won’t represent our interests, then we who rent have to do it ourselves. That’s the message sent by 447,834 voters to landlords. We signed a petition to put the Affordable Housing Act on the ballot in November. The measure would return to localities the authority to establish tenant protections that fit with local needs. That capacity was stripped by the state’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. Now Costa Hawkins repeal is headed to the November ballot!
A couple of months ago I got to thinking about how Beverly Hills calculates allowable annual rent increases. A formula tied to consumer prices long kept increases very low for Chapter 5 tenants. Indeed in a period of low inflation Chapter 5 increases long averaged about 1% annually. Then it jumped to an average of 1.7% this year in a reviving economy. But now the annual rent increase effective in August nearly doubles to 3.3%. What’s going on?
City of Beverly Hills announced that relocation fees will incrementally rise come July according to the percentage change in consumer prices for our region: a 4.1% increase. While this small bump-up is intended to allow the relocation fees to keep pace with rising rents, tenants will actually lose ground because even with the hike the fees lose ground relative to the cost of rental housing.
To a tenant accustomed to the 3% cap on annual allowed rent increases, the city’s announcement that the allowance has risen to 4.1% was a surprise both for the change and for the magnitude of the jump. As I explained in a recent post, the bump-up may have been predictable given the change in consumer prices lately even if the increment was larger-than-expected. The culprit? Rising rents!
Today City of Beverly Hills announced a bump-up in the allowed annual rent increase for Chapter 6 tenants. Effective June 12th the cap was raised from 3% to 4.1% – a one-third larger allowed increase. While that may come as a surprise to some, the Municipal Code allows the allowed annual rent increase to rise with the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) for the Los Angeles-Long-Beach-Anaheim region. As calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that was 4.1% hence the rise in the allowed rent increase from 3% to 4.1%.
I regularly speak with tenants who are not aware that the landlord can end a month-to-month tenancy for any reason or no reason at all. If no local ordinance prohibits it, and Beverly Hills has no such prohibition, the landlord’s good will is all that stands between the home we’ve made and the stomach-churning search for post-eviction replacement housing. Have you thought about what happens next after receiving such a notice? Here’s a primer on no-just-cause eviction: what it is, what to expect, and what you can do.
City Council kicked-off the extended rent stabilization reform discussion in January of 2017 without much discussion about goals and objectives. Councilmembers heard plenty from tenants about rising rents, but they left unresolved the question of who should benefit from rent control. They heard about capricious landlords and predatory practices but they recommended no new tenant protections to keep renters housed. While no specific objective was identified for rent stabilization, the Rent Stabilization Program has found one – and it needs revision.
Landlords are making significant improvements to their properties in an effort to enhance curb appeal in today’s hot real estate market. Paint and landscaping is one way. Remodeling vacant units to fetch higher rents is another. Maximizing fees for late payment, pets, and other ancillary revenue streams yet a third way. But key to what the real estate industry dispassionately calls ‘market repositioning’ is getting rid of longtime tenants.
Tenants are allowed to deduct from the rent the cost of a repair when the landlord won’t make it. Colloquially it’s known as ‘repair-and-deduct’ and the logic is straightforward: the rental agreement says you pay your rent and the landlord maintains the premises. But like so many tenant protections, this one too comes with practical limits. Understand that failing to follow the law carefully may put a tenant in court fighting an unlawful detainer. That’s why I advise tenants against withholding any part of the rent. If you feel that you must deduct, then at least read more before you do.
Last year Beverly Hills landlords saw their allowed annual rent increase drop from 10% to 3% and the city imposed a relocation fee for any involuntarily-terminated tenancy. They lost the battle for the rental unit registry and the approximately one-in-ten who had long avoided paying business taxes finally had to obtain the required business license. If 2017 was a tough year then 2018 looks only worse if the Affordable Housing Act ballot initiative wins the approval of voters in November.
California voters may have an opportunity come November to overturn the state’s Costa Hawkins law, which prevents localities like Beverly Hills from extending protections to all who rent housing. This “gift to landlords” (in their words) has handcuffed local officials for decades. With the Affordable Housing Act initiative about to qualify for the ballot, the stakes are high and landlords are apoplectic at the prospect. Let’s take a look at the law’s affect on rental housing in Beverly Hills and the proposed initiative’s objectives.
City of Beverly Hills has hired a director for our Rent Stabilization Program. Helen Morales comes to Beverly Hills after a 10-year career as a manager, hearing officer and housing investigator at the City of Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department. Her first day was May 14th and it comes after an eight month search. Yet no press release or website announcement mentioned it. Here is what we know about our new Deputy Director for Rent Stabilization from her LinkedIn profile and the press release that was belatedly posted by the city this week.