Posted: Wednesday, January 25, 2017 – 11:23 AM
By Victoria Talbot
In a 5-0 vote, the Beverly Hills City Council voted for an urgency ordinance that will protect renters from allowed annual 10 percent rent increases, add meaningful relocation fees to assist in no-cause evictions and create a database and a registry of the apartment inventory in the City of Beverly Hills to enable the City to monitor building conditions, rent increases, evictions and general rent conditions.
The new ordinance will go into effect immediately, holding rents to three percent and staying the evictions of tenants who have not exceeded their sixty-day notice of eviction. It will establish relocation fees commensurate with those in Santa Monica, which includes special compensation for families with disabled, elderly and minor tenants.
Landlords were well-represented at the meeting, which lasted until about 1:30 a.m. at City Hall. Some landlords shouted personal insults at Vice Mayor Nancy Krasne, who championed the cause, and Councilmember Lili Bosse, who has been a liaison to the Human Relations Commission on this topic.
One landlord suggested that the renters could “move to Hawaiian Gardens,” if they could not afford the 10 percent rent increases.
Oddly, time after time, the landlords said they rarely, if ever, use the ten-percent rate increase. Yet, when the council deliberated the reduced rates, they cat-called from the audience their objections. A good percentage of those renters who spoke talked about the ten percent rent increases they were receiving. Resident activist Mark Elliot came with a notice that his rent was being increased 9.1 percent, effective March 1. The rent can only be increased now to three percent.
Renters explained that in a little over seven years, a landlord charging ten percent per year will double their income, i.e. from $5,000/month to $10,000/month, which makes apartment buildings in Beverly Hills a great return on investment, guaranteed. Controls like those voted in last night exist in Los Angeles, West Hollywood and Santa Monica. Beverly Hills was the last stronghold in West Los Angeles.
To add to their problems, many renters report being evicted and having their units converted for Air BnB or another short-term rental. Though it is illegal in Beverly Hills, the Internet is awash with rentals at apartment buildings in town. The City is missing out on significant taxes, and the apartment environment for those still residing in those buildings, is losing community, say renters. Code Compliance Manager Nestor Otazu said that the practice was illegal, but that there have been no convictions.
Vice Mayor Nancy Krasne led the charge. Four years ago, Krasne came to the aid of residents when their building’s central air conditioning unit failed and the landlord would not respond to complaints. Elderly residents were experiencing 100-degree-plus temperatures in their units. Other residents were complaining of leaks, electrical fires, plumbing problems and other conditions. The residents were systematically receiving 10-percent rent increases and/or being evicted by the new owners of the building.
One elderly resident on a fixed income, without funds or family to help with relocation, tried to jump off the roof, but couldn’t climb the parapet with her walker. Krasne found her an assisted living and helped her with funding. The Vice Mayor also paid for several residents to stay at the Hilton until the situation was remedied with the City’s intervention. She assisted them with their rent increases, as well.
About 18 months ago, Krasne helped to repurpose the Human Relations Commission, adding a landlord-tenant component, which included monthly landlord-tenant forums. During those sessions, it became very clear that residents were fearful of retaliation, such as eviction and rent increases, and thus declined to make formal complaints about poor conditions, needed repairs, and other grievances. Renters said they clearly would rather tolerate poor conditions than risk consequences.
The City will bring the ordinance back in 30 days to review the conditions, and will hold a series of meetings between tenants and landlords to look for middle ground that will help landlords manage the expenses of a robust housing stock while keeping vulnerable residents in their homes.