By Emilie St. John
INGLEWOOD — The city’s Housing Protection Department is reporting a high compliance rate for residents registering their rental properties under the housing protection ordinance.
The city created the housing protection ordinance to protect residents from price gouging and unlawful evictions due to the rise in rents due to the redevelopment happening in the city.
“The program was a directive of Inglewood Mayor James Butts who wanted to ensure residents would be able to remain in Inglewood and not face steep rent increases and/or having their buildings being emptied out under the guise of renovations,” Housing Protection Director Yakema Decatur said.
“Mayor Butts gave me the project which entailed surveying surrounding cities to see how their programs were operated and after presenting them to the council, the ordinance was approved and adopted in 2019,” Decatur added.
The program was due to start in early 2020 but was put on hold for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With more than 5,000 properties totaling more than 23,000 rental units in the city, the department utilized a robust marketing plan to notify the landlords about how to register their rental units.
“The program was advertised in local newspapers, on the city’s website, WOW Billboards, in addition to residential mailings,” Decatur said. “Staff also participates in city-sponsored events to engage with the constituency (both owners and tenants) and inform them of particulars of the ordinance.”
Pursuant to Inglewood Municipal Code 8-126, landlords failure to register their rentals would allow residents to not pay their rent until the property was registered.
“By law, tenants don’t have to pay rent if their landlord doesn’t register and the ordinance doesn’t allow the landlord to collect back rent for the months they weren’t in compliance,” Decatur said.
Data released by the city under the California Public Records Acts shows compliance increased tremendously from the onset of the program.
“For the first registration year (2022), we anticipated a 40-50% compliance rate because the program was new and the date kept changing due to COVID,” Decatur said. “Due to the dedication and due diligence of the housing protection staff, we finished the year with a 73% compliance rate and it allowed us to target and educate owners who may have been unaware and/or might not be too computer-savvy.
“We encouraged those owners to come into the office so we can service them personally by helping with registration, rent increases, explanation of just cause eviction protections, etc.”
One landlord didn’t start out too happy with the process but found that once department staff explained it thoroughly to him he found it easy to register for next year.
“I don’t have a smartphone and aren’t a regular newspaper reader so once I received the notice in my water bill I went straight to City Hall,” Tony Anderson said. “They also brought it to my attention that because my property is owner-occupied, and I only have one rental, I qualify for the exemption but I still had to bring the account current.
“I still left City Hall having to pay for being late, and also had to bring my taxes current, but overall the staff was helpful and patient,” he added.
According to Decatur, in order to qualify for the exemption, the owner has to own and continuously reside in one of the units, prior to the tenant, in order to qualify. This exemption is only allowed for duplexes.
Decatur expects the trend to continue to increase in the coming year.
“We are currently at a 90% compliance rate which is a great improvement from the inaugural year,” Decatur said. “While I don’t believe we will ever reach 100%, I am hopeful that staff will get us over that 90 percentile. We are only in the second year of the mandatory registration year, and are currently exploring other avenues to get the word out.”
In addition to brining in a new revenue stream to the city, the Housing Protection Department also increases revenue by ensuring landlords are in compliance with their annual tax registration.
“I am really grateful to the housing protection team for being a valuable resource for our residents,” Decatur said. “There are times our staff may need to refer residents to other departments which can be frustrating but we gauge how we are doing by our compliance rate which shows us we are definitely providing outstanding customer service to our landlords and tenants and that’s what teams do.”
If you are a landlord or resident and have any questions related to the Housing Protection Department they can be reached at 310-412-4330.
Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.