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DOWNTOWN : Slum Task Force Passes State's Muster

June 20, 1993|IRIS YOKOI

State housing officials who investigated the city's Slum Housing Task Force have concluded the task force's prosecutions of landlords are handled properly.

"We found that the City . . . Housing Task Force . . . has established a rigid enforcement mechanism for the State Housing Law that they have continued to improve over the past 12 years," wrote Travis Pitts, deputy director of the state Department of Housing and Community Development, in a letter to the Apartment Owners Assn. of Southern California.

The association, a Van Nuys-based organization of 12,000 members, accused the city task force in March of unfair prosecution of inner-city landlords and asked the state agency to take over inspection of alleged slum buildings in Los Angeles.

Association spokesman Howard Kabakow alleged that city slum investigators "railroad" apartment owners by demanding repairs that are the result of tenant misuse rather than neglect, issuing vague notices and ordering an unreasonably brief period for the repairs to be carried out.

But Pitts said in his June 15 letter that state investigators who reviewed procedures, records and talked with task force members found no evidence of improper enforcement.

In response to Kabakow's complaint that notices aren't explicit enough, Pitts said the city notifies landlords of violations on forms that include the name of the inspector, a telephone number and times the inspector can be reached, allowing for "personal clarification" of anything that a landlord may not understand.

In response to the complaint that landlords are not being given enough time for repairs, state officials reviewed records of 12 buildings cited as examples by Kabakow and two attorneys. In four of the cases, the city gave landlords at least 90 days before filing criminal action (the state health and safety code requires only 30 days), and the city didn't even file criminal charges against the other eight.

Finally, state officials refuted Kabakow's claim that there is no appeal process by listing the hearing dates of nine sample buildings before the city Board of Building and Safety Commissioners. In reaction to the findings, Kabakow said last week that the state overlooked certain aspects of the city's enforcement. He also accused the city of misleading the state investigators.

Kabakow contended, for instance, that city investigators may give more than 30 days for repairs after a first notice, but they also typically tack on a second set of violations during follow-up inspections and don't provide ample time to correct the problems.

But Deputy City Atty. Richard Bobb, the city's housing enforcement supervisor, said landlords are given at least a month to repair each violation, no matter when it is discovered.

"Attempts by greedy, dishonest landlords to manipulate the enforcement mechanisms currently in place are going to be unsuccessful," Bobb said.

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