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Opinion, Letters To The Editor, Santa Monica, Housing, Rent Control

Letter To The Editor: Is This The End Of Rent Control In Santa Monica?

Posted Jun. 11, 2014, 2:50 pm

Letter To The Editor

Dear Editor,

This just happened to my assistant in Santa Monica:

My assistant has lived in her Santa Monica rent control apartment since the early 80’s. She was a renter during the era of TORCA conversions and because she could not afford to convert her one bedroom apartment into a condo, she has remained there as a tenant ever since. 

She has always paid her rent, calculated according to the rules of rent control, in a timely manner for the last 30 years.

Her previous landlord/owner decided to borrow money against this unit over the years and finally decided to stop making the payments on the underlying loans. He decided to let the property go into foreclosure and never notified or informed my assistant about this. She continued to pay the monthly rent payments to her old landlord while he had stopped making the payments on the underlying loans.

In the first few days of May, 2014, my assistant received three different telephone calls from three different people or companies each saying that they now owed the unit, as they had purchased the unit from a foreclosure sale, and she was told to send her May rent payment and future rent payments to each of them.  

My assistant was confused as to where to send the rent payments and as to who was the actual new landlord/owner, and so on or about May 5th, 2014, she purchased a money order for the May rent and waited to find out who the new landlord/owner was and where to send the rent payment.

In the meantime, without her knowledge, the new landlord/owner taped a “3-day notice to pay or quit” onto her outside entrance door in the hallway of her building, took a photo of it on her door and then immediately took it down.  And so she never knew there was a 3-day notice posted on her door.  Also, the new owner never sent a copy of the 3-day notice to her by mail.   And so she never received any official notice as to who was the new landlord/owner nor did she have any knowledge that a 3-day notice had been posted on her door or sent to her by mail.   

On or about May 6th, 2014, my assistant was served with a lawsuit for unlawful detainer for nonpayment of her May rent.

My assistant sought advice from the SM rent control board and hired an attorney who specializes in SM rent control laws. They went to court on June 3rd, 2014, and both parties chose not to settle. The new landlord/owner’s attorney was able to have the unlawful detainer trial transferred to a court house in Chatsworth. The judge in Chatsworth knew nothing about SM rent control laws, the Ellis Act or what was a TORCA conversion.

The judge believed that the new landlord had properly posted the 3-day notice (as they presented the photograph of it on her door and argued that the 3-day notice had been sent to her even though it had not been sent) and the judge ruled against my assistant for non-payment of the May rent.  

So now my assistant, who has been in her Santa Monica rent control unit for over 30 years and has always paid the rent in a timely manner, has been legally evicted from her rent control apartment and she has to move by the end of June. And, she is not receiving any relocation assistance payments from the new landlord. And the ruling says that she owes the new landlord rent for the month of May & June.

Watch out all you people living in Santa Monica units under rent control.   Years have gone by, judges do not understand SM rent control or what is a TORCA conversion or the Ellis Act…and you may be tricked into being evicted from your rent control unit…as was my assistant.

Steven Weinraub

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Jun. 11, 2014, 7:10:51 pm

Huey said...

Wonder what the rent control board side of the story is on this? If the previous owner could only collect rent at 1980s levels - we all know that everything else since then costs many times more so can't blame the previous owner for going bankrupt. By the way shoud'nt the rent control board be held to the same rent control as the apts? the way they raise their fees is more than the rent increases they allow so they should roll their fees back

Jun. 24, 2014, 9:03:06 pm

Victoria said...

If the story unfolded exactly as you describe it, then your assistant needs to get a more competent attorney. The eviction process does not proceed as quickly as you've typically takes MONTHS from the time the unlawful detainer is served. Something isn't adding up here. Don't get me wrong -- I know landlords can be underhanded -- but there are plenty of checks-and-balances in place before an eviction becomes carved in stone. How did your assistant AND her legal counsel AND the Rent Control analyst she spoke with, not figure out how to handle this?

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