“Hundreds” of renters who live in rent-controlled apartments are subject to illegal rent increases each year, but a new city program in the works looks to significantly cut those numbers down. An LA City Council committee is discussing today a new registry that would require landlords to report how much rent they charge their tenants each year, reports KPCC. The registry would be publicly accessible, a place where tenants could go and search by address to see how much their rent is (or is supposed to be) and how much it can go up each year.
Right now, the city has all the rent-stabilized apartments on file, and it just recently shared all that information with the public in its online zoning database. Rent-stabilized tenants are supposed to face rent increases of no more than 3 percent per year, but it’s hard for the city to stay on top of illegal overcharges, in part because there are just so many units to keep track off. LA has about 620,000 rent-controlled apartments—”the bulk of the city’s apartments” and the second-largest rent-controlled housing stock in the country, according to a report from Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office on the possible registry.
Because there are so many apartments, the city relies on tenants to report when they think they’re paying too much rent; only then does it go in to investigate. If the claim is found to be true, the landlord can be forced to pay fines, and the tenant is refunded the money they overpaid, but that only happens after the tenant files a complaint.
Though the new registry wouldn’t exactly halt all illegal rent increases, it would “add a layer of transparency” that would make it easier for people to find and report suspected illegal overcharging. LA landlords aren’t too keen on it, calling it an unnecessary extra step, but landlords in more progressive West Hollywood and Santa Monica already have to register their information (though WeHo and SaMo collect it a little differently than LA is proposing). The rent registry would also involve passing on nominal charges to landlords and tenants. The registry would be paid for by adding an extra $2 to $4 to the annual fee that both parties already pay. (The current fee is about $25.)
The proposed registry has the backing of Garcetti’s office and is on the agendafor the LA City Council’s Housing Committee today. If the committee recommends approval, the registry could be up for a vote in the full City Council “in the coming weeks,” says KPCC.