Power Property Management is now certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

As a property management company, we know that renters often look for renovated properties.

This does not mean owners have to spend thousands of dollars on upgrades. Actually, there are plenty of inexpensive ways to make their apartments look as good as new.

At Power Property Management, we recommend owners consider updating their landscaping or adding new paint. This adds value and could help lessen the time between tenants.

If you are currently considering hiring a property management company, get in touch with Power today, we are now authorized by the EPA to conduct Lead Based Paint Abatements and/or Renovation, Repair and Painting Activities.

We fulfilled all the requirements of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 402, and have received certification to conduct lead-based paint renovation, repair and painting activities pursuant to 40 CFR Part 745.89 in target housing and child-occupied facilities.

We are both excited and eager to provide you with the best property management services in California, while being in accordance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Contact Power Property Management today. Your property will be in great hands.

Can I Say No to Pot in My Apartments When it is Legal in my State? – by John Triplett

With permission from AOA (Apartment Owners Association)

California just became the world’s largest legal marijuana market. When pot is legal in a state, what issues does this present to property managers and landlords of rental properties? Property managers are often confused and seeking to better understand how to handle the issues of legal marijuana and medical marijuana when it comes to tenants and rental housing in their states.

Laws are changing all the time in many states, just as California did on January 1, 2018, as voters approve different levels of permission when it comes to marijuana. This leaves property managers trying to figure out what should be in their leases around the issue.

You may be able to ban smoking, but do you really know what your tenants are eating or growing in their apartments? Do you really want to know if they are good paying tenants?

Rental Housing Journal did a recent interview with Seattle, Washington attorney Bret Sachter, an expert in tracking the progression and transformation of marijuana laws, to discuss some common questions property managers have about marijuana and tenants.

“I’ve been asked this a lot,” Sachter said, “but it does not come up as often as you might think. The overarching issue here is that, with few exceptions, people can do what they want to protect their property, even if the prohibited behavior is not illegal. You can prohibit smoking, prohibit pets, but with marijuana it’s much easier because it is federally illegal. So you can pretty much prohibit it if you want to no matter what, even medical marijuana,” Sachter said.

4 Questions About Pot, Tenants and Apartment Leases

Sachter says in terms of Fair Housing issues, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) it is a situation where HUD wants it in the lease that marijuana is illegal but enforcement is another issue, he said. It is not so much that HUD wants landlords to evict over marijuana, but that you have something in the lease language that allows for eviction in the instance of marijuana use on the property. “So it is pretty clear as far as HUD is concerned,” he said. Here are his answers to four questions on pot and apartments.

  1. 1.     Tenants With a Disability and Medical Marijuana

Question: If a tenant comes in and says I have a disability, here is a note from my doctor, I use medical marijuana, which is legal in this state, and I want to rent your apartment. Can a landlord prohibit that?

Answer: “A landlord can absolutely prohibit that because marijuana is illegal under federal law.” The landlord can say, “I understand our state allows medical marijuana but it is still a Schedule 1 drug and I prohibit it on my premises.”

  1. 2.     Marijuana is Legal in My State – But What Does the Lease Say?

Question: What if a tenant says marijuana is legal and they should be allowed to use it?

Answer: “If your lease prohibits smoking and prohibits use of illegal drugs, then the legality of marijuana at the state level is irrelevant because under federal law marijuana is illegal. If your lease does not have those types of clauses, you should talk to an attorney in your state or city to find the best solution for your lease.” There is no law about reasonable accommodation for marijuana users, federal laws do not require it. As far as the federal government is concerned it is not ok.

“One thing I would say, and it is important, I would encourage landlords just to make everything clear,” in the leases, he said. “Clarify in a lease that you must abide by all laws both state and federal.” That is the case in residential. He said it can be different in commercial.

“But in residential it is not as tricky, and I am speaking very generally here,” Sachter said. “The states may have their own thing going on with legal marijuana laws, but it is still federally illegal. Make it crystal clear in your leases is my best advice,” he said. “How can you attract tenants in a state where it is legal yet protect the owners of the property? You cannot have it both ways.”

“I know in Seattle there are Airbnb bed and breakfasts that specifically market themselves accordingly, as part of marijuana tourism to come and stay in our place where it is legal.” But if a property manager doesn’t want that going on, then they have to be up front in the lease.

“If your tenant is Airbnbing to a tenant who is then using marijuana – well if you can’t catch them you cannot do anything about it. You have to prove they are doing this.  They are going to be using marijuana regardless of what the lease says.”

  1. 3.     What if the Tenant Using Marijuana is a Well-Paying, Good Tenant?

“Landlords can certainly put a no-waiver clause in the lease. If I say, ‘Here is a list of prohibited things’ and if you do these prohibited things in the lease, you are subject to eviction,” he said.

“However, any time I waive any of these things does not constitute an overall waiver. It basically means you should not ever do it again,” he said. “Just because you get away with it once, does not mean you get away with it every time,” Sachter said.

  1. 4.     Can I say ‘no pot in my apartment

“Usually if you say, ‘No pot in my apartment’ and you find a tenant using marijuana and you haul them into court, more than likely the judge is going to say, ‘Have you stopped?’ to the tenant and ‘Are you going to do it again?’ and the tenant is going to say ‘No.”  And then judge will say, ‘Ok, dismissed.”

To put a more legalistic term on it, usually a court will be in favor of “allowing the tenant to cure the defect,” rather than evict for most things like that, Sachter said.

Technically, in Washington, a landlord would serve a 10-Day notice to comply or vacate with the terms of the lease.  This process, therefore, gives the tenant a chance to “cure” the violation before the landlord can evict. Check your local state laws on this.

 

What One Experienced Property Manager Says About Pot

Sam Driver, Product Director for Buildium.com, and an experienced property manager, said as far as marijuana use in apartments, due to the newness of the legislation, the federal laws that supersede state and county laws, and liability concerns, it is not a topic that comes up a lot – yet.

“Generally, the safest solution is to choose the most conservative path-impose a no-smoking policy, which can in some cased cover outside areas, and a crime provision that includes local, state and federal laws. In many states, there are setbacks from doors, and it is particularly important if the building is a place of work which a multi-unit apartment building certainly is. So your lease should contain a provision explicitly banning smoking and illegal activity. Because the feds still outlaw it, this should be sufficient,” Driver said.

“This of course only covers the smoking angle. If a resident consumes it in another way, you’d likely never know,” he said.

 

Growing Marijuana Could Put a Power Load on Your Apartments

“As for growing, that’s less clear. But in general, unless the electrical system is designed for it, the loads grow lights put on the apartment unit could be excessive. I’d consider a reasonable use clause that specifies all high load equipment, including lights, air conditioners and any kind of pump be approved by you.

“This would put you in a position to take action if they are putting too much load, without specifically calling out the use of the equipment. Pumps are a good area for monitoring, because of the intermittent load, they trip breakers, and anyone who is using a hydroponic system would need several,” Driver said.

 

What if I Want to Market My Apartment to Marijuana Users?

“If, however, you wanted to roll the dice and market to this crowd assuming your state laws allow it, remember that the federal laws would cover any bank deposits from proceeds,” Driver said.

“In this case, you’d be able to do it, assuming no federal intervention, in compliance with local laws. No insurer would provide EO&E (errors and omissions excepted) insurance to you, and you wouldn’t be able to deposit any funds into a federally-accredited bank. So you’d have to self-insure, and run an entirely cash business, but you could do it, risking only federal enforcement.

“The big question is, ‘Would the premium rents be worth the risk of forfeiture?’ If you run afoul of the federal drug laws, the asset seizure possibility is a huge risk. You could lose the building.
“If you’re managing other owners’ properties, then you’d be risking their assets even if you used different leases, unless you kept fully separate books, bank accounts, and co-mingled nothing. So I’d say it would be all-or-nothing,” he said.

“The timing is tricky, too. Leases contain a provision that stipulates that the contract is in force in a specific jurisdiction. If they change the laws rendering your lease out of compliance, what happens during the remaining time of the lease? Is it invalidated? Or does the contract remain in force until it expires? “Good questions for your lawyer,” Driver said.

Rich Triplett is a writer for the RentalHousingJournal.com which is an interactive community of multifamliy investors, independent rental home owners, residential property management professionals and other rental housing and real estate professionals. It is the most comprehensive source for news and information for the rental housing industry. Their website features exclusive articles and blogs on real estate investing, apartment market trends, property management best practices, landlord tenant laws, apartment marketing, maintenance and more.  

AB 1506 IS DEFEATED IN COMMITTEE

A MESSAGE FROM AAGLA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DAN YUKELSON

COSTA-HAWKINS IS SAVED…
FOR NOW. TO BE CONTINUED.

Today is a great day for the multifamily housing industry. An Assembly bill introduced by Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), AB 1506, to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act of 1995 (“Costa-Hawkins”) has been defeated. In a meeting today in front of the Housing and Community Development Committee, a 5 member committee, two members were in favor, two were against, and one member, Ed Chau, abstained; therefore, preventing the Bill from moving forward to the General Assembly.

Just prior to today’s Housing and Community Development Committee meeting on AB 1506, your Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles and its affiliated associations mobilized and encouraged their members to email and call Ed Chau’s offices urging him to Vote No on AB 1506. As a result, calls and emails flooded into Ed Chau’s offices and eventually, Ed Chau shut off his phones! We sent busloads of sign-carrying housing providers to today’s meeting in Sacramento to urge the Committee to Vote No on AB 1506. And, it worked! Ed Chau abstained, which is the same as a No Vote.

Advocacy works!
Your efforts paid off. Thank you all that contributed to the effort to defeat AB 1506.

Costa-Hawkins is a landmark, California state law that places many protective limits on local rent control ordinances. Costa-Hawkins provides two major benefits: (i) first, it prohibits municipalities from establishing rent control over certain types of housing units such as single-family homes, condominiums and newly constructed rental units; and (ii) second, it permits “vacancy de-control”, or in other words, it allows rental housing providers to set their rents at the prevailing market following a tenant’s vacancy. Without Costa-Hawkins, rental housing providers in cities such as Santa Monica and West Hollywood could not raise their rent to market under any circumstances. It is Costa-Hawkins that mandates cities to permit an apartment owner to rent an apartment, when vacant, at any price (e.g., market price). AB 1506 would have repealed Costa-Hawkins entirely.

Although we have won today’s major battle, it is likely that AB 1506 will return in a different form by “chipping away” at some of the protections we have under Costa-Hawkins instead of the full repeal sought by Bloom. In addition, we are faced with a statewide ballot initiative that has been filed by well-funded, price control extremists that, if passed, would repeal Costa-Hawkins in its entirety. The proponents of the initiative have raised nearly $20 million to assure its passage.

We must all continue to join in the battle against these dangerous threats to the rental housing industry in California. The only way that we can defeat the initiative or other attacks on Costa-Hawkins is with money and your involvement.

IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU GIVE GENEROUSLY TO THE AAGLA POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE TODAY.

If you have the means, please give generously. Now more than ever, we need those that can afford to, to write $1,000, $2,5000, $5,000 or even $10,000 or more checks. If we lose the battle to save Costa-Hawkins, we could lose billions of dollars in lost rental income and property value. If we lose the battle over Costa-Hawkins, many of our members will end up in financial peril.

Now more than ever, stay involved, advocate and give to the AAGLA POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE. The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles is your regulatory insurance. AAGLA is constantly working on your behalf to ensure your voice is heard and your property rights are protected. We always have your back every step of the way. Support us and we will win.

GIVE YOUR SUPPORT

BLOWING UP COSTA-HAWKINS: WHAT IS IT AND WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?

It is Not Just Your Apartments, But Single-Family Homes and Condominiums Will Also be Impacted

By Daniel Yukelson and Stevie Funes

Although a great deal has already been said about it, there is much more discussion and debate to take place this year regarding the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act of 1995 (“Costa-Hawkins”). Anyone that owns a residential property here in our golden State of California, whether new or old, or whether multi-family, single family or even a condominium needs to be informed and care about Costa-Hawkins.

Costa-Hawkins is a landmark, California state law that places protective limits on local rent control ordinances. Costa-Hawkins provides two major benefits: (i) first, it prohibits municipalities from establishing rent control over certain types of housing units such as single-family homes, condominiums and newly constructed rental units; and (ii) second, it permits “vacancy de-control”, or in other words, it allows rental housing providers to set their rents at the prevailing market upon a tenant’s vacancy. Without Costa-Hawkins, rental housing providers in cities such as Santa Monica and West Hollywood could not raise their rent to market under any circumstances. It is Costa-Hawkins that mandates cities to permit an apartment owner to rent an apartment, when vacant, at any price (e.g., market price).

Before Costa-Hawkins, rental housing providers in many jurisdictions were often forced out of business and faced bankruptcy. Prior to the protections provided under Costa- Hawkins, a rental housing black market formed, and apartment buildings became dilapidated due to deferred maintenance as owners suffered financially. It was not that long ago when the City of Santa Monica was referred to as the “Skid Row by the Sea” because housing providers could no longer afford to upkeep their properties.

Causes Leading Up to Rent Control

Rent control policies first appeared in the early and mid- 1900s during the World Wars in reaction to these two national emergencies. It was then during the late 1970s that various municipalities throughout California and nationwide began enacting rent control ordinances due, in part, to rising real estate values and surging interest rates, which had made single family homes in California less and less affordable. As a result, people began moving into apartments in larger numbers causing a rental housing shortage. At the same time, municipalities were making poor land use decisions by restricting construction of new housing units. As the demand for rental housing increased and the supply decreased, rental housing providers increased rents – it’s just the “old” supply and demand. And, to make matters worse, in the “perfect storm,” state and federal low-income housing assistance fell, inflation increased, and yet at the same time, wages and salaries fell.

The City of Berkeley became the first California city to adopt a post-war rent control ordinance in 1972. In 1976, Governor Jerry Brown, vetoed state legislation (AB 3788) that would have prohibited local rent control laws. AB 3788 was supported the California Housing Council (CHC), a real estate trade association. Subsequently, the CHC was able to get an initiative to prohibit rent control laws on the ballot in 1980, Proposition 10, but this initiative was soundly defeated.

In the meantime, in June 1978, Proposition 13 had been approved by a two to one margin by California voters. Prior to the election, Proposition 13 proponent, Howard Jarvis, and the California Apartment Association, had suggested that landlords would lower rents if Proposition 13 were to pass. Apparently, numerous voters were said to have thought that by lowering landlord property taxes, Proposition 13 would automatically mean lower rents. The CHC, then became fearful of a tenant backlash if landlords failed to follow through in lowering rents, and decided to oppose Proposition 13. Despite post-election efforts by Governor Brown and the CHC, few landlords lowered their rents.

Across California, tenants quickly began to feel their numbers and formed local groups, which quickly grew in intensity and strength. Tenant activists organized political agitation directed at state and city government. Governor Brown’s newly created ‘tenant hot line’ was at one point, getting 12,000 calls per day. Due to continuing tenant pressure, rent strikes, and adverse news coverage about rent increases and angry tenants, especially seniors, the Los Angeles City Council passed a six-month rent freeze in August 1978. By 1988, fourteen California municipalities had adopted full rent control ordinances.

While the strength of the tenant activism eventually began to dissipate, later attempts to repeal rent control at the state level failed. Today, approximately two-dozen out of 482 California cities have enacted rent control laws.

The Birth of the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act

Authored by Jim Costa, a Democrat Senator from Fresno, and Phil Hawkins, a Republican member of the Assembly from Bellflower, Costa-Hawkins was first introduced in the Senate and eventually became Assembly Bill 1164. After several negotiated changes, it was passed in both chambers. Republican Governor, Pete Wilson, then signed AB 1164 into law and Costa-Hawkins was born.

Although Costa-Hawkins placed limitations on rent control, which was an agenda more favored by Republicans, quite a few Democrats supported the Act. The pro-tenant Western Center on Law and Poverty (WCLP) requested several amendments to the bill such as the prohibition of rent increases “if serious health, safety, fire, or building code violations were discovered and not corrected for six months.”

Costa-Hawkins was later amended in 2002 to close a loophole and clarify the law related to condominium conversions. It prevented owners of apartment buildings, who obtained a certificate for conversion, to an exemption to rent control laws, without selling any such apartments as condominiums.

Life Before Costa-Hawkins and the Passing of the Ellis Act

Without vacancy-decontrol afforded under Costa- Hawkins, municipalities can control the rental marketplace in its entirety. Some cities, such as Santa Monica before the passage of Costa-Hawkins, have exercised “vacancy control” by limiting what rental housing providers can charge for their units once a tenant vacates. Without the protections of Costa-Hawkins, rental housing providers simply could not keep up with the increasing costs to profitably operate their property. As a result, some owners decided to leave the multi-family housing business entirely, while others converted their properties to other uses, such as condominiums.

In the mid-1980’s, California passed the Ellis Act, a law to protect the right of owners to go out of the rental housing business so that they would not be forced to continue operating them at a loss. The Ellis Act was in response to the City of Santa Monica’s challenge to the right of property owners to stop offering their rental housing, and in essence, attempted to compel owners to operate rental housing, even at a loss.

It is clear that Costa-Hawkins has been a great lifeline to the rental housing industry and to property owners who have been able to make-up for some of the lost rental income “ground” once units are vacated. Without Costa-Hawkins protection, rent control laws would expand and California would return to the “dark ages” when the worst effects of rent control were allowed to thrive without abatement while at the same time driving owners out of business, creating a decaying housing stock and drastically reducing housing supply.

Some price control extremists have suggested only certain portions of Costa-Hawkins be modified by, for example, removing only the prohibition on new construction, which excludes from rent control properties built 1995 or later. The multi-family housing industry considers any attempt to alter Costa-Hawkins similar to allowing the “camel’s nose under the tent,” and any change, no matter how extensive, can only lead to a moving the goal post until it is ultimately repealed in its entirety. When it comes to Costa- Hawkins, any modification is the proverbial red line in the sand.

Threatening Costa-Hawkins

Costa-Hawkins is now being threatened with repeal both in the state assembly, and by well-organized, and extremely well-funded tenants’ rights groups who have submitted a ballot initiative. We, as rental housing providers, are under attack! If repealed, many municipalities would dramatically expand rent control.

A bill, AB 1506, that has been proposed by Assembly Member Richard Bloom, a Democrat from Santa Monica, would repeal Costa-Hawkins. However, that bill has been temporarily put on hold by its author amid fierce opposition from the rental housing industry. AB 1506 proposes a simple, one-line repeal of Costa-Hawkins. Bloom’s bill must pass the Assembly by the end of January, but even if it fails, it is likely that another legislative attack will be introduced in early 2018. The simple text of the bill is as follows:

“THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
SECTION 1. Chapter 2.7 (commencing with Section 1954.50) of Title 5 of Part 4 of Division 3 of the Civil Code is repealed.”

In addition to the Bloom bill, a new threat being led by tenant advocacy groups and Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. These rent control zealots have proposed a ballot initiative that would repeal the Costa-Hawkins. This group is well organized and well- funded, and have raised, by some accounts, more than $20 million to ensure this initiative gets on the ballot and is passed. The proponents of this initiative submitted a letter to the California Attorney General requesting a title and summary for the initiative on October 23, 2017, which at the time this article was written, was pending issuance by the California attorney general’s office, but expected on December 27, 2017. The proponents will then need to gather the required 365,880 valid voter signatures in order to get on the November 2018 ballot.

Your Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles and its allied rental housing associations have been able to defeat similar attacks against our industry at the State level many times before. However, this initiative and the bill proposed by Assembly Member Bloom are some of the most awful and egregious political threats to the rental housing industry in AAGLA’s 100-year history! We ask that each of our members be informed, attend Apartment Association meetings, write letters to your legislature, and actively help us to overcome the looming threat to our property rights. You need to care about Costa-Hawkins.
Together we can win!

Credit to AAGLA.com

10 Ways to Express Resident Appreciation – by Trish Harris

With permission from the Apartment Owner’s Association (AOA)

In the multifamily industry, we often think of apartment community residents in the collective.  However, these communities comprise of individuals with diverse lives, unique personalities and a broad range of hopes and dreams – just as any other group of people does.  When we think of our residents in this way, we can better consider the impact appreciation can have on them and their lives.

The truth is that we all desire and sometimes even need to be appreciated, to be recognized, to know that we matter.  It’s a part of the human condition to want that warm and fuzzy feeling we have when we know somebody cares!  In fact, an important part of community building is expressing and encouraging gratitude and appreciation.  So what can property managers and owners do to endure their residents feel that way?

We’ve compiled a list of ideas and strategies designed to help get your creative juices flowing, but first, how about adopting an attitude of gratitude?

Designate a Yearly Resident Appreciation Week

Find a time of the year that is not crowded with commitments and plan a unique act of appreciation for each day that week in honor of your residents.  Sample activities for your week:

  • Snack bag giveaways to residents
  • A small plant and note left at each resident’s door
  • A fair for the children with bouncy house, cotton candy, donkey rides
  • A Saturday or Sunday afternoon cookout with outdoor family games
  • After-school candy throw with employees tossing hard candies
  • Morning coffee and doughnut stations at the apartment community exits
  • A local band performance on a weekend night

Pay Attention to Their Needs

Ensure the staff recognizes and accommodates any special needs of residents

Conduct Monthly Birthday Parties

Designate a particular day and time (i.e. the first Sunday at 4 p.m.) for residents to gather for cake in honor of all resident birthdays during that month.  Present a birthday card to each honoree.  Mail cards to those unable to be present.  For some residents, your card may be the only recognition of their birthday.

Honor Their Passions and Diversity

Survey your residents to find out their hearts’ desires and design events featuring their unique talents and interests.  For example, have an art show showcasing crafts and works that residents have crated.  Ask each artist to share his/her story to post to your website or include in your newsletter.

Say “Thank You” in a Personal Note

When a resident does something kind for the staff, write a personal, handwritten note of appreciation.

Enlist Their Participation

Generously publicize all events for your apartment community so that no resident will be left out of the loop.  Make everyone feel included and welcomed.

Plan Calendar Celebrations

At the beginning of the year, flag special days, (Valentine’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Groundhog Day, etc.) and brainstorm with staff tactics the management team can put in place to commemorate these days for the residents.

Cater to the Kids

If you really want to do something nice for someone, pay attention to their children!  Invite the kids to participate in such fun and simple activities as sidewalk chalk drawing, outdoor games, pet shows and noise parades, (i.e. banging on pans, blowing horns, singing.)

Little Things Mean a Lot

Remember how important the little things are in creating a caring and appreciative culture.  Look your residents in the eye.  Speak with compassion and be alert to little things that you can do to make them feel that they matter.

Smile with an Attitude of Gratitude

A good attitude is contagious.  So are smiles!  Make friendly greetings a mandate for your employees and staff as a part of your commitment to serving your community.

Help Stop the Trash Monopoly! – by Michael Millman, Attorney

with permission from the AOA (Apartment Owner’s Association)

(The following is an open letter sent to Athens Services and Recycle L.A.)

My family owns several Westside apartments and Athens has been our outstanding provider for many years.

Two years ago, when the City Council passed the new trash hauling arrangement, the union trade group called “LANE” agreed that small apartment owners would not have to make any special arrangements in connection with recycling or other labor-intense protocols.  The big trash hauler, which would be reduced to seven, would have the facilities at their corporate areas to remove recycled items and take other appropriate actions consistent with state law.

As you’re more than well aware, the apartment owners are not able to instruct tenants to sort or separate trash because this would be considered by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office as a form of “tenant harassment”.

As you’re also well aware, the current annual rental adjustment on rent is restricted to 3%.  It’s based upon an arcane CPI formula which does not address or capture trash hauling.  So, there’s no money whatsoever to encourage or promote the tenants to cooperate.

State law does not require resident managers at units of less than 16.  Our maintenance and gardeners are difficult to control.  So the trash hauling companies need to provide bins or other equipment at no additional cost that will promote or help the tenants fully understand their obligations.  Remember, any activity on behalf of an owner will be viewed as tenant harassment.

LANE indicated that the union-driven big trash hauling groups that will ultimately get awarded the franchises (monopoly) will ultimately handle these items.

If you want to print signage and post it at my units, please do so.  If you want to create flyers to help the tenants, please do so.  However, we were promised at the outset that the trash hauling groups would be responsible for these activities and that our total costs would not be increased.

Again, Athens has been an exceptionally outstanding provider.  They’re very professional and were very reasonably priced.  They’re honest and appropriate.  I know they will do things that are fair for small family-owned apartment businesses.

[AOA:  As you know by now, some trash haulers have doubled what owners had been paying before our gracious Mayor and City Council members granted them and the union a citywide monopoly. Again, “monopolies cause prices to go up and service to go down”.

And would you believe that Mayors and City Council members also know this and still vote to make property owners pay the consequences.

Please support our lawsuit and help to stop these ________.  (I’ll let you fill in the blank).  Also, please fill in the blanks in the form link that follows below and try to really fill in the blanks for dollars contributed.  Also, please send a copy of this to the Mayor and/or call his office and complain loud and clear!  Mayor Eric Garcetti: mayor.garcetti@lacity.org, City Hall, 200 N. Spring Street, 90012 – phone number 213-978-0600.  Thank you, Dan Faller]

Michael Millman is an Attorney and a Mar Vista activist and can be reached at (310) 477-1201.   

Help Stop the Trash Monopoly!

Donate Now

If you haven’t already done so, please make sure you contact the mayor and your councilpersons regarding your troubles due to this new law.

Landlord to Pay $20,000 to Settle Pet Discrimination Case – by the Editors of Rental Housing Journal

Reprinted with permission from AOA.

The owner of several Reno, Nevada apartment complexes has agreed to pay $20,000 to settle allegations of  pet discrimination and Fair Housing Act violations involving requiring pet deposits from prospective tenants who require assistance animals, according to a release.The Silver State Fair Housing Council filed four complaints against the owner and manager of Silver Lake Apartments, Vale Townhomes, Oak Manor Apartments and Angel Street Apartments with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  These complaints allege ERGS, Inc. and Silver Lake Apartments, LLC discriminated against prospective tenants who required assistance animals by requiring applicants who required support animals to pay a pet deposit fee.

Under the conciliation agreement, ERGS, Inc. will pay Silver State Fair Housing Council $20,500.  ERGS, Inc., and Silver Lake Apartments, LLC, will also adopt written policies that are consistent with the Fair Housing Act and provide fair housing training for all employees who interact with tenants or applicants. Kate Zook, executive director of the Silver State Fair Housing Council, told Rental Housing Journal that a woman with an emotional support animal had tried to apply at the apartments and was told they do not accept pets. The Silver State Fair Housing Council did follow-up testing on emotional support animals and rentals at the apartment complexes. She said they found, “People with emotional support animals were told they do not qualify as a service animal.”

The organization then filed the complaint against the owner and managers of the apartment complexes.

“I hate filing cases,” Zook said. But she said unfortunately sometimes it takes publicity about these issues to get people’s attention. “It is too bad. Somebody has been hurt in this.”

Both Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act can apply in these situations.

In addition to the Fair Housing Act’s protections, HUD provided guidance in April 2013 reaffirming that housing providers must provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities who require assistance animals.  

Pet Discrimination and Disability

Disability is the most common basis of fair housing complaint filed with HUD and its partner agencies. Last year alone, HUD and its partners considered over 4,900 disability-related complaints, or more than 58 percent of all fair housing complaints that were filed.

HUD writes in the notice that, “An assistant animal is not a pet. It is an animal that works, provides assistance or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. Assistance animals perform many disability-related functions, including but not limited to, guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to sounds, providing protection or rescue assistance, pulling a wheelchair, fetching items, alerting persons to impending seizures, or providing emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support. For purposes of reasonable accommodation requests, neither the FHA nor Section 504 requires an assistance animal to be individually trained or certified.”

Housing providers are to evaluate a request for a reasonable accommodation to possess an assistance animal in a dwelling using the general principles applicable to all reasonable accommodation requests. After receiving such a request, the housing provider must consider the following:

  • Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability — i.e., a physical or

mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?

  • Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal?  In other words,

does the animal work, provide assistance, perform tasks or services for the benefit of a person with a disability,

  • or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of  the identified symptoms of a person’s existing disability?

If the answer to those two questions is “yes,” then the housing provider is to modify or provide an exception to a “no pets” policy.

RentalHousingJournal.com, an interactive community of multifamliy investors, independent rental home owners, residential property management professionals and other rental housing & real estate professionals, is the most comprehensive source for news and information for the rental housing industry. This website features exclusive articles and blogs on real estate investing, apartment market trends, property management best practices, landlord tenant laws, apartment marketing, maintenance and more.  Reprinted with permission.

New bed bug disclosure law goes into effect soon By Gideon Kramer, SPOSFI News Editor

With permission from the SPOSFI (Small Property Owners of San Francisco)

May 19, 2017

Effective July 1, Assembly Bill 551 will place new obligations on all California residential landlords and tenants regarding the disclosure and treatment and control of bed bugs. In brief:

  • A landlord is prohibited from showing or renting a unit if bed bugs are known to exist.
  • Tenants must cooperate in the investigation and eradication of bed bugs in their unit, surrounding units, or common areas.
  • Landlords must include a statutory bed bug notice as an addendum to the lease for all new tenants. All existing tenants needn’t be noticed until January 1, 2018. This notice must provide information regarding bed bug identification, behavior, and biology as well as the landlord’s and tenant’s obligations in the event a bed bug infestation is discovered.

Our June issue of SPOSFI News will include a more detailed discussion of the new law, and why it pays to be very vigilant when it comes to bed bugs.

The Inner Workings of the Courthouse Chambers – How Judges Work and Decide Cases – Part One – by Nate Bernstein, Esq.

Reprinted with permission from AOA.

The “battle zone environment” of the downtown Los Angeles Superior Court is something to witness in person if you have never been there to experience it.  It is not for the genteel or the faint of heart.   The downtown Los Angeles Superior Court, located in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, at 111 North Hill Street, is one of the largest in the United States.  It is an old building that needs to be razed, modernized, and rebuilt as a “state of the art” courthouse- it is what it is. The Court has more than 75 judges on 10 floors that handle, civil limited and unlimited jurisdiction cases, unlawful detainers, small claims cases, writs and receivers cases, family law cases, probate matters, post- judgment matters, and other hybrid matters.  The clerk’s office is overburdened, and attorneys must wait in the same long lines as messengers to file a document.  At times the clerk’s office is understaffed and only 2 clerks are working when the line is 25 persons deep.  

Criminal cases are handled in another location around the corner in the Criminal Courts building on 210 West Temple Street.  The court system is overburdened with cases in most departments, and some judges have in excess of 12 distinct case matters on the calendar each and every morning.    You may or may not get a perfect evaluation of your case matter on calendar, or a just and fair result from the Court.  Generally speaking, I will say that the Courts and their staff usually get it right– sometimes they don’t and one side gets a raw deal.  That is when an appeal may be required. Probably the most important safeguard a party can have is retaining counsel that is really watching the case and your opponent, and monitoring court staff carefully.

If you ever visit a courtroom at the Los Angeles Superior Court you will be amazed at the number of attorneys that are present, and you will be amazed at how long matters take to get decided and completed. Due to the large calendars it is generally the norm that a five minute contested court matter can take 1.5 to 2 hours to be heard and decided. Bring a newspaper and a pillow cushion. Judges are overburdened and very busy, and often have approximately 12 case calendars four to five days per week in the morning- that is an enormous case load. Attorneys also use “court call” to make appearances by calling in on routine matters such as case management hearings and post mediation status conferences. Court call service has made it easier on attorneys to avoid a personal appearance on routine matters.   Still, the phone call hold times can be as much as one hour in busy courtrooms.   Small claims and unlawful detainer calendars are huge, and judges are on a tight time schedule to complete these calendars.

Judges Are Less Accountable Because No Court Reporters Are Present Unless You “Retain One” 

It is unfortunate that judges may be less accountable and scrutinized for their decisions, behavior, and demeanor, as they used to be. That is because in courtrooms, the courthouse administrative staff does not provide free court reporters to take write down a transcript of what happens and what is said in court. The days of the free court reporter are over!!  Court reporters are only available if parties pay for the court reporters.  The end result is that some judges may be less thorough on the record since there is no court reporter taking down the judge’s statements. So if a judge abuses an attorney or berates a witness or bad mouths a party or makes a poor, unsupported legal decision, the verbatim language spoken by the judge is not recorded unless a court reporter is hired to be present. If a judge makes a mistake on ruling on the admissibility of evidence, an oral ruling is not recorded unless a court reporter is hired by the parties to be present.  Court reporters are expensive and charge by the word.  Having a court reported record is very important for a case on appeal- the appellate attorneys and the Court of appeal can review the record, and determine if the court has made an error.  Judges make “minute orders” about their proceedings and their rulings- they write down their decision, note the appearances, but the minute order does not report the verbatim words of the judge – only the final ruling.

During lunch time if you visit the cafeteria on the 10th floor- the cafeteria is packed with attorneys and parties who share a common theme- their cases have not settled and they are waiting for their trial to start or a trial to continue.   The cafeteria and its 100 tables acts as a makeshift  non private conference room for attorneys and parties who are discussing cases, documents, and strategies. Some judges may order the attorneys and the parties to gravitate to the cafeteria to try to work out a settlement or to try to resolve a discovery dispute. Cafeterians also have to tolerate the cafeteria food at the courthouse, which on some days is at most “average,” and on other days is “lousy.” If you don’t like the cafeteria- there is a Starbucks café next door with limited indoor seating taken up by at least one local derelict.

Due to budgetary cuts, court clerks only have limited phone hours, such as 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. only – if you don’t make the call at the right time, you have to wait until the next day to speak to a clerk and get your question answered.  Courtrooms are closed from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. – judges may be able to get nine golf holes in or take a cycle ride before the afternoon trial calendar begins.    In the afternoon, judges generally hear trials and a discovery dispute or two – the trials may be bench trials or jury trials. For jury trials, judges have to deal with the attitudes, behavior, and schedules of jurors.  Jury selection and the process that goes along with it are very “political” in nature. Attorneys are obviously trying to manipulate the jury system to get favorable jurors from the jury pool.  Judges spend energy and resources protecting and buffering jurors from the aggressive attorneys in the courtroom, and trying to keep the jurors relatively happy in the process.  Since jurors are registered voters- and voters tend to vote in judicial election, judges try to keep jurors happy and want to get them in and out of the system as rapidly as possible with the least amount of scar tissue. This is difficult, and judges always want to appear that they are moving matters forward, and not letting jurors wait around.

The Inner Workings of the Judicial Decision Making Process

If your case or law and motion matter does not settle, you run the gauntlet and risk of having a judge decide the issue before the court. This is how they do it, but first, a few words about how court chambers function in this warzone environment that has difficult working conditions.

It is important to understand that judges are overworked, and by some standards under paid for their long hours.  Judges are human beings, and are not paper pushing robots.  Because they see issues over and over again, they are bored with the mundane, and like to hear interesting issues- such as a products liability case where the air bags failed to deploy.   Judges rely on their staff research attorneys a great deal to complete research and decide legal issues. The court also may have volunteer law school interns work on some matters assigned by the research attorneys- these interns work without pay, but may get law school credit in exchange for their service. The research attorneys will do extensive research, will work up the matter, and make recommendations to the judge. The judge may not have time and resources to read all or some of the papers that you file in court for a hearing- it may not be humanly possible to ready 15 motions in limine before trial starts.

This is an interesting phenomenon- you retain counsel, spend money on attorney’s fees and costs, and you come to court and the judge has not some read or read all of your papers!  Some judges may be good actors, or may admit “this matter will have to be continued so I can provide further review of the briefs- I will continue the hearing and take it under submission.”  Some judges are honest about not having the time to read the papers, but other judges may fudge it.    Other judges have read the papers thoroughly, discussed the issues with their staff attorneys, and may have certain additional questions about the evidence or the law.  Other judges are concerned about new case authority that has just come out that may impact the result in the case because the authority is on point.

Judges also rely on their courtroom deputies- or calendar clerks a great deal to manage the busy court calendar.  Now in Superior Court, for unlimited jurisdiction cases,  calendar matters are set through a computerized reservation system so courtroom deputies have to coordinate with the on line system to get matters on calendar.  The days of calling the courtroom deputy and reserving a law and motion hearing date are gone- it’s all done through a computer reservation system that spits out a confirmation.  Some superior courts (like Orange County) also require that documents for motions and trial be filed and uploaded on line, but downtown Los Angeles courthouse has not yet implemented that type of filing system.

In addition, judges rely a great deal on the attorneys before them for presentation of legal authorities and factual information.  Attorneys are both officers of the court and advocates for their clients. When a judge asks for information or legal briefing from the attorneys, this is a great opportunity for a skilled attorney to persuade the judge on an important issue in the case.    Judges may ask for a “letter brief” on a particular issue. For example, a judge once asked me for a short brief on whether a trustee of a private trust can appear in court without an attorney – I researched the issue and provided the judge with an answer – she appreciated my efforts.

(Part two next month – How Judges Decide on Issues Before Them.)

 

Nate Bernstein, Esq., is the Managing Counsel of LA Real Estate Law Group, and a member of the State Bar of California and his practice concentrates in the areas of complex real estate litigation, commercial litigation, employment law, and bankruptcy matters.  He is a 22 year veteran Los Angeles real estate and business attorney and trial lawyer.   Mr. Bernstein also has expertise on bankruptcy law, the federal bankruptcy court system, creditor’s rights and debtor’s bankruptcy options and created www.laquiettitleattorney.com, a leading educational resource on quiet title real estate litigation.   For more information, call (818) 383-5759, or email natebernstein44@gmail.com.

Los Angeles Imposes Further Restraints on Landlords! – by Sheri Swist

Reprinted with permission from AOA.

On April 19, 2017 the L.A. City Council voted 12-0 to make changes to portions of the Los Angeles Municipal Code governing the Ellis Act.  Of course, as anyone who knows how the city operates would guess, these changes further hinder landlords’ property rights.

The Old Law

Under the old law, when a landlord withdrew a building from the residential rental market pursuant to the Ellis Act and demolished the building, any new replacement rental units constructed within five years would be subject to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO).  In other words, the new units would be rent controlled.  However, if a landlord wanted to avoid having an entire new building be subject to rent control, they could either dedicate the same number of units that had been under the RSO that were withdrawn from the rental market to being affordable units, or they could dedicate 20% of the units in the new construction to being affordable units, whichever was less.

The NEW Law

Under the newly voted on changes, the replacement units in this type of scenario must be a one for one replacement of affordable units or 20% of the new building, whichever is greater.  While in some instances this change may not make much of a difference if any at all, in others the difference is drastic.

For example, a landlord who demolishes a smaller building that is under the RSO and replaces it with a much larger building that provides many more units for the community of Los Angeles could end up having a substantially higher number of units that must be affordable housing units subject to the RSO.

In addition, the new law clearly states that even if a building is completely vacant, a landlord must remove it from the housing market pursuant to the Ellis Act, with all of its requirements and limitations before demolishing it.  This goes against the purpose of the Ellis Act, since the purpose was to allow landlords who had tenants to go out of business.  If there are no tenants, there is no need to go out of business, because no residential rental business is being done.

Once again, the City of Los Angeles is attempting to thwart your rights as property owners and so far … getting away with it.  As was stated, the new law was passed already, but will not take effect until it is published and all other requirements for enactment are complete.   So, if you are thinking about going out of the residential rental business pursuant to the Ellis Act, be aware that these changes will be in effect very soon.

For more information, please call Sheri Swist at the Housing Reform Coalition of Los Angeles at 310-869-5153.