Many of you believe the Los Angeles Housing Department will not bother you – that the owners who have problems are the “bad guys”, the slumlords. The reality is much different. I know of many good owners, some with professional management, who are caught up in LAHD mistakes and vendettas. Here are some common situations:
- One owner received no notice of REAP. The LAHD sent the notice to the wrong address in an office tower. The result was 70 units stopped paying rent. It cost that owner thousands of dollars in court to reverse the REAP determination. The City refused to reimburse the owner for his lost rent, claiming governmental immunity from liability for mistakes. Results – rents forever lost.
- Another owner received the REAP notice one day too late to file an appeal. The notice was late because the LAHD addressed it to the wrong zip code. Although the owner appeared at the hearing, his 60 units were put in REAP and the rents confiscated because he failed to file a timely appeal before the hearing.
- Another owner had two 30 unit buildings next to each other. The manager filed a REAP appeal for each building, using the same city-approved form for each appeal. One 30 unit building was not put in REAP, and the other 30 unit building was put in REAP. This occurred because the manager didn’t use two different appeal forms. Result – one 30 unit building unaffected – but for the 30 unit building next door – the rents were confiscated.
- Another owner brought his building totally into compliance before the first REAP hearing. However, LAHD put this compliant building in REAP because the owner did not file an appeal prior to the hearing. Result – rents confiscated.
- Another owner who was in REAP brought his building into compliance in order to exit REAP. The owner requested a Health Department inspection and clearance. The owner attempted to videotape the Health inspection to prove compliance. Instead, the Health Department inspectors walked off the job, stating they refuse to let the inspection be videotaped. As a result the owner cannot get out of REAP.
Owners are entitled to a severity analysis of the violations that put owners in REAP. Items of low severity result in minor rent reductions. These severity analyses are surprisingly not made by the actual inspector; instead they are made by an LAHD bureaucrat sitting in an office, who never inspected the property and who never saw the violation. The severity analysis is a total fabrication, used against the owner to reduce his rents.
The violation report allegedly signed by the inspector under penalty of perjury that is used to put owners in REAP is actually not signed by the inspector. It is “robo-signed” by an LAHD bureaucrat. Yet this forged evidence is used against owners in REAP hearings.
When you go to a REAP hearing, you are deemed guilty until proven innocent. The LAHD has a regulation that the burden of proof is on you to show compliance – the burden in not on the LAHD to show that you are non-complaint. This is contrary to California law.
Next time you hear of an owner in REAP, remember it could easily be you.
Thomas A. Nitti is with the Law Offices of Thomas A. Nitti. A Cum Laude graduate of the UCLA class of 1974, and of the UCLA Law School in 1977, and based in Santa Monica California. Thomas A. Nitti has been certified as a Tax Specialist by the Bar since 1983. Mr. Nitti is a member of the California State Bar Real Estate Section and attorney for several Apartment Owner Associations in Southern California as well as for the Santa Monica Treesavers. For more information call (310) 393-1524.