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2015 by David v. GOLIATH

In Los Angeles, the Housing Dept. gives landlords carte blanche when it comes to rent raises for rent
controlled apartments. The Los Angeles Municipal Code specifically states that in order to be legal, a rent raise has
only three requirements that an owner must follow:
1) It can only be done one time per year.
2) It cannot exceed the allowable amount (this year 3%).
3) A MINIMUM of 30 days notice is mandatory.
There is an inherent problem with this third requirement which makes it virtually unenforceable. The owner
likes to pretend that you're just nitpicking a trivial technicality when you say that 29 days is not a minimum of 30. In
horseshoes he might be legitimately entitled to claim a victory over an opponent who gave less days of notice, but
laws aren't supposed to work that way. The technicality is precisely specified for a reason, and that's exactly how it is
meant to work. There is no cigar for close. They also act like it would be a serious violation if they inadvertently gave
you 31 days instead. There is no penalty for giving you more notice, but they all still grab their purse strings anyway.
The first problem is: how can a person ever prove that another person didn't do something? You can't video
tape them not doing it without shooting them 24-7, which is impossible, especially if you don't know in advance when
they are going to claim that they did it. If you knew that, maybe you could just tape your front door showing them not
doing it for 24 hours straight, which is ridiculous to even suggest. Likewise, how could you have anybody witness
them not doing it for the same reason? That means that it's your word against theirs. Even in court, it's the job of the
accuser to prove any such claim. Since that is not plausible to do, the landlord rarely ever loses that argument.
The second problem is that many landlords just plain refuse to follow all of these laws. They tend to allow for
one or two of them, but rarely ever all three. The third problem is that the law doesn't specify any penalties for
violating them. This results in the main problem, which is that LAHD does NOT even try to enforce any of those laws!
Sure, if the tenant can PROVE a violation, they will not let the owner have everything he demands. If not, then
you're back to problem #1 again: it's just your word against theirs, so the tenant loses again.
Now here is where the rip-off comes in and the clincher to this whole business. Even if you manage to prove a
violation, or even if the owner actually acknowledges it, what happens then? The answer is absolutely NOTHING!
That is unless you consider a shameful scolding as being of some value. Granted that the landlord may not get his
extra money for one more month, and he won't get any excess amount, but that's it! The Housing Dept. says he has
to notify you, but doesn't require him to actually give you a legal notice, let alone to start over until he does it properly!
Therefore the illegal rent raise automatically now becomes a LEGAL rent raise, and the tenant still loses
anyway! Even worse, any illegal amount that's already been paid only gets refunded (without any interest, of course.)
Then life goes on the same as if he followed the laws exactly like he should have until the next time. Hooray for the
(now considered) honest landlord.
Believe it or not, most residents don't even know what their rights are to begin with. Any that do usually
recognize that, based on the explanations above, it's just not worth fighting for, so why bother?
If it comes down to trying to fight back, paying more than they can afford or moving away, they find the latter to
be the easier choice. What's sad about that is that it also rewards the landlord with two huge monetary gifts that keep
on giving indefinitely at the expense of, not only both the original cheated resident and the next one to come, but any
other ensuing victims that he hasn't done this to yet as well. Those gifts are higher rents and more deposits to steal.
Here is the worst of these results. Having learned that he can continue to get away with this, greatly profiting
from tenants that knuckle under, and with absolutely no risk to his coffers, what do you suppose he will do in the
future? Furthermore, this is not the only place that non-enforcement of the laws already in the books fails to
accomplish their purpose. So even though the laws that are meant to protect tenants may sound good in theory,
through lack of enforcement or penalties, they often have the exact opposite effect.
There is another alternative resource where justice may be chased with sometimes better results, but few
people will make any attempt to utilize the legal system. Those who do usually find the costs, physically, mentally,
emotionally, stressfully, and time wise, as well as financially, to be much greater than expected and not often worth it in
the long run, even when they win the case.
The bottom line is that, until the system gets fixed by making modifications to correct its failures, many of the
laws are going to continue defeating the purpose of their very existence. They should not be allowed to continue
benefiting owners who intentionally violate them for profits. As long as breaking the law is profitable, that makes it a
good business practice, and that is not the message that the law should be sending. This will also continue to bring
more crooks into the field of landlording here in L. A., and drive rents even further out of reach than they already are.
What less than honest, or especially greedy person, could resist such golden opportunities to steal from people
who can't afford it with big profits available and little to no risk for doing so? Unenforced laws with no penalties are
about as useful as a big, mean looking watchdog with no teeth. What's it going to do, gum intruders into submission?
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