REAP What You Sow

C.C. de Vere

C.C. de Vere

· 4 min read
Screenshot of ZIMAS map showing 412 East 5th Street, aka the Southern Hotel, on Skid Row

If you've never heard of REAP, buckle up.

Los Angeles has some of the strongest laws on the books in regards to tenant protection - IF AND WHEN THEY ARE ENFORCED. That often doesn't happen.

One tool the city can choose to use (but usually doesn't) is the Rent Escrow Account Program, or REAP.

In a nutshell, when property owners persistently fail to address habitability issues, the city can reduce tenants' rents by 10-50% (depending on the nature and severity of the issues), and give tenants the option to pay their rent into an LAHD-managed escrow account. (They can also continue to pay the landlord directly, but if I was living in an apartment in bad enough shape to be placed in REAP in the first place, I'd be paying into the escrow account in person at one of LAHD's public counters and asking for a receipt.)

Properties are supposed to remain in REAP until LAHD inspectors confirm that all of the violations have been addressed and LADWP bills are all paid.

Allow me to emphasize "supposed to".

Regular readers may recall that the REAP program (among MANY other things) failed the Lourine Court tenants. In the words of tenant Claire Letmon:

I have the letter from the Housing Department that the building would remain in REAP due to its conditions, and literally three days later we had our first fire. We had another fire and then notification from the city that we were out of REAP. We'd given up on the housing department at this point despite ongoing noncompliance that never, ever, ever got fixed, and then we had the March 18 fire that destroyed a fifth of the building.

The Lourine Court case is one of the very worst I've covered so far, and REAP failed to fix the habitability and noncompliance issues.

If REAP failed the Lourine Court tenants, who else has it failed? Who else is it going to fail?

The other day I heard that the Southern Hotel, owned by SRO Housing Trust (not to be confused with collapsed competitor Skid Row Housing trust) was in REAP, but 53 of the 55 units were coming out of it. A quick visit to the City Clerk's website confirmed this. Incidentally, the Southern was built with 48 units in 1910; seven more were added during a relatively recent remodel in 2001.

This LAHD report requested REAP termination for 53 of the 55 units in REAP. Termination was granted.

106 violations led to the building being placed in REAP last August, but 4 remain. The letter states that the affected units were signed off, but "only minor violations remain in the other units."

I have concerns about this.

Considering that the city took Lourine Court out of REAP when it was downright dangerous, I cannot trust that the remaining violations (which are not listed) are truly "minor". Barring an inspection from a good and reputable inspector who isn't on the city's payroll, I can't be sure that the Southern Hotel truly is habitable.

I checked for more information in ZIMAS. The most recent code compliance information was from 2018, and none of the complaints on file included any information. Hmmm.

The city's rules are only as good as the city's enforcement of them - which, frankly, is lacking or nonexistent in most cases.

For the sake of the people who live in the Southern Hotel, I hope their living conditions really have gotten better. I always want to believe that the right thing will be done - but I know better.

412 East 5th Street, Skid Row.

Join the discussion!

C.C. de Vere

About C.C. de Vere

C.C. de Vere is a fourth-generation Angeleno. She is horrified at what greed and hubris are doing to Los Angeles.

This website was built by her preservation pals at Esotouric.

Copyright © 2024 EMPTY LOS ANGELES. All rights reserved.
Powered by Vercel
Purchase Pro ↗