The Horrors of Renoviction

C.C. de Vere

C.C. de Vere

· 6 min read
Screenshot of LA Public Press' headline for article on renoviction

You should be reading LA Public Press if you are a renter or care about their rights. If you're not already, please read Amber X. Chen's piece ''Substantial remodel' - a legal loophole to evict tenants in LA".

Unfortunately, "renoviction" - evicting tenants under the pretense of remodeling their units, then renting the remodeled units to higher-paying renters - is very much a thing, and it seems to be happening more and more.

I used to be a property manager. My boss was uninterested in remodeling. Remodeling is messy, disruptive, and loud. Her tenants were paying for nice quiet apartments, not noise and construction dust. She would not have disrupted their lives for an unnecessary cosmetic update. If there had been a structural, electrical, plumbing, or mold issue that required opening up the walls, that would have been a different matter entirely.

See, here's the problem: some so-called "substantial remodels" (which state law does not clearly define) are really only cosmetic, i.e. throw down some gray vinyl flooring and replace the 1960s cooktop with an induction one, call it a "substantial remodel", and rake in much higher rent from the next tenant.

Here's an excerpt from Chen's piece:

"According to the Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (AB 1482), a “substantial remodel” is “the replacement or substantial modification of any structural, electrical, plumbing, or mechanical system that requires a permit from a governmental agency, or the abatement of hazardous materials, including lead-based paint, mold, or asbestos.” The law also requires that a tenant be paid a relocation fee of at least one month’s rent."

South Pasadena, which requires permits for such minor repairs as installing a dishwasher, is looking to possibly close that loophole. I hope they do. "Renovicting" isn't right, particularly in a city with very little affordable housing.

And since we're on the subject of renoviction, I must tell you about a group of renters in Echo Park who are fighting it themselves.

1512 Mohawk Street Tenants Association and their families have lived at 1512 Mohawk Street for over 30 years. The building was sold about a year ago, and according to the tenants, the new owner, 28-year-old Ariel Isaacson, began harassing them almost immediately.

Before anyone chalks up Isaacson's choices to youthful inexperience, I would like to point out that I became a property manager at an even younger age (22). I NEVER, EVER violated a tenant's legal rights. Not even once. Everything was strictly by-the-book, even when dealing with the tenant from hell (every renter has had "that" neighbor).

In November of 2022, tenants were presented with new leases, rent increases, and demands for new security deposits. (This is all a big no-no.)

By February, the cash-for-keys offers began to roll in via mail, phone, text, and in person. Then three-day notices to remove satellite dishes, plants, and other items from patios began to appear. The tenants state that the property manager threw away items in common areas. (Stealing your tenants' stuff and throwing it out is also not okay. If it's a safety hazard, you can request it be moved or the fire marshal might require it be moved, but you can't just throw tenants' stuff away.)

According to the tenants, the owner has refused to make repairs to the building while this was going on. That's VERY, VERY ILLEGAL.

The tenants state that they have been harassed, intimidated, coerced, and had services reduced in retaliation for declining cash-for-keys offers. Again, THAT'S ILLEGAL.

The owner's lawyer threatened to evict the tenants through either demolition or applying for "substantial renovation permits". I cannot make this up.

60-day notices for said "substantial renovations" were posted May 11. Notices were reissued May 23, with permits attached. The landlord continued to ignore needed repairs and habitability issues. (The first part of that is an asshole move. The second part of that is, once again, definitely illegal.)

Management has even banned tenants from sharing their laundry detergent, which is beyond ridiculous and completely overstepping.

The tenants are fighting eviction. But that hasn't stopped the owners from listing their homes as "available" and fully remodeled at three to four times the current rent. (The building dates to 1986 and is not subject to RSO, if anyone was wondering.)

Excerpt from the caption in the post linked above:

While we continue to live in our homes, #BeachfrontProperty has listed our units as available on multiple rental sites like Zillow, Redfin, and Trulia. Units are listed at market value - 3-4x what tenants currently pay a month - and are advertised as “newly/fully remodeled” with “in unit washer and dryer, new appliances, white shaker cabinets, quartz countertops.”

Meanwhile, current tenants - immigrant families and elders from Mexico, Guatemala, Thailand, and the Phillippines - live with serious hazards like mold and rodent and insect infestations. Maintenance requests go ignored. The landlord and property management refuse to fix the gate to the building, or the mailboxes, or the shared laundry machine that tenants with disabilities and serious health conditions rely on.

It's not illegal to renovate an apartment (hell, sometimes it IS necessary). But it IS illegal to ignore health and safety issues, and illegal to refuse repairs or reduce services covered by leases. Don't get me started on how immoral this is.

If you want to make big bucks in real estate, maybe don't buy an older building. Leave that to people like my old boss (who is, unfortunately, retired). Better yet, stick to stocks and bonds.

Renters deserve better.

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.

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