Tenant buyouts lead to protests and Mayor Eric Garcetti signs new laws

Update March 20, 2017

Protestors March at Rent Control Department

2017-3-20 Protest sign at RSD
Protestors appeared today at Los Angeles city rent control headquarters after Mayor Eric Garcetti’s employees said Blacks are not entitled to fair housing

The question is why since 2006 has the city not prosecuted anyone for the illegal buyouts?

LOS ANGELES RENT CONTROL APARTMENTS- 52 percent of Angelenos were renters in 2012 some studies say. In June, Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies concluded that Los Angeles needs 382,000 new units for extremely low-income renters. As of one year ago, there were about 118,000 units in Los Angeles that have rent control, which accounts to about 85 percent of the rental stock.  Another article says, “Los Angeles currently has about 641,000 residential units covered under rent stabilization. Last year, more than 1,000 Angelenos were evicted from their rent-controlled apartments under a state law known as the Ellis Act, which allows landlords to evict tenants in order to get out of the rental business.”

In September 2016 and December 2016 the city has passed two new ordinances, the first amending the registration requirements of rent control ordinances [Ordinance 184529] and the second, the “tenant buyout notification program” {Ordinance 184673], modeled after similar ordinances in Santa Monica and San Francisco.

“Landlords who failed to meet the new standards could be prosecuted by the city attorney’s office and exposed to civil action from the tenants,” says one article.

The question is why since 2006 has the city not prosecuted anyone for the illegal buyouts?

Mayor Eric Garcetti, attorney Michael Feuer, Rushmore Cervantes, and other city employees orchestrated the illegal buyouts and told property owners that they did not have to follow THP and Ellis rent control regulations. They need to show the tenants the money that they are owed. Then Garcetti, Feuer, and Cervantes need to be fired.

It was around year 2006 that Los Angeles enacted the Ellis section of the infamous rent stabilization ordinance [“RSO”]. LAMC sections 151.22-151.30. The Ellis section refers to owner eviction procedures where the owner wants to demolish the building or take it off the market, thus displacing the tenants. The primary renovation relocation provisions refer to units that an owner wants to renovate only and occur under LAMC sections “tenant habitability plan” [“THP”] 152.00 thru 152.08. Both of the Ellis and THP  provisions give the city government enforcement authority to punish property owners who do not comply with the law.

But as the evidence and acts of numerous tenant groups show, since 2006 there were numerous apartment owners who did not comply with the city regulations, did not advise tenants of their rights, and did not provide entitled relocation monies to tenants, yet when city employees were advised they took no actions to protect tenant rights.

I myself advised the city of this in late 2014 and into 2015 and to Mayor Eric Garcetti and numerous other city government officials were advised that the city THP regulations were not being followed but the city did nothing to help tenants. My written comments to them and testimony are a matter of public record.

Being that it appears that government officials were many times accused of assisting property owners to violate the rent control laws, it seems odd, to the say the least,  that the city government has not sought to prosecute its own employees and why the city has not made the  tenant buyout notification program retroactive to at least assist tenants who were cheated out of monies in the last five years.

The city already knew that under the table illegal “buyouts” by landlords were void because it was the City who had passed just such an ordinance in year 2005:

“Ordinance 176544 Chapter XV Sec 152.07 F. Any agreement, whether written or oral, waiving any of the provisions of this article shall be void as contrary to public policy.”

I fear these two new laws come too little and too late. What steps will be taken to assure that city employees enforce these laws in a non-discriminatory manner?

It does not appear the new ordinances solve the problem of when is a unit subject to primary renovation? What is the step that forces the owner to fill out the buyout plan? Can the owner just tell the tenant to take the buyout and not mention that it is due to primary renovation? But one week later after the tenant has left, he starts the renovations. Is that legal? One procedure on the city website says the owner must provide initial notice to the city before negotiating the buyout with the tenant, but that form does not have to be turned into the city for 60 days. Shouldn’t that form be turned into the city immediately?

How many city councilpersons own rent control properties?

The current RSO provides that an owner cannot raise the rent unless he has complied with all rent control sections— does that mean there will be a reimbursement in tenant rents?

The Public Needs to Hold the Mayor, Feuer, and Cervantes Accountable

The Public needs to hold the Mayor, Feuer, and Cervantes accountable because they knew that city employees were directing landlords not to comply with rent control regulations.

Will the Los Angeles County DA and city attorney Mike Feuer bring criminal charges against city employees?

[Editor: internet search the Santa Monica and San Francisco tenant buyout programs]

See the LA Times article on this Click here

Under the CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION ARTICLE 1  DECLARATION OF RIGHTS SECTION 1.  “All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.” [Emphasis added]

“The State shall not discriminate…[including], but not necessarily be limited to, the State itself, any city, county, city and county, public university system, including the University of California, community college district, school district, special district, or any other political subdivision or governmental instrumentality of or within the State…The provisions of this Constitution are mandatory and prohibitory…”

Under   “CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION ARTICLE 1  DECLARATION OF RIGHTS SEC. 31.  (a) The State shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting. (f) For the purposes of this section, “State” shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, the State itself, any city, county, city and county, public university system, including the University of California, community college district, school district, special district, or any other political subdivision or governmental instrumentality of or within the State. (g) The remedies available for violations of this section shall be the same, regardless of the injured party’s race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin, as are otherwise available for violations of then-existing California anti-discrimination law.”

Under “CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION ARTICLE 1  DECLARATION OF RIGHTS SEC. 26.  The provisions of this Constitution are mandatory and prohibitory, unless by express words they are declared to be otherwise.”

The hidden benefit to tenants

If a tenant does not take the primary renovation relocation monies, they can keep possession of the apartment pending repairs. [The prior law makes the buyout dependent on if the repairs take over 60 days. Not sure if this will be impacted by the new buyout law.] If the tenant chooses to temporarily relocate, they must be placed back in the same apartment at only a 10% increase in rent. Naturally some tenants may not be able to afford the ten percent increase, but the benefits are: (1) you will receive a brand new refurbished apartment (2) you will pay much less than the market rate and (3) [this is the best part] the 10% increase only lasts two years.

The mayor and council and city attorney has admitted corruption

The new ordinances propose that tenants can seek a $500 penalty from landlords. What will that deter? Seems like an obvious way the city is helping the landlord who may be making tens of thousands off these properties so who cares about $500.00.

By their actions, the city of Los Angeles has admitted it orchestrated injuries to possibly thousands of city tenants thru its acts if corruption, discrimination, and lack of accountability. [Both the Ellis and THP ordinances contained tenant buyout provisions already.]

What damages will the city pay tenants and what lawyer will come forth to help tenants?

Between 2014 and early 2016, city attorney Mike Feuer and Mayor Eric Garcetti received numerous faxes, emails, and claims for damages reporting illegal cash buyouts and irregularities in the city Los Angeles rent control THP program.

Why was nothing done then to unscrupulous landlords?

All the documents the city received are a matter of public record and be accessed by filing a request with the city under the The California Public Records Act. 

In 2014 HCIDLA and City Attorney Mike Feuer were told of illegal THP’s

In an email dated September 4, 2014, at 10:26 a.m. to HCIDLA, and copied to the Mayor and Mike Feuer, a tenant at 1522 Hi Point Apartments wrote:

“It is quite disturbing that Rent Control Commission and Los Angeles Housing has not taken steps to assure that the Notice of Primary Renovation Work and Tenant Habitability Plan [THP] is served on all affected tenants in the building.”

“There has been no communication from your office to all tenants that they are entitled to the rent reduction due to lack of onsite manager.” [Email September 4, 2014]

[Editor: When the tenant pressed the city to give the required rent reductions to tenants, the city employee said that they could take no action unless the tenant themselves made a complaint. So the tenants never received the refunds. It seems all across the city tenants were refused protection simply because they failed to file a complaint most likely landlords engaged in illegal buyouts never informing tenants of their rights.]

Evidence of city corruption as THP concerns are ignored:

“The city Los Angeles own form “Notice of Primary Renovation Work”
states “Renovation work will begin on your home and/or building no earlier than 60 days from the date this Notice is served on you”. No notice has been served at all even though work has been done on units since April and now work proceeds on apartments #1 and #13. There has been no response from LADBS, LAHC, or RSO on this issue.” [Email September 4, 2014]

If you search thru city RSO regulations, you will see that tenants may be entitled to double damages if an owner does not comply with RSO regulations. A tenant may also seek enforcement of those regulations in court. The city has the authority to refuse to issue an owner’s rent registration certificate and the State of California can revoke a business owner’s license. Why since 2005 has the State, County, and City not taken action against unscrupulous landlords who did not follow THP and Ellis regulations?

“…why wasn’t the rent stabilization department doing the THP and Ellis monitoring in the first place?”

Internet search “Report Back Concerning the Adoption of a Tenant Buyout Agreement Program for Rent Stabilization Properties”. Office of the City Administrative Officer. This report dated May 16 2016 from employee Miquel A. Santana recommends the city develop systems for “tenant buyout monitoring and investigations.” [The question becomes why wasn’t the rent stabilization department doing the THP and Ellis monitoring in the first place? ] The report goes on to state that the first year cost of such monitoring program will be $341,536 which includes two new staff positions. [One would wonder why did the city have a THP and Ellis program ordinance since 2005 and not one city employee or attorney of hundreds in code enforcement was able to enforce the ordinance even though most rent control properties pay a SCEP fee yearly which tenants partially reimburse for the city to inspect the property, and presumably check for the THP and CFO’s.]

The Santana report states the annual cost after the first year would be $281,536 and funded from the Rent Stabilization Trust Fund. The question to the Mayor and Council is how many tenants who did not receive THP or Ellis monies could benefit from that $341,536? Doesn’t the city have the authority to pay the tenants and put a lien against the apartment owner’s property for the monies owed. Yes, the city government has that authority. The report mentions the possibility of raising the annual registration fees, presumably to pay for ordinances that have not been enforced from the 2005 passage dates.

As they say in the movies, “You lying piece of shit!”

Let’s see, if 300 tenants were cheated out of $2,000 each, that would come to $600,000. Seems like it would be more helpful, Mayor Garcetti, to pay off these tenants rather than use thousands of dollars to increase a bureaucracy that is not intended to work.

The question to the Mayor Garcetti and Council is how many tenants who did not receive THP or Ellis monies could benefit from that $341,536?

No  retroactive money for THP and Ellis relocations but plenty of money for new employee salaries. Is this how Garcetti profits on the backs of the poor?

More to come….

Update January 31, 2017

Plenty of money from landlord permits but no money for tenant relocations. The Tenant Buyout plan and THP and Ellis relocations if a SHAM and just like Mayor Eric Garcetti is a SHAM.

I will bet that today there are hundreds of properties in Los Angeles where primary renovations is occurring—and the city employees are aware of it—-where no primary renovation checklist occurred, no THP application was submitted; and the renovations are occurring to the benefit of the property owner and detriment to the tenant(s). I will bet that if you call the city right now and ask for the THP’s [which are matter of public record by the way], they and code enforcement will make up all kind of excuses and exceptions as to why the THP regulations are not being followed.

The THP program and Tenant Buyout is a SHAM. I can tell you one property right now where there was no THP and the renovations continue. The city regulations is no THP, no permit approval, illegal construction, STOP WORK ORDER and denial of certificate of occupancy. Of course the city is not going to follow those regulations because the city government is a SHAM!

S-H-A-M !

[Editor]

What Garcetti Said

Every tenant in Los Angeles should understand their rights, especially in a tight housing market, and landlords should know their responsibilities,” said Mayor Garcetti. “The RSO is the most powerful tool we have to keep families and neighborhoods together, and this ordinance will help protect vulnerable populations — like senior citizens and immigrants — from displacement. As we work to build new affordable housing, we also must make sure that residents know about protections that are already in place.”  December 15 2016 From internet article “Mayor Garcetti Signs Tenant Buyout Ordinance | Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti”

Racism Hi Point Apts

“When a tenant makes a complaint that there has been a reduction in housing services in violation of housing codes related to habitability of a dwelling under California Health & Safety Code 17920.3 or 17920.10, the Los Angeles Housing + Community Investments Department will determine a corresponding reduction in rent under the Rent Escrow Account Program regulations (RAC Regulations 1200.00 et . seq).” City Los Angeles LAMC claimed by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Director Rushmore Cervantes.

Making affordable housing opportunities more accessible to Los Angeles residents is core to our mission. If you rent in the City of Los Angeles, your rental unit may be subject to the City’s Rent … You live in affordable housing or luxury housing units exempted by HCIDLA; The rental unit was … To Learn More About the Rent Stabilization Ordinance. The City of Los Angeles has a Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) that protects … of rent increases allowed if approved by the Housing + Community Investment …The City of Los Angeles has a Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) that protects … of rent increases allowed if approved by the Housing + Community Investment …If you own rental property in the City of Los Angeles, it may be subject to the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO). Find out if your property falls under this …Los Angeles Rent Control on Curbed LA. … attorney talks about his experience defending tenants amid Los Angeles’s growing affordable housing crisis. Feb 26, 2017 But a Los Angeles Times examination of recent rentcontrol … a “luxury housing glut” that has “wiped out 22,000 affordable housing units since … Jul 12, 2016 Los Angeles Affordable Housing … In April, the Los Angeles Times revealed that evictions from rentcontrolled units have doubled since 2013. Jan 27, 2016 That’s now a feature you can find via Los Angeles‘ city zoning and planning … rents reasonable as we work to create more affordable housing. Recent studies by the County of Los Angeles Community and Senior … care, and there is a growing demand for affordable senior housing information services. … Each federal, state or local housing or rent subsidy program has regulations and … Dec 27, 2016 Affordable housing or rent control, what’s right for Pasadena? … such as Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Palm … Apr 2, 2016 Looking to cash in on a booming real estate market, Los Angeles property owners are … More than 1000 rentcontrolled apartments were. … eating away at the supply of affordable housing at a time when L.A. has become one Jul 27, 2016 Rent control may not be the right way to tackle rising apartment lease … such as creating more affordable housing units, might be a better option. … like as opposed to the city of Los Angeles, which enacted rent control in 1978.Sep 12, 2014 When tenants cling to their inexpensive rentcontrolled apartments, it’s beneficial …. unjust evictions, and preserved some of our affordable housing stock. … Gross says these kinds of evictions are on the rise in Los Angeles. Apr 23, 2015 New Los Angeles reforms protect affordable housing … Tenants say rentcontrolled units are disappearing as landlords opt to demolish older … Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board · Los Angeles Housing Department · San … HUD handles complaints about housing discrimination, bad landlords in federal LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti today took another step toward curbing L.A.’s housing affordability crisis, signing into law the Tenant Buyout Ordinance — a

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