Dear Mayor Garcetti:
I wrote to you last year – two months after you were in office and became the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles. My goal was to bring to your attention the huge amount of problems that good and decent landlords are having with the Los Angeles Housing Department.
You assigned Mr. Daniel Tamm to deal with us on this matter. We think Mr. Tamm is a nice guy but he is way too busy to get involved in this matter. Mr. Tamm is hard to reach via phone and e-mail. The few times we did meet with him, he only had about 20 to 30 minutes to sit with us and one time he phoned in and cancelled a meeting five minutes before it was scheduled to start. Solving this LAHD problem is going to take quite a bit of effort and time.
During the last twelve months, we’ve also met with members of the Los Angeles City Council and all we got was polite conversation. Nothing was ever put on the calendar for vote in committee or by the entire council.
For the sake of brevity, I just want to make some points as to why the LAHD operates like a criminal organization that does not respect your authority or that of the City Council.
#1 – A Double Standard
In Los Angeles, we have very strict and unfair rent control. There are older buildings all over L.A. that have low income tenants and there are six or more people living in a one-bedroom unit. Many have lived in these units twenty years or more. Their children are now adults and they don’t move out because they cannot afford to rent an apartment at fair market value. This over-crowding puts tremendous wear and tear on a unit and it is costly for the property owner and who, because of rent-control, has a limited cash flow to put aside for repairs and routine maintenance. How is a landlord supposed to properly maintain his/her units when the City of Los Angeles denies him/her the cash flow needed to maintain the property?
#2 – SCEP Inspections
When the LAHD comes by and does a SCEP inspection, they cite the landlords for as many code violations as they can find. Even when tenants freely admit that they caused the code violation, it is the landlord who gets cited and not the tenant. We know this is all about generating cash flow for the city. This is immoral.
If the City of Los Angeles is holding a landlord’s cash flow down and he/she is collecting only four hundred dollars a month when the unit’s rental is worth at least a thousand dollars, it is wrong for the LAHD to blame the landlord for the code violation. Every landlord I know who is under rent control and is collecting less than half of fair market value would be able to properly maintain his/her buildings if they were collecting rent money much closer to fair market value. Because of rent control and limited cash flow, these landlords should be exempt from the aggressive SCEP inspections.
During SCEP inspections, landlords are routinely cited for things that are not a habitability issue and many end up in REAP. This is criminal.
A kangaroo court – The person pretending to be a judge at a general managers hearing is an employee of the LAHD. The outcome has been decided before the hearing and this entire procedure is a denial of due process. “Unconstitutional”.
Because of the culture of hatred towards landlords inside the LAHD, the LAHD gets the City Attorney to aggressively prosecute landlords who are not able to properly maintain their properties because of limited rental income imposed by the City. The source of this problem is the City of Los Angeles. Eventually, when we reach Federal court, the City of Los Angeles could end up with the largest judgment against it in the City’s history. Thousands of landlords have been illegally put into REAP and they are going to want punitive damages when all this comes out in the media.
#3 – State Laws
There are many laws on the books in the State of California that dictate a renter’s duties, obligations and what they can be cited for. The LAHD has decided to ignore all state laws when it comes to renters. This is illegal and it will become a huge liability for the City. There is no wiggle room here; the City is 100% guilty.
#4 – Our Court Victories
Our coalition is working with two law firms who are suing the LAHD for a variety of practices that we believe are illegal and unconstitutional. One of the law firms had two major victories in L.A. County Superior Court within the last twelve months and the decisions were upheld by the 9th District Court. The LAHD has decided to ignore these two rulings. We are now on our way to Federal Court to hold the LAHD in contempt of court.
Everywhere in America where a city has strict and unfair rent control, there are slums.
Survey after survey makes the point that rent-control causes the creation of substandard housing. For decades, tenants have been fooled by elected leaders that the landlord is the bad guy in the equation. The homeless population is increasing in L.A. while affordable housing is disappearing. All the new condos being built all over L.A. are not designed for low-income types. When the low-income community finally realizes the truth, they will be looking for someone to blame.
I know that you did not create this anti-landlord culture inside the LAHD but now that you are Mayor, you have an obligation to take action and get the gangsters out of the LAHD.
As we keep moving forward in the courts, when this is all done, we hope to have judgments against the City in the hundreds of millions of dollars because thousands of landlords have been wrongfully damaged by the LAHD. We’re going to ask the courts to order the City to give us the name of every landlord who was ever put in REAP and had their rent monies confiscated by the City. These punitive damages will add up.
At the same time, we are beginning to shoot a documentary exposing the corruption inside the LAHD. We’re going to expose how the LAHD is doing its best to bankrupt “mom and pop” minority landlords. This won’t look good for L.A. in the national media.
We have some landlords in our coalition who are willing to put up the money for a national media campaign to show how much corruption exists inside the LAHD. This could give L.A. a big black eye and bring the Feds here to prosecute those responsible.
I’m sharing this with you because when all this comes out, it could make it appear as if you have no control over the LAHD as Mayor. We’re not out to embarrass you. We’re just doing what needs to be done. We’re not going to blame you for the corruption inside the LAHD but if you don’t take some serious action and start to turn things around while you are Mayor, this will be part of your legacy.
We are requesting a meeting with you. Since I do know you personally, I believe that you are a good guy and once you know the facts, you will want to put a stop to the way the LAHD conducts itself. The first step is to do some house cleaning at the LAHD and fire some of those in upper management. We know who they are. We’re going to start our media campaign within the next three weeks. Call me anytime. Bill Hooey
Bill Hooey is with the Fair Housing, fighting for the rights of Los Angeles housing providers and may be reached at 323-397-8740 or www.fairhousingcoalition.com