Friday, October 21, 2016

When was your apartment built? The answer can make a big difference when it comes to tenant rights


Sign in Spanish hanging from a Highland Park apartment building reads “Evictions No!”


A dispute between tenants and their landlord in Highland Park highlighted an uncomfortable truth about rent control in Los Angeles: Some rents are under more control than others.

In general, unless your apartment building in the City of Los Angeles was constructed before October 1, 1978 (or a developer replaced such a building with residential units), the protections afforded tenants under the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance don’t apply to you (the city’s ordinance also does not apply to unincorporated East Los Angeles). That was the case in Highland Park where tenants at the Marmion Royal, built in 1987,  have threatened a rent strike.

We looked at various and sundry materials from the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department, and asked Susan Gosden, senior management analyst at the Los Angeles Housing Department, to tell us the difference in rights between RSO buildings and non-RSO buildings.

Here are some differences:

Rent Stabilized Buildings Constructed Before Oct. 1, 1978

  • Your rent can go up only 3 percent to 10 percent every year, depending on the Consumer Price Index.  (The maximum increase is 3% for the year beginning July 1, 2016)
  • If your landlord pays for the gas and electricity in your rental unit, he or she may increase your rent another 1% for each utility. A landlord may also raise the rent for an additional tenant.
  • Landlords must help pay tenants for relocation after no-fault evictions. Reasons for no-fault evictions include the permanent removal of the unit from the rental market, demolition of the structure, owner occupancy of the apartment, compliance with a government order, a HUD foreclosure, or conversion to affordable housing.
  • If renovation work impacts the rental unit for 30 or more consecutive days, the tenant can ask for permanent relocation assistance.

Non-Rent Stabilized

  • Under State law there is no restriction on rent increases.
  • Tenants may be evicted with a 30 or 60 day notice, depending on the length of tenancy.
  • Tenants may be entitled to relocation assistance per LAMC 47.06 and 47.07 under certain conditions for the conversion of rental units to condominiums, stock cooperatives, community apartment projects, hotels and commercial uses, the demolition of the building, or the removal of their building to another site.

Barry Lank grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, then went away for a seriously long time. He has worked in TV and radio, and currently helps produce The Final Edition Radio Hour.

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  1. You mean to say “unless your apartment building was constructed BEFORE oct. 1978″…. Its older buildings that are protected. Buildings built after that date are not subject to rent stabilization.

  2. We need a sensical, blanket rent protection for tenants of ALL residences and buildings.

    • Right you are. But our current City Council has only weakened rent control time and again. Not surprising, since if you look at the campaign contribution reports, you will see nearly all the money being given is being given by developers and real estate interests, including landlords — our council is 100% sold out and indebted.

      For one thing, when rent control was adopted, the annual rent hike range was 3-7 percent. Quietly, never reported in the LA Times so no one knew, by the early 2000s, that had been changed to 3-8 percent. Now, here in this story, for the first time I hear it now is 3-10 percent — when did that happen, and why has this never been reported anywhere, why are tenants not being informed so they can speak to the issue when it is being adopted!

      That point was seriously debated when rent control started, with a lot of opposition to rent hikes equaling the full amount of inflation when 90% of landlords’ costs are locked in, not subject to inflation.The mortgage is the biggest cost, and that is locked in. And under Prop. 13, their property taxes are locked in too, the second biggest cost. (When West Hollywood adopted rent control, they set the annual increase at only 60% of local inflation.) Maintenance is only a small percentage of the landlords’ costs.

      Another thing this City Council changed: Landlords used to be able to pass along only 50% of the cost of “capital improvements” (maintenance), such as painting the building. Now this council has changed that to 100%, again, never reported by the Times, adopted without tenants having any idea it was even being considered.

      I think you will find most tenants thought they already were paying for those capital improvements in their rent – what else is the rent covering is not the maintenance?! Why should the tenant pay even 50% when they already are paying for it every month?

    • Nothing has wreaked havoc on the stabilization of rents than the rent stabilization ordinance, ironically. The newer tenants pay more to subsidize the 63 year old who’s ben in the apartment since 1978 paying $230 when the market rate is $900.

      Price fixing never works. We have proof that it doesn’t; anyone remember when Nixon tried it? Complete disaster.

      The fact is that all costs continue to go up- not just for the renters – but for everyone including that landlord you think is so greedy.

  3. Bruce Brook Pfeiffer

    I for the life of me simple can’t wrap my head around rent control and why individual property owners are required to subsidize the lives of their tenants in some cases for the majority of a tenants lifespan. If society feels that some people need help with their living expenses (and I certainly agree that some people do) why doesn’t the larger society share in the burden of providing the assistance? Why is it left to individual building owners to shoulder the burden?

  4. Obviously there needs to be some form of rent control, but 3% is unworkable. Mom-and-pop landlords should absolutely be able to raise rent to cover their increased costs. But a blank check of zero rent control would allow faceless real estate corporations to jack up the rent as much as they want whenever they want, not to cover their increased costs, just to satiate greed. Should it be 10% annually? Maybe. Renters may complain, but in the long run that allows them to plan financially better to know that in 10 years, the rent will be up 100% and it’s not reasonable to expect to be entitled to lifelong cheap rent that never goes up. On a side note, if the minimum wage were increased to a living wage of $15 an hour, minimum wage workers would have less need for welfare and subsidized housing.

  5. On another note, the sign reads the community is not for sale, and I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean. Real estate is always for sale at the right price. Of course an apartment building can be for sale if its owner wishes. Sorry, but your community IS for sale and always will be.

  6. developers pay comment trolls on here to make the most bland, blanket, out of touch statements about how rent control is stupid.

    • Real estate investors and developers are some of the cheapest people ever, I highly doubt they care what a blog like this thinks and would spend any money to pay anyone to write comments

  7. Maybe if wages had kept up with inflation over the decades, landlords and tenants wouldnt be butting heads as much as they are now. Landlords should support aNY and all activism which struggles for social equality instead of developing a disdain for the people on their properties.

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