The deadline for registering apartments under West Hollywood's new rent law passed Monday with about one-fourth of the city's 20,000 apartments still unregistered, city officials said.
Rent control administrator Adam Moos said that he will not know the exact number of registered units until a flood of last-minute applications are tallied.
About half of the landlords who complied with the law subnmitted their applications during the last two weeks. Many, angry with the city's tough rent law, crowded into a temporary rent administration office in Plummer Park last week.
Despite the late wave of applications, Moos said he was relatively happy with the number of apartments registered. "We would have liked to have 100% registered, but my reaction is (generally) favorable," Moos said.
In comparison, three-fourths of Santa Monica apartment owners had not registered and paid their fees when that city's first rent registration drive closed in 1979.
West Hollywood officials said they need registrations and the accompanying $48 fee for each apartment in order to operate the rent administration office, track allowable rent levels and enforce strict maintenance standards.
Landlords who filed after 8 p.m. Monday must pay a $96 late fee themselves. Those who filed on time can pass the standard $48 fee on to tenants.
Landlords who return incomplete forms will also be subject to the late fee. As many as 40% of the registration forms mailed to the city have been sent back because they are either incomplete or incorrect, Moos said.
Owners of unregistered apartments will also be prohibited from levying the annual 3% rent increase or from petitioning the city for larger rent hikes. They could also be charged with a misdemeanor.
About 150 landlords staged a rally Friday outside the rent registration office to protest the rent law. Many carried placards that compared West Hollywood to the "socialist states of Santa Monica, Russia and China."
Sol Genuth, a spokesman for the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles, said landlords will contest certain portions of the rent ordinance, such as mandatory maintenance standards, in the courts. He also advised landlords to register to vote so they can elect City Council members who will support a more lenient rent ordinance.
And Genuth asked landlords to fight the Coalition for Economic Survival, a tenants rights group that pushed for cityhood and a tough rent ordinance.
Landlords complained that all five members of the Rent Control Board appointed by the City Council last week are tenant activists with ties to the coalition.
The rent board members include Babette Lang and Doug Routh, activists in the West Hollywood Coalition for Economic Survival chapter. Routh is a personnel analyst for Los Angeles County and was narrowly defeated in last year's City Council election, finishing sixth. Lang holds a doctorate in psychology.
Ruth Williams and Gerda Spiegler, both former coalition members, were also appointed to the board. Williams is a community activist and former candidate for City Council. A source in the city said that both "have heavy tenant activist backgrounds but are very fair people."
The fifth appointee is Trudy Lesser, a lawyer who worked on behalf of the coalitioni's slate in the City Council election last year.
Landlords said that Councilman Alan Viterbi appointed Lesser despite a promise that he would name a landlord to the rent board if other council members did not. "Alan Viterbi lied to you when he promised to appoint a landlord to the rent board if nobody else did," Genuth said at Friday's rally.
Viterbi was not available for comment but his aide, Paul Koretz, said that Viterbi found that most landlords and tenants who applied for the rent board were too biased.
"He wanted someone who was open and fair," Koretz said. "That was more important than having a landlord just for the sake of having a landlord."
Moos said his staff will hardly have time for a breather before Oct. 1, when landlords can obtain forms for individual rent adjustments for their units.