L.A. Board of Supervisors Approves New Plan Against Slumlords

The proposal mandates more frequent inspections of Los Angeles rental properties and withholds rent from owners who don’t obey

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to move forward on a proposal calling for more frequent inspections of rental apartments along with stiffer penalties for landlords who refuse to get with the program.

As LAist reports, the plan would require rental housing in the unincorporated areas of L.A. County to be inspected at least once every four years. Although the City of Los Angeles has such a hard time protecting renters that an entire apartment complex was reportedly taken over by a common street gang in recent months, the city already mandates that rental inspections occur at least as often as the Summer Olympics. The county does not.

Additionally under the proposal, authored by L.A. County Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Holly Mitchell, landlords who fail to fix their buildings will face fines and other penalties. Negligent property owners could also see rent payments withheld until they complete repairs.

Complicating the county’s already grim living space situation is what the proposal calls a “disconnected, patchwork enforcement process in place for rental housing.”

Entwined in this web of bureaucracy are the Departments of Public Health (DPH), Public Works (DPW), Regional Planning (DRP), Consumer and Business Affairs (DCBA), as well as the Los Angeles County Development Authority (LACDA). Each agency, the plan states, are “responsible for investigating complaints of unsafe living conditions related to their respective programs and specific focus areas.”

“Many property owners maintain their rental properties and comply with state and local standards,” Kuehl said in a statement, “but unfortunately, some do not. Leaks go untended. Mold festers. Rat and roach infestations go untreated. The County needs stronger mechanisms to ensure that every renter in unincorporated Los Angeles has a healthy and safe place to live.”

Oscar Zarate, an organizer with tenant advocacy group Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE), tells LAist that the vote is a step in the right direction.

“Slum housing is disproportionately concentrated in some of the most vulnerable communities, and I think this motion is going towards repairing that,” he said.

The supervisors’ vote instructs DPH and other responsible county departments to create a centralized Rental Housing Habitability Program. Among other things, the proposal calls for this program to

The plan, which also covers illegally-rented units, would establish a “rent escrow program” to withhold rent payments from negligent landlords until repairs are made, as well as investigating whether the county could acquire properties in cases of extreme neglect. Landlords would have to pay an annual registration fee to cover the cost of inspections, but they will have the right to pass 50 percent of that fee to their tenants.

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