Have you received a Notice to Comply or General Managers Hearing or has your property recently been inspected by HCIDLA for your annual SCEP inspection?
I recently appeared at several General Manager/Notice to Comply hearings at the HCIDLA housing department offices for my clients and was surprised at how much the process has changed. Typically, when my clients have issues with Housing, they have had the ability to take care of the problems or citations prior to being noticed for the general managers hearing.
However, I have learned that now if you receive a notice for a general managers hearing, it is a combined hearing and your property will automatically be placed into REAP.
It was discovered that there are approximately 25 hearings a day, five days a week. This is a huge increase in the amount of these types of administrative hearings. What this means is the City of Los Angeles is coming down on landlords and shortening the time period in which the landlords can comply with the Code Enforcement violations.
For Code Enforcement-REAP cases, the purpose of the hearing is to determine which financial penalties to assess against the owner for non- compliance and whether the property meets the requirements to be placed into REAP. If you receive one of these letters you must act QUICKLY and comply with the repair orders as soon as possible. Remember to always post a 24 hour notice to enter for every entry and give notice to your tenant prior to doing the work needed. If you do nothing or delay in acting on the deficiencies, your property can be placed into the Rent Escrow Account Program or civil or criminal prosecution can be initiated and a substandard order can be recorded against your property. REAP can potentially discount your rent up to 50 percent and a portion of the rent paid will go to the city. The process of getting your property out of REAP is a total nightmare and a lengthy process due to the requirement of City Council having to meet and vote on properties being removed from the program.
So, what should you do once you receive one of these Notices to Comply or a General Managers Hearing notification? Remember, the purpose of the General Managers hearing is to assess the property for Code Violations and ultimately acceptance into REAP for rent reductions. Therefore, you must immediately call the inspector that is listed on the notice and make them your new best friend. Have the inspector go over the list of violations with you one by one. Make sure you inform the inspector that you are going to immediately address the issues and then get a handyman or a licensed contractor out to the property quickly to do the repairs or you can do the work yourself (either way just act on the repairs asap as you only have 30 days depending on the severity of the deficiencies to make the repairs).
If the violation requires a permit for the repairs to be done, which is more than likely due to the property being dated and bathroom and plumbing work being done without permits, you will need to go down to Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety and speak to someone there who can assist you in obtaining the required permits.
It is very important that you make sure that at least a week before the General Managers hearing you call the city inspector to arrange for your building to re- inspected. If the tenants do not allow you access to their unit, you need to document this by posting at least two or three 24 hour notices to enter and making sure the date is referenced so that when you appear at the hearing you can inform the hearing examiner about the tenant’s refusal to allow any access to the property.
In order to attempt to have a successful hearing resolution and get all the issues resolved, I would advise you to bring an attorney with you to the hearing. Having been to several of these hearings I can tell you that the most prolific of landlords can get diverted from the main purpose of the hearing. A lawyer is trained to go through all the information and make sure that your best arguments and evidence are presented to the examiner. Further, if you haven’t finished all of the repairs then you will need to request a continuance and having an attorney with you will increase your chances with getting the continuance as you must show the officer that you are making a good faith effort to take care of all of the deficiencies. Remember, the last thing you want is for the property to be placed into REAP or worse have a substandard order recorded against your property.
If your property does get placed into the REAP nightmare, you must first appeal the decision immediately, as the appeal will place a stay on the property being put into REAP. There is no other appeal or extension on this deadline, so you must be diligent with filing the appeal within fifteen days of the hearing. If there is no appeal filed then your property is automatically placed into REAP. Further, if the hearing examiner so decides, they can refer your case to the city attorney of Los Angeles and the matter now becomes a criminal case.
The moral of this story is make sure you are on top of all repairs for your property or properties and upon receiving a SCEP inspection report with deficiencies or a Notice to Comply make sure you immediately get all the repairs fixed. Please remember it is always a good idea to hire an attorney who can assist you in making sure that you put your best defense forward in resolving the matter efficiently.
Helen Grayce Long is an attorney at Fast Eviction Service. She attended UC Berkeley and graduated with a bachelor of arts. She then attended the University of San Francisco School of Law. Grayce has been an attorney for 25 years and specializes in Real Estate Law. She’s done landlord/tenant work throughout the state of California with an emphasis on Rent Control law. For more information, call (800) 686-8686, email [email protected] or visit www.fastevictionservice.com.