Business & Economy

Landlords oppose plan to make all 'bootleg' apartments affordable

Los Angeles landlords say requiring 'bootleg apartments' to be affordable is a disincentive for landlords to come out of the shadows.
Los Angeles landlords say requiring 'bootleg apartments' to be affordable is a disincentive for landlords to come out of the shadows.
David Liu via Flickr

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A plan to legalize non-permitted apartments in Los Angeles was the rare city proposal that advocates for both landlords and tenants supported. That way, landlords can keep collecting rent and tenants don't get kicked out of a "bootleg" apartment and left to fend for themselves in the competitive rental market.

But the addition of a requirement that says legalized units should be rented out to low-to-moderate income Angelenos has landlords such as Earle Vaughn pulling their support. Vaughn, a member of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, questions why landlords charging market-rate prices would want to legalize their units only to collect less rent. 

"This does not encourage people to bring housing onto the market," Vaughn said. "This puts kind of a poison pill in people doing it."

Landlords will have to go up against city officials who are mired in a housing affordability crisis.  City staff have recommended that the Planning Commission approve the plan when it takes up the issue of bootleg apartments at its meeting today.

The city’s already shut down nearly 1,800 non-permitted apartments in the last five years. Rather than lose any more housing, Councilmember Felipe Fuentes said the city will let landlords legalize their units faster and more cheaply.

"It’s a win-win-win situation," Fuentes said.
 

Housing officials say multi-family buildings are inspected every few years, and it’s only a matter of time before bootleg apartments are spotted and taken off the market. Collecting some rent, they say, is better than no rent.

"This is designed for people who've been caught, and they have no good options, and this provides a better option than they have today," said city housing planner Matthew Glesne. 

Glesne said that the city wants to be flexible and will allow landlords to dedicate another unit in his or her building as affordable.