The Beverly Hills City Council this week took the first step to amend its rent control ordinance to protect elderly or handicapped long-term tenants from being evicted to make room for relatives of landlords.
Under the proposed change, landlords must evict the most recent tenant if the owner is looking for an apartment unit to house a spouse, child or parent. The council voted Tuesday to approve the change and scheduled it for a second vote on June 21. If adopted then, it would become effective 30 days later.
Currently, landlords may evict any tenant to make room for a relative. Tenants had complained that long-term residents, who usually paid lower rents than newer tenants, often were evicted under the guise of landlords needing a unit for a relative. Frequently, the long-term residents were elderly.
An elderly or handicapped tenant could still be evicted under the proposed amendment, but only if such a tenant occupies the only apartment with the number of bedrooms and amenities required by the owner's relatives.
Landlord and tenant representatives had agreed to the change in an earlier meeting with city officials, but Tuesday night a group of landlords said the change is unfair and unnecessary.
Shirley Robin, president of the Beverly Hills Property Owners Assn., a landlords group, said her group had reluctantly agreed to the change.
Robin said her group believes the change is not needed because only 107 evictions for owner use have occurred in the past six years--an average of 17 a year.
"It's just another layer of bureaucracy," she said.
Her group also opposed a provision of the proposed ordinance that allows the city's rent stabilization director to determine whether another apartment unit is comparable to what the owner wants in cases where a landlord is seeking to evict a long-term tenant.
Too Much Power
Robin said that in the past the director has favored tenants. "To endow the director with such authority will clearly permit gross unfairness to occur," she said.
She said her group also was concerned that allowing a city official to have the final say in the matter could prevent landlords from appealing the decision in court.
However, City Atty. Gregory W. Stepanicich said that an administrative decision by the city would have no effect on a landlord seeking a court order to reverse the decision.
Landlords also failed to persuade the City Council to amend the ordinance to allow evictions for grandparents and grandchildren. The owners were successful, however, in increasing the age limit for the ordinance's definition of elderly from 62 to 65.
Herm Shultz, president of Concern for Tenants Rights, a renters group, said the proposed change in the ordinance "eliminates the devious method used by landlords to displace the elderly to get higher rents."
Shultz said his group opposed allowing evictions for grandparents and grandchildren because of the precedent it may start.
"If we allow for them, what line of ancestry are they going to come up with next?" he said.