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First Person

How My Landlord Used a Loophole to Get Over on Me and My Neighbors

I had two weeks. Two. Weeks.

On February 19 my landlord sent an email notifying me and my neighbors that we were going to have to vacate our homes in two weeks due to termite fumigation. Two weeks.

I have never been through the fumigation process before, but from what I’d heard, it meant having to pack, store and remove a lot of my belongings. With my work schedule, I didn’t think two weeks was enough advanced notice but I was willing to go along with it provided the landlord kept up their part of the deal.

The landlord initially offered to prorate the rent for the days we were displaced and offered $400 for lodging and meals.

Screenshot of Landlord’s Notice

Our counteroffer was that the landlord provide security for the building over the three days and two nights we were all displaced due to the increased number of burglaries of houses and apartment buildings during fumigation.

He initially scoffed at the idea claiming that the idea of a burglary was absurd because someone would die within 30 seconds of entering the unit. Even with all of the multiple news stories sent to him showing that these are sophisticated burglary crews, he remained incredulous. But thankfully all of my neighbors banned together and decided that if there was no security we were not vacating the premises.

It worked and we got our security.

What we didn’t get was the promised money to pay for our housing and meals upfront.

On average, it costs $196 per night to book a 3-star hotel in Los Angeles.

Luckily for me, I had enough money to pay for somewhere to stay without the promised funds. I am not sure if my neighbors did or where they stayed. What I do know is that we were promised in writing the housing assistance and didn’t receive the money ahead of time when it was needed but we were expected to vacate the property.

We all left.

I ended up spending $400 on lodging at a Ramada Inn in Koreatown and another $100 dollars on meals. I don’t know what my neighbors did.

Our landlords promised to let us know when we could return. They did not. After numerous attempts to reach them, we were finally told that we could return home much later than the agreed-upon time.

I fully expected the check to be in the mail the next day and it wasn’t. What I didn’t expect was the response I received from my landlord when I inquired after the check.

Screenshot of Landlord’s text message to me

“We prorated you’re [sic] rent for the two days you couldn’t sleep there and That [sic] is our only obligation. These extra funds were sent to you as a courtesy for the inconvenience.

Hopefully [sic] you receive it tomorrow.”

I don’t think that any of my neighbors would have agreed to move out with two weeks notice without the promise of money to help offset the additional costs being placed on them — even with the added security. I know I wouldn’t have moved an inch.

I looked into my landlord’s claim and found out that he’s right.

I called the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department’s renter’s hotline and explained the situation. It turns out he doesn’t have to live up to his promise to provide assistance for our housing and food during our displacement. If we never get those checks, it doesn’t appear that there’s anything we can do about it unless we’re prepared to take him to civil court.

That’s not right.

I am one of the over 2 million renters in Los Angeles. I pay approximately $2,100 for an 850 sq. ft. one-bedroom apartment in a fourplex in the Adams-Normandie area. That in itself should be a crime.

Landlords should be required to give their tenants no less than 60 days’ notice for any fumigation that is not an emergency. Termite fumigation is not an emergency. In addition, landlords should be required to not only prorate the rent for the time a tenant is displaced but also pay for lodging and meals two weeks prior to the displacement so that the funds are available to tenants to make the necessary arrangements for their housing. Landlords cannot take for granted that all of their tenants have the discretionary funds to pay for hotel rooms upfront. Displaced tenants should not be forced to find housing in a no-tell motel — or worse sleep in their cars — because their landlord didn’t adequately provide for them.

It’s time for Los Angeles city leaders to close this loophole with clear guidance and protect tenants from landlords like mine.

Cc: The entire Los Angeles City Council