Was your property recently inspected by Housing for your annual Systematic Code Enforcement Program inspection known as a SCEP?
I recently appeared at TWO general managers hearings at the HCIDLA housing department office for two clients of mine in a period of one week. I was surprised because normally when my clients have issues with housing they usually can wrap it up prior to be noticed for a general managers hearing.
If you are noticed for a general managers hearing it is now a combo hearing which will automatically place your property into the Rent Escrow Account Program or REAP which exists to resolve the most persistent health and safety and habitability issues found in rental properties in the City of Los Angeles.
I found out while I was there that there are approximately 25 hearings a day, five days a week. This is a huge jump in these administrative hearings.
What does this mean? The city is cracking down on landlords and shortening the time period in which you can comply with the Code Enforcement violations.
For Code Enforcement-REAP cases the hearing is to determine which penalties to assess against the owner for non- compliance, and whether the property meets the requirements to be placed into REAP.
If you receive one of these letters you must act QUICKLY. Get whatever needs to be repaired done as soon as possible.
Remember to always post 24 hour notices to enter and make repairs to your tenant prior to doing the work. If you do nothing your property can be placed into the REAP program and they will discount your rent up to 50 percent and the city will take a portion of the rent paid into the account. It is a total nightmare and it takes forever to get the property out of REAP because you have to have it voted on by the City Council.
So what should you do if you receive one of these Notices to Comply or a General Managers Hearing notification? Remember these are combo hearings. You are having a General Managers hearing for the Code Violations and an acceptance into REAP hearing and rent reduction decision.
You must immediately call the inspector that is listed on the notice. Call him and make him your new best friend. Have him go over the list of things that need to be repaired with you one by one. Make sure he knows that you are going to get right on it and then immediately get your handyman out to the property or do it yourself.
Be careful if the violation requires a permit. Many of the properties in Los Angeles are old and a lot of the bathrooms and plumbing work were done without permits. You need to make sure that the work is permitted. For that you need to go down to building and safety and talk to someone there who can help you get the required permits.
Make sure that at least a week before the General Managers hearing you call the city inspector to come out to your building to re inspect the property. Be careful of tenants who do not allow you access to their units. Document this so when you are at the hearing you can let the hearing examiner know this.
Hopefully at the hearing you will be able to get all of the issues resolved. I would advise you to bring an attorney. Having been to several of these I can tell you that the most prolific of landlords can get sidetracked.
A lawyer is trained to go through all the information and make sure that your best arguments and evidence are presented to the examiner. Further if you haven’t finished all of the repairs then you will need to request a continuance.
The last thing you want is for the property to be placed into REAP. You must show the officer that you are making a good faith effort to take care of all of the deficiencies. They are marked in a high, low or medium risk. Showing pictures or permits that you are about to get the work done is helpful. Further, showing that you have hired a contractor also helps.
I can tell you that a lot of it depends on who the examiner is that you are in front of and who the representative from the housing department is. Some examiners tend to be more lenient as do the representative from Code enforcement.
The other nightmare about this is that Tenants can and do show up to these hearings. When there is a notice to comply and General Managers hearing notice it is sent to the owner by mail and posted on the property. All tenants are encouraged to attend to address the habitability issues and discuss what is wrong with their unit.
ARE you kidding me? Why wouldn’t the tenants come and talk about how bad their unit is because if the property is placed into REAP then their rent is reduced by anywhere from 10-50%.
What happens if your property gets placed into REAP? First you must appeal the decision immediately because that stays placing the property into REAP. It must be appealed within 15 days. There is no other appeal and no extension on this deadline so you must be diligent.
Because if there is no appeal your property is automatically placed into REAP. Further if the hearing examiner so decides they can also refer your case to the city attorney of Los Angeles and the matter now becomes a criminal case.
What is the moral of this story? Make sure you are on top of all repairs at the property and the minute you get a SCEP inspection report with deficiencies or a Notice to Comply get everything fixed. It is a good idea to hire an attorney to make sure that you put your best defense forward and resolve the matter.
At Fast Eviction Service, help on any of the issues discussed in this article is simply a click or phone call away. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office at (800) 686-8686 to discuss your questions for a free evaluation of your case.
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