Beulah Mitchell says she didn't know what she was missing until she contacted the Minority Apartment Owners Assn.
"I didn't really know how to run my buildings, but it's like a business," said Mitchell, who owns three apartment buildings in South-Central and a home in Inglewood. "I found directions on the fact that you can't just put people out (who are behind in their rent), because these are poor people and things are different here."
The group was started in September, 1987, by real estate agents Ruth Hayles and Malcolm Bennett after meeting local apartment owners who were unfamiliar with property management. Housed at Bennett and Hayles' property management company at 11215 S. Western Ave., the organization meets once a month to hear speakers, get updates on legislation and discuss problems.
"Most people didn't know where to call if there were abandoned cars on their street," said Bennett, president of the group. "They didn't know who to call if the street lights were out around their building. They didn't know about the free paint and graffiti (removal) program the city has. They didn't know they need to register with the Rent Stabilization Board. I mean, there is just so much free information owners can have that can help them manage their properties if they just knew what to do."
The organization has grown to 300 owners who pay annual $35 dues. "What makes our owners different is that a lot of our members have bought these buildings as their retirement income," Bennett said. "There are a lot of minority apartment owners who aren't sophisticated enough to know about getting into IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts)."
Among the top issues on the organization's agenda are dealing with crime and addressing the practice of redlining in South-Central by some lenders and insurance companies.
"Redlining is very subtle," Bennett said. "One way that companies redline is by bringing in lower appraisals or by enacting stricter credit guidelines for people buying in South-Central, so (companies) just manage to camouflage the fact they are redlining."
So far, representatives from the group have met with lenders and the Southwest Board of Realtors to discuss the problem, Bennett said.
At least one group is concerned with the organization's effect on tenants rights.
"They were organized to gain the sympathy of minority legislators," said Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, a grass-roots tenants association. Although Gross said he has not met with the group, he said the association has lobbied heavily on "anti-tenant legislation," such as SB-690, which would affect the eviction process.
Bennett said local apartment owners often hard hit by a combination of poverty, crime and sewer rates are pushed over the edge when tenants fall behind on rent. "You take a small property owner in South-Central and they can't afford to lose money. So our association helps pull together members," he said.