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Westside Digest

Santa Monica : Rent Board Rights Backed

July 11, 1991

The state Court of Appeal upheld the Rent Control Board's right to determine the rent level of apartments vacated by building managers.

However, since the June 27 decision was not published, it is not considered precedent setting and cannot be used in at least two similar cases currently in the courts, said Tony Trendacosta, the rent board's general counsel.

Trendacosta said he has asked the court to publish its opinion. "There are several similar cases pending, and a published opinion would settle those cases," he said.

The case centered on landlord James Baker's decision to set rents on four units previously occupied by managers at a rate higher than on other units.

Generally, managers pay no rent or a lowered amount in exchange for managing a building. Baker had argued that rent board staff had told him that he could determine the rent on such units.

However, the rent board said that in 1983 it adopted into regulation form a longstanding policy of setting the rent of units formerly occupied by managers at the average rent of the other units in the building.

The Court of Appeal upheld a lower court's decision in favor of the rent board.

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