Recently I had an experience that led me to believe that some landlords are getting out from under rent control laws by looking for excuses to evict tenants.
I was between places to live/work and moved in as a friends roommate in a nice place in Glendale. I was pleasantly surprised at what my half of the rent was. Then I came home one day to find an eviction notice taped to the door.
Turns out they were evicting him because I moved in! There was a clause in his lease prohibiting him from having overnight guests for more than 14 days in a year. I was on day 15! Simple solution, or so we thought was to get myself added to the lease. I filled out the rental applications and was denied based on the premise that his lease stated he could not have roommates.
I couldn’t understand the logic. He had been a perfect tenant for 10 years and had asked me to move in after he divorced his wife so he could make the rent. With me there, they would save the tenant. Without me he would not be able to afford it and they knew that. I was also a large 2 bedroom, so there was no logical reason to say he could not have a roommate!
He commented to me what people were paying who were moving newly into the building. Much more than he was. Then it hit me. I asked him if it was a rent controlled building. He said yes. I looked at the property management company’s website and it said “we are highly skilled in maximizing your rental income in a restrictive market.”
The game being played here was they were taking any possible measures to force long term tenants out so they could flip the units. In this case they could get about $800 per month more by evicting him and renting it out newly. That they put a retired man out on the street was of no concern to them. (He did get evicted. Not because I lived there but because he could not afford the rent without a roommate and they would not permit that.)
I suspected this was a widespread problem in LA and today I read in the LA Weekly that the number of evictions for rent controlled apartments under the Ellis Act have more than doubled in the last year. Seven rental units per day are being lost or priced off of the market. The number of actual evictions done for this reason would be difficult to calculate. Having been a homeowner newly into the rental market after selling my house and moving to Los Angeles, I have been shocked at the clauses I see in the leases in LA. It is just about impossible to live in any rental unit in LA and not be in violation of some provision of your lease.
The photo posted at the top of the article was chosen for a reason. I took it when I was photographing the homeless for a project. The man who lived in the tent came running after me and begged me not to post any photos with him in them. He said he had lost his job and home and was fighting to get back on his feet and feared if anyone saw he was living on the street he would not be able to get a new job and thus not back on his feet.
That project so changed my opinion on the homeless Where I once felt they were just low life drug addicts – and many of them are – there is a rapidly growing percentage of the homeless population that simply found themselves out of options in a city where rents are higher than wages!
I posted this slide show as a spoof on how utterly ridiculous I think the LA housing situation is but the article I read this morning opened my eyes to why it is happening. Yes, there may be a shortage of housing in LA, but the bigger factor is greed.
Back during the economic collapse in 2008, one of the key factors behind it was what was called a Mortgage Backed Security. Home mortgages were being sliced into pieces and put into securities along with pieces of other mortgages, allowing them to hide the risky ones. Lenders no longer held onto a note to earn their interest over years, they immediately sold them off.
Meanwhile, more and more properties are owned by giant publicly held corporations that use any method available to extract more and more money out of renters to keep things good for their shareholders (and yes, their loans are being parceled off into Mortgage Backed Securities which were simply renamed something else after they were prohibited). Don’t believe me? Look at your lease. Such things as being informed after you have submitted your unrealistic 90 day notice requirements to move out and then finding a “new lease” stuffed under your door informing you that it will automatically go into effect if you are one day late on your move out. This happened to me once and the new lease required six months notice to move out. Missing your move out by one day could cost you an additional six months rent. Legal? Yes. But it is still the act of a criminal.
My advice to anyone looking for a place to live in LA is to read your lease carefully and if you can afford it, have it looked at by an attorney. Have it changed to be fair, and if you can’t do that, look elsewhere. There are still plenty of rentals in LA that are owned by individuals or small companies that will give you a fair shake.