The Rent Stabilization Ordinance requires landlords to register their rental units with the city. That includes ownership and management information, property information, utilities and amenities included, and most important the current rent amount. The city has mailed notice to landlords so tenants will soon be contacted. That is an opportunity to contest the reported rent or tacitly verify it. Tenants, pay attention! We want all rents accurately reported. Here we review the purpose of the registry and the why it is so important to certify an accurate rent.
Beverly Hills landlords have never liked the city’s rental unit registry. That year-old ledger of landlords, properties and tenancies is a must-have tool for the city to hold landlords accountable. That’s why landlords fought tooth and nail against it. Last fall their Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles brought a lawsuit in Superior Court to tank it. Having failed, the AAGLA is back with a literal federal case and a local landlord as plaintiff. Let’s take a look!
Months have passed without a single word from Beverly Hills officials about rent stabilization reform. No press release, newspaper ad, or website update keeps us informed about the process even though the current policy is only temporary and change will come. Officials let weeks go by without a reply when asked. Even a public records request can be met with an incomplete response. And don’t get me started about the programs that must be managed better in order to properly serve tenants.
Beverly Hills City Council wrapped up the year with two final administrative actions. In November the city hired a consultant to conduct an economic analysis; and on December 19th City Council passed an ordinance to impose a penalty on landlords that fail to register their property: no rent increase until the property is registered in the rental unit registry. Why the new penalty? One-in-five properties still are not registered.
During the the facilitated dialogues this summer, Beverly Hills landlords sat across the table from our tenants committee and opposed, in every way they could muster, the registry of rental units at the heart of the city’s rent stabilization program. It is a means to hold landlords accountable, of course, and that’s why they have embraced a scorched-earth campaign (and even a lawsuit) to pressure City Council to stop it. At the same time, a landlord has sought from the city all tenant complaints to code enforcement, including communications about unit conditions and rent increases. How do we know? I filed my own public records request on the landlord. Is potential tenant intimidation a step too far?
Have you received a notice from the city asking you to confirm your rent as reported by the landlord? Appeal notices went out last Thursday to many – but not all – households that rent in Beverly Hills. If you did not yet receive one, don’t be alarmed; there may be a good reason (scroll down for more about that). If you did receive a notice, please pay attention in case you have been notified of an incorrect rent amount. Correct and certified rents is the foundation of any rent stabilization program, and that’s why the city created a rental registry in the first place!
In my previous post I dispensed with the landlords’ disingenuous argument that the city’s business tax drives up their cost of operating rental housing. Their demand for a 7% allowed annual rent increase because of a 1.2% business tax is ridiculous on its face (and poor logic), I said. Then I closed with a question: the landlords complain about the business tax, but how many actually pay it? I surveyed rental properties in my neighborhood and found that 1-in-10 landlords not only pay no tax, they aren’t even licensed to conduct business, according to city records.
Ever since Beverly Hills City Council last January created a rental unit registry to underpin our stabilization program, staffers have been watching the calendar as the days get crossed-off: come January 22nd we will mark one year since the urgency ordinance was adopted, and state law says that any effort to create a rental unit registry (which certifies permissible rents) must resolve all landlord and tenant appeals within a one-year window. Time is running out. Can you step up on behalf of the registry and program?
This past Sunday, City of Beverly Hills convened the second roundtable dialogue involving committees of tenants and landlords. “We are moving towards a middle ground,” Facilitator Sukhsimranjit Singh said. “We will try to conclude these issues today without war stories.” Like July’s dialogue #5, this dialogue #6 was organized to allow representatives from each side an opportunity to search for common interests in a focused, facilitated discussion. What follows is my summary. (Don’t need to read the details? Read my takeaway from this the session.)
City Council in January created a registry of rental units to identify every rental property owner in the city and to inventory the apartments that are occupied, available for rent, or otherwise off the rental market. The registry is KEY to the rent stabilization program, which is why rental housing business owners are trying by hook and by crook to torpedo the registry in order to sink the program it. Let’s take a closer look at the landlords’ objections.
City Council handed residents who rent a major setback tonight when the majority agreed to step away from an earlier, unanimous commitment to create a rental unit registry. Indeed our councilmembers appeared to second-guess their decision to create a registry at all. In retreating, Council signals that Beverly Hills may not yet be ready to regulate rental housing. And that has significant implications for both tenants and landlords as we are a half-year into a rent-stabilization policy process that shows no sign of coming soon to a conclusion.
The rental unit registry was unanimously approved by City Council in January to be the foundation of our rent stabilization program. The goal of he registry, City Council said, is to “preserve the City’s rental housing stock, and to protect the health, safety and welfare of tenants and the public.” Now Council is having second thoughts. If tenants don’t fight for it we will lose it – just like we lost our last chance for a registry a decade ago! Read on to learn what we can do to safeguard our only opportunity to hold bad landlords accountable.