Landlord-tenant law is complicated! State law governs many aspects of tenancy and over time case law has clarified how those statutes apply. Localities may add additional regulations (namely rent control) and so the law can vary from place-to-place. It is a veritable layer cake of complimentary codes, statutes and ordinances. Where can a tenant turn for help?
We encourage tenants to contact the city’s rent stabilization office. Staff is available to answer questions about the maximum allowed annual rent increase, tenancy terminations, relocation fees and much more. Visit the Rent Stabilization Program online. The city hall office is rooom #200.
The city has two programs that may benefit tenants: free professional mediation and housing rights legal services from Bet Tzedek for income-qualifying tenants.
Proposition 21’s Rental Affordability Act: What You Need to Know
When legislators in Sacramento won’t protect tenants then it’s up to the people to step up. On this November’s ballot is Proposition 21 which would roll back landlord-friendly provisions in state law enacted in 1995 under the controversial Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. Tenants who rent in a building newer than 1995, for example, or who rent a condominium or single-family home can thank ‘Costa-Hawkins’ for allowing the landlord unlimited rent increases. Here’s what you need to know about Proposition 21 on November’s ballot.
Participation 101: What We Took Away from the Sixty Hotel Hearings
The Planning Commission in June permitted Sixty Hotel to continue rooftop operations into the wee-morning even though residents near the hotel at Wilshire and Crescent voiced concern about noise from the rooftop bar and dining. And commissioners agreed to allow the hotel to continue operating without any new restrictions. Arguably commissioners tried to balance the interests of the city, the hotel and the residents in good faith. Yet it left neighbors feeling unheard and unhappy. What can we learn from the Sixty Hotel hearings?
What is Market Repositioning?
Landlords are making significant improvements to their properties in today's hot real estate market. It's all about curb appeal! But we see rental properties getting more than a face lift these days: longtime tenants are eased out under a provision of the rent stabilization ordinance that allows for major remodeling and then the remodeled units go to market at much higher rents. The real estate industry calls it 'market repositioning.’
Excessive Heat Watch is Declared: How to Beat the Heat
Summer heat has arrived! We will see the temperature rise into the 90s this week so tenants without air-conditioning are urged to take care! Seniors who reside on upper floors of older buildings without air conditioning are the most vulnerable. Beverly Hills buries heat emergency information deep into the city’s website so we want to share some of the resources we’ve found to help keep cool.
How the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act Affects You
Renters Alliance is hearing from tenants who have delayed paying rent and are now confused to receive a notice from the landlord about a new state law called the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act (SB 91). Some have received a 15-day pay-or-quit notice and are wondering if they should have paid 25% of the rent due. Don’t be alarmed. For those who have delayed rent under the Beverly Hills moratorium those requirements may not apply. Let’s take a look at how the local and state moratorium differ.
Support and Service Animals: Know Your Rights!
Farm animals like pigs and peacocks may not seem like a good fit for an airplane cabin, yet they would qualify as ‘emotional support’ animals in an apartment under federal rules. Tenants can use federal disability law to to keep the landlord from turning away a pet. Here we take a closer look at the tenant's options when the landlord doesn't welcome Fido -- or that peacock!
Negotiating for Pets: Tips for Success
Federal disability law recognizes what most pet-keepers already know: our furry friends provide valuable emotional support. That's why certain animals are afforded protection in rental housing. But most pets are not officially designated as service or support and we depend on landlords choosing to accept a pet. Here are a few tips to help Fido or Feline find a home in our new apartment.
Local Moratorium vs. Tenant Act Which Rules Apply? [Updated]
The Tenant, Homeowner, and Small Landlord Relief and Stabilization Act of 2020 was signed by Governor Newsom at the end of August. Among other things, the legislation enacted the Tenant Act to establish a statewide framework for delaying rent due to COVID-19 financial hardship. It did so by preempting local moratoriums like ours. The Act also mandates a new process for requesting rent forbearance and, importantly, a new deadline for repaying back rent. What does it mean for Beverly Hills tenants?
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?
Can the Landlord Show My Apartment to Prospective Tenants?
We are occasionally contacted by tenants who say the landlord wants to show their apartment to prospective tenants even though the current tenants haven't yet left. Sometimes the landlord wants to walk a prospective buyer through. Is that something a tenant has to allow? Generally speaking yes because the law allows it. Let's take a look at the relevant law and we will offer some suggestions should the landlord come calling.
Small Claims: A Tenant’s Guide
Landlord-tenant legal disputes can arise from a variety of situations. Among the most common is disagreement over a deduction from the security deposit. Sometimes that deduction is improper or poorly documented. How can the tenant claw that money back? Small claims. It is the venue where a tenant has a fighting chance.
Means and Method Plan: What You Need to Know [Updated]
A means & method plan is required by City of Beverly Hills whenever construction or remodeling will significantly impact tenants. The purpose of the plan is to inform tenants about the nature and duration of the work and to identify impact mitigations where possible. The Plan is required before the property owner pulls the permit. The process is intended to protect tenants but sometimes it works better in theory than in practice. Let us explain!
Beverly Hills COVID-19 Rent Subsidy: What You Need to Know
Beverly Hills city council in September agreed to create a $1 million rent subsidy program to help COVID–19 affected tenants in the city pay the rent. The objective of the program is to provide a measure of stability to tenants in their moment of need. The program is also intended to benefit landlords by providing rental income that might otherwise be delayed due to COVID–19. But the devil is in the details. Here's how it works.
Campaign Signs: What You Need to Know
Election 2020 is fast-approaching and that means our city council candidates need to capture the attention of voters. It is a battle waged in the pages of local newspapers and in mailboxes, of course, but increasingly on front lawns too. Campaign signs are the wildflowers of election season: first there's a few, then many, and before you know it they're all gone. The law allows tenants to display a sign but is ambiguous on whether a tenant can display a yard sign.
Courts Can Process Evictions. What Does That Mean for Tenants?
The state policy-making body for the courts decided last week to sunset Emergency Rule #1 that puts the brake on unlawful detainers in Superior Court. The rule is providing immediate relief for tenants with cases in the eviction pipeline. But the greater effect is to prevent tenants from being summoned in such cases. Emergency rule #1 was issued by the Judicial Council in April in response to the pandemic but as of September it goes away even though we're stuck with the pandemic. What does it mean for tenants?
Moratorium on Eviction for Non-Payment: What You Need to Know
Beverly Hills city council has revised the moratorium on eviction for the non-payment of rent to add two important protections: it now prohibits any no-fault eviction including under the state’s Ellis Act (and stops the clock on evictions underway); and it puts the freeze on rent increases for residential tenants effective April 1st. But the most significant protection is against eviction for non-payment related to COVID–19. Here’s what you need to know.
Interior Habitability: Weak Standard, Few Violations
Is your landlord not keeping up with interior interior maintenance? You are not alone: many longtime tenants in our older buildings can't get attention from the landlord even as vacant units get the gloss. For good reason: the landlord is not obligated to do much to keep the apartment in the condition it was rented. That's why Beverly Hills needs a habitability standard!
Security Deposits: A Primer
One of the challenges of renting is the up-front cost: a prospective Beverly Hills tenant can expect to hand over about $5,000 to rent a 1-bedroom apartment while a 2-bedroom household may need $7,000 to start. A hefty two-month deposit would add another 50%. But another challenge is renting when the landlord delays returning the deposit or takes a big bite out of it. What's the law?
Moratorium on the Rent Increase: What You Need to Know
City of Beverly Hills expanded its moratorium on eviction due to the COVID–19 emergency to also include a moratorium on the allowed annual rent increase. The provision is included in a new urgency ordinance which took effect on April 1st. However the rent freeze appears to apply retroactively to the date that the local emergency was declared: March 15th. Let’s take a closer look to see how it may apply to tenants who faced a rent increase.
Moratorium on No-Fault Eviction: What It Means
The revised emergency measures related to COVID–19 adopted by Beverly Hills is notable for the moratorium on eviction for non-payment of rent and the moratorium on rent increases. But as important is a moratorium on no-fault eviction. State law allows for terminating a tenancy for reasons where the tenant is not at fault and localities are preempted from stepping in with more restrictive regulation. But that’s gone out the window during this emergency. Here is what you need to know about no-fault eviction.
Beverly Hills Eviction Moratorium: What You Need to Know
City of Beverly Hills proclaimed a local emergency in response to COVID–19 and literally the first order of business was the protection of tenants. Agenda item #2 read: Enacting a moratorium preventing landlords from evicting any tenant who is unable to pay rent as a result of losing income caused by COVID–19 for the non-payment of rent. The moratorium passed unanimously as part of the city’s emergency order. Here’s what you need to know.
Parking During Our State of Emergency: What You Need to Know
At the emergency meeting on Monday March 16th city council agreed that certain parking regulations should be suspended during the local coronavirus state of emergency. With few people working or traveling, and with family members home, the demand for street parking may increase. Yet the order that closed businesses and prohibits evictions for non-payment includes no specifics about new parking arrangements. We did some digging. Here’s what you need to know.
Forbearance is Not a Standard Rental Agreement Clause
Rental agreements are legally enforceable contracts that specify the terms of tenancy. Among the most clear of those terms is the timely payment of rent. Every rental agreement identifies the rent amount and the due date. But nowhere in the agreement will there be a forbearance clause: the provision that would keep the landlord from moving swiftly to retake possession of the premises in the event of nonpayment. What to do when a tenant is caught short when the first of the month comes around?
Due Diligence on the Landlord: Some Tips
Most tenants don't need to research the landlord because their relationship is business: the tenant writes the check and the landlord provides properly maintained housing. Every tenancy starts uneventfully and most continue so. But sometimes complications arise and disputes can find the courthouse. When the going gets rough it pays to do some due diligence!
Which Holidays Give Us a Break from Construction?
Federal holidays should bring that rarest of qualities to our multifamily neighborhoods: peace & quiet on a weekday. Day in and day out we are assaulted by traffic, leaf blowers, and the nerve-fraying sounds of demolition, remodeling and construction next door. Holidays should be different. On days when city hall is closed, parking restrictions are suspended and our streets are pleasantly quiet we should expect a break. Yet the city allows construction to proceed. What's the story?
Code Enforcement: A Primer
The tenant with a rental housing problem in Beverly Hills has likely phoned in a complaint to code enforcement. Maybe the rent increase was too high; or property maintenance was lagging; or an eviction notice was posted. All of those inquiries once went to code enforcement but today our Rent Stabilization Program handles most of those calls. Thinking of making a complaint? Read our primer first!
If Recreational Marijuana is Legal, Why Can’t I Smoke It?
City of Beverly Hills in 2017 adopted a strict no smoking policy that extends to private spaces in multifamily buildings (including condominiums). The ban includes marijuana and the use of electronic smoking devices too. So despite voter approval in 2016 of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (Proposition 64) the recreational use of marijuana in apartments is prohibited by the city. That may frustrate would-be stoners yet some households still complain about the neighbors smoking pot. Let’s take a look at this complicated issue.
TCM Fest O’Pests Reminds Us: Close Those Gaps!
Turner Classic Movies today screened a few entomological-themed films that are guaranteed to make the insect-phobic squirm. Them (1954) and Genocide (1968) play on our fears that when insects organize against us we don’t stand a chance. We can’t beat ‘em! Yet we can’t join them. The Fly (1958) and Wasp Woman show the horrors of human-to-insect transmutation. This TCM Fest O’Pests is a reminder to take a look around our apartment: is it as pest-proof as it could be?
Fundamental Concept: Maximum Allowed Annual Rent Increase
Rent control is intended to moderate the increasing cost of rental housing and to enhance the stability of households that rent. Local ordinaces typically include price controls, limited reasons for tenancy termination and regulation of rental housing conditions. Here we look specifically at price control: What does the 'maximum allowable rent increase' really mean?
Maximum Allowed Annual Rent Increase: What You Need to Know
Recently Beverly Hills posted the new maximum allowed annual rent increase percentages for both Chapter 5 and Chapter 6. The latter is tied to the year-over-year percentage change in consumer prices for our region, which the government releases in June of each year. Which got us thinking: Has anyone explained to Beverly Hills tenants exactly how the maximum allowed annual rent increase works?
Relocation Fees Explained
A relocation fee is obligated whenever a tenancy in Beverly Hills is involuntarily terminated by the landlord. That can include major remodeling, demolition for redevelopment, condominium conversion or landlord use. Relocation fees are owed when a property is taken off the rental market. A relocation fee is not owed when a tenancy is terminated for cause (including the new ‘disruptive tenant’ termination). Here we explain the origin, purpose and limitations of the relocation fee.
How Much Can My Landlord Bill Me for Trash Pickup?
The principle behind rent is that a tenant pays for housing with the understanding that the operating costs of rental housing from everyday grounds-keeping to the new roof is borne by the landlord. But not always! Beverly Hills allows a landlord to pass through to his tenants each month certain charges like the entirety of the city's bill for refuse collection and alley maintenance. How can a tenant be sure she is paying the correct refuse charge?
Rent Increase & Allowed Percentage: Questions Answered [Revised]
The landlord can increase the rent once per year at a maximum percentage set by the city. But how much the rent can rise becomes a bit confusing when the notice of an increase coincides with the publication of the revised percentage.
The Landlord-Tenant Law Layer Cake Explained
Landlords generally know landlord-tenant law. They deal with it all the time on a professional basis. They also get a big assist from well-funded industry associations at the local, regional, state and national levels. But tenants are seldom familiar with the laws that govern every aspect of our tenancy. Here's the situation in a nutshell.
Grant-Funded Home Repairs for Qualified Tenants
Did you know that the federal Community Development Block grant program provides free home repairs for tenants? It includes mobility enhancements, weather protection, water conservation and other aspects of apartment maintenance that may be long-ignored by the landlord. The only catch: households must income-qualify... and the landlord must agree.
Tenant’s Challenge: Screening the Landlord
Time and again we hear stories about unprofessional or unscrupulous landlords and their managers. The ones that slow-roll repairs, engage in intimidation and harassment, and improperly withhold deposits. They are a minority of owners, sure, but tenants who do rent from these landlords share a lament: "I wish I had known before I rented." Can a prospective tenant screen her future landlord?
Major Remodeling: What You Need to Know
A neighbor asked a good question about the ‘major remodeling’ provision of the rent stabilization ordinance: “What if the landlord is giving false information to tenants about remodeling a property just to get us out?” The question is relevant because we are seeing more properties emptied for remodeling and repositioning. But remodeling comes at a cost: tenant displacement. Let’s look at our rights when the landlord wants to remodel.
Exterior Maintenance: Our Code Violation Spotter’s Guide
You are reading this guide because you are probably tired of seeing your apartment building fall into disrepair. Maybe you wondered why an owner would run into the ground his own investment. It is because some Beverly Hills landlords treat their apartment houses like a consumable: they pull out the cash without reinvesting in the maintenance. We have laws against dilapidation. Why doesn’t Beverly Hills enforce them?
Annual Rental Unit Registration: What Does It Mean for Tenants?
Every rental property owner in Beverly Hills must register their rental units with the city’s registry. It comes around every year in January. The city then sends every renting household a notice of the rent amount as reported by the landlord. If correct no action is needed. If incorrect the tenant should appeal. Here’s what you need to know.
Winter Rains Bring Water Leaks: What Should You Do?
Days of nearly nonstop rain in Southern California are a reminder that big problems like water leaks can strike. But not every landlord is responsive. What if your apartment springs a leak and your landlord is in no hurry to address it? We recap the remedies available to the tenant.
Qualified Tenant Subsidy: Help When the Rent Is Too Damned High
One of the ideas to emerge from the City Council’s rent stabilization discussion concerns a ‘qualified tenant' benefit. Those who pay too much in household income for rent could find relief from the city. An estimated 400 households could qualify under the program. The objective: to cushion rent increases with a cash subsidy. Councilmember Bob Wunderlich proposed to target rent stabilization protections to tenants "who really need it.” What's it all about?
Why a Rent Increase Pegged to 100% of CPI Favors Landlords
Since 2017 Beverly Hills has amended the rent stabilization ordinance to extended protections to Chapter 6 tenants. That includes an end to no-just-cause eviction and a relocation fee for no-fault tenancy terminations. The city also linked the maximum allowed annual rent increase to the annual change in consumer prices (CPI). Let’s look at that important change in more detail.
Proposed Luxury Exemption: Would You Lose Protections?
Beverly Hills City Council first discussed exempting ‘luxury’ rental units from the reach of rent stabilization back in November. About 5% of units by our analysis might fall into that exemption. Subsequently it came back for discussion again in December when a much wider net was cast: as many as one-quarter of units with higher rents in any size category could be affected? How will the luxury exemption affect you?
Proposed Duplex Exemption: What it Could Mean for Tenants
Since Beverly Hills enacted rent stabilization in 1978 the RSO ordinance has applied to multifamily rental properties of two units or more. A few rental properties escaped its reach, namely condominiums and buildings built after 1995. Now City Council appears ready to categorically exempt many more, including owner-occupied duplexes. It is a major break from precedent with real implications for hundreds of families. Here’s what a duplex exemption means for tenants.
Security Deposit: Ten Steps to a Timely Refund
State law requires that the security deposit be returned to the tenant within 21 days of move-out plus an itemized statement for deductions totaling $125. What if the landlord improperly withholds without documentation? Or doesn’t return the deposit at all? Follow thees ten steps to get that money back!
Terms Explained: Habitable vs. Tenantable
Tenants are often surprised to learn that a landlord need not repaint on a schedule or replace worn carpet. He need not repair sinks that drain slowly or improve low-amp electrical service. That's because state law requires nothing more of the landlord. Tenants deserve a higher bar. We need a local habitability standard!
Think Like an Inspector When Viewing an Apartment
Before signing a lease it is prudent to know what you are getting into. That means a close reading of lease terms and taking a good look at the apartment. Does it reflect professional maintenance? Have low-budget handymen cut corners over the years? What needs repair today? Think like a housing inspector and avoid unpleasant surprises later
How to Properly Calculate a Rent Increase
Beverly Hills is a rent control city, which means that the allowed annual rent increase for rental apartments is regulated by the rent stabilization ordinance. Each year the allowed increase varies according to the change in consumer prices and that allows for some confusion. Calculating the correct increase based on the allowed percentage is easy. Here's how!
Rental Unit Registration is the Foundation of Rent Stabilization
The rental unit registry is the foundation of our rent stabilization program. It collects information on property owners and management companies and some particulars of each unit and tenancy, such as which housing services (like parking and utilities) are provided; when and why the last vacancy had occurred; and the actual rent amounts. We want to be sure that the rent charged for any unit is the lawful rent.
No-Just-Cause Eviction: A Primer
we regularly hear from tenants unaware that the landlord can end a month-to-month tenancy for any reason or no reason at all. All that stands between the home we’ve made and a stomach-churning search for a new apartment is the landlord's good and 60 days notice. Here’s a primer on no-just-cause eviction: what it is, what to expect, and what you can do.
Repair-and-Deduct: Proceed With Caution!
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. Beware!
Unauthorized Occupants Could Trigger a 3-Day Notice
Taking in a roommate or a long-term guest seems innocuous enough. Maybe it's a means to pay the rent or a goodwill gesture to a friend or family member. But the presence of unauthorized occupants may be a breach of the lease or rental agreement. So it's always smart to read what it allows and then secure permission from the landlord if necessary. Lets look at a couple of situations that may get the unwitting tenant into some trouble.
The Allowed Annual Rent Increase in Perspective
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 that the 3% changed and for the magnitude of the jump. As I explained in a recent post, the bump-up was somewhat predictable given higher inflation but the size of the jump was larger than most of us expected. The culprit? Rising consumer costs driven in part by rising rents!
How Many is too Many? Limits on Unit Occupancy Explained
Recently a small apartment adjacent to me leased quite quickly. The three adult guys introduced themselves. All nice. But it seemed a tight fit for a one-bedroom apartment of about 500 square feet. Why would three men rent an apartment that small? And, how many people can a landlord pack into a small place? The answer is not as straightforward as one might think.
What to Do After the Landlord Reports Your Rent Amount
The Rent Stabilization Ordinance requires landlords to register with the city information about ownership and management, property description, and some tenancy information like utilities and the current rent amount. This annual registration also requires tenants to verify the reported rent amount too. Now is the time to take a few minutes to review the rent payment history.
Mills Act: The Key to Multifamily Preservation?
The Mills Act is a state tax incentive that allows a locality to reduce the local tax obligation incurred by a designated historic property in exchange for a 10-year contractual commitment to restore and rehabilitate the resource. Today the Beverly Hills Mills Act program counts six local historic register properties under contract including one multifamily rental property (on South Rexford). City Council indicated some interest to expand the program to more multifamily properties. Will the program help us retain the properties that give our neighborhoods character?
Tip: Avoid the Carpet Cleaning Bait-and-Switch
Longtime tenants know this story: worn carpets long past their prime get to looking downright threadbare. As pleas for renewal find no sympathy from the landlord, the tenant's fingers do the walkin' looking for a cheap carpet cleaner. There are none! There are only cheap quoted prices. Once the job is underway the price changes. Here's what to expect!
Mold in the Unit: It’s Complicated!
Mold is not always the product of water damage; sometimes it can grow in damp and humid conditions like a bathroom without ventilation. Here is what you need to know to take the first steps to address the problem.