Tenant Rights In West Hollywood
May 19, 2023 5:23 PM   Subscribe

I live in the City of West Hollywood. I signed a lease and moved into a studio space that is not zoned as an apartment (It was once a large workout room in the condo/apartment complex) One person had lived there several years before me. I have been an excellent tenant. Tuesday, I was asked to meet with the president of the condo board (and from who I leased the studio). He informed me that I was to move out and that he would work with me on the time frame. I was informed verbally. Nothing written was given to me. No reason was given as to why I was being asked to move. My relationship with him was good. I was the caretaker of his neighbor for two years and left in good standing. I was going to help him with chores as he is having knee replacement surgery soon.

The only reason I can think of as to why I am being asked to move is that his hand is being forced to by another board member. I also heard a rumor that one of the tenants is filing a lawsuit against the board for lack of response to a building issue. Having a tenant living in an unzoned apartment may be an issue for the case.

The board president is also a lawyer whose expertise is negotiating land use and entitlements, landlord and tenant conflicts, real estate transactions, affordable housing, etc. on local and state levels. I don't understand why he hasn't served me notice, has given me a reason as to why I am to leave, and is doing this process so sloppily. Is he purposefully doing this for me to negotiate the best option for myself?

On that note, what is the best option. The condo insurance will be covering everything. What is the norm for move out dates and relocation fees? If I am to move out I want the best deal possible
posted by goalyeehah to Law & Government (11 answers total)
He's behaving like this because he thinks he can just intimidate you into leaving, at minimal cost and mess to himself. The good news is you live in West Hollywood, and you can start by looking at their tenant's info on their website. Just off the bat, I see "There are limited reasons for which a tenant may be relocated from a unit without being at fault. All permitted tenant relocations have specific conditions, noticing requirements and fees to tenants."

My understanding is that you had a lease + thus you paid rent (I'm assuming?) = it's not your issue that the unit wasn't permitted properly. That's their problem, and doesn't negate their responsibilities to you.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:38 PM on May 19 [6 favorites]

Something similar happened to friends in Providence - they were offered and signed a residential lease in a commercial building. Things happened and they were informed they needed to leave. The whole thing was messy - the landlord had consequences for the illegal leasing and even though the friends had a lease signed in good faith, they were forced to leave as well because the lease was illegal and as such they had no legal protections.

Your situation is tricky. Maybe the owner wants to use the property for other purposes? If it’s been rented as residential illegally, the owner may not want to put anything else in writing. It may be worth a call to an attorney , but I strongly suspect that you will have to move, no matter what. Is it worth seeing if the owner is willing to compensate you for moving costs and to cover 1st months rent in a new place? An attorney will help you understand your options.
posted by Silvery Fish at 6:58 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]

Both of the above answers are correct - it is both true that you likely have some significant rights (even with an informal lease in a non-permitted unit), but also that because your unit isn't permitted, it's likely that the end-game does involve you eventually finding a new place to live (possibly with a substantial check from your current landlord in your pocket).

Definitely consult a tenants union, or an attorney who specializes in tenant law, before signing anything at all, or agreeing to move out.
posted by kickingtheground at 7:28 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]

Oh yes, I agree with kickingthrground - this is likely to end with you having to move. But that doesn't mean you should sign anything now, and it doesn't mean you're going to be out on your ass suddenly, and without a significant payment. Luckily you're living in one of the most tenant-friendly cities in probably the entire country. Here's a list of recent tenant buyout amounts (scroll down), and here's info about relocation fees for no-fault evictions. Your landlord is on the hook and knows it. Do not trust him.

Lastly, when discussing or speculating about this with any representatives from the West Hollywood government, you can stop mentioning that the unit is probably unpermitted. That's not your story to tell. Yours is" "I have a lease. My landlord is evicting me for no reason." Stop there.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:35 PM on May 19 [22 favorites]

You have a lease; read it.
Find the tenant rights association in your area; talk to them.
Ask him why he wants you to move, since you have been an excellent tenant, and this is quite a hassle for you.
This is crummy and I'm sorry it's happening to you.
posted by theora55 at 8:19 PM on May 19

Seconding the advice to talk to a local tenants union. The lack of any kind of written notice or a specific move-out date raises a big red flag - they may be attempting to make it appear that you "voluntarily" moved out.

Does anything in your lease mention residential use (or, conversely, is there any wording prohibiting it?) If your landlord signed a residential lease on a unit that was not zoned/legal for residential use, they could be in a very messy situation. I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, it's coming from a random stranger on the internet, but you could potentially have grounds to demand a repayment of some or all of the rent collected over the course of your tenancy on the grounds that they have illegally been collecting rent from you.
posted by zombiedance at 9:54 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]

To be clear, are you renting from the board president in his capacity as the condo association’s executive or in his private capacity as the owner of the space?

Either way, you have the upper hand here even though this will likely end with you moving out (and the law is on your side). Given that [the] board president is also a lawyer whose expertise is negotiating land use and entitlements, landlord and tenant conflicts, real estate transactions, affordable housing, etc. on local and state levels, you can potentially make problems for him professionally, e.g., by complaining to the Bar Association, which is why he’s trying to muscle you out without putting anything in writing. Only you know how much hardball you want to play, or how you feel about the ethics entailed.
posted by carmicha at 11:35 PM on May 19

I wouldn't give up on trying to stay either. Here the housing crisis has got so bad that illegal suites, assuming they aren't actually dangerous or don't have any windows or something, are given a shrug on zoning issues. The owners end up paying for a development and building permit and a penalty on top and their tax rate increases and then the suite is grandfathered.
posted by Mitheral at 5:03 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]

Keep a record of anything communications the landlord has with you, and the dates.

They are trying to evict you without cause, which in California is illegal except in a few situations, including when the lease is illegal.

In San Francisco where I live, it used to be very common for evicted tenants to receive money as compensation, instead of going through the whole eviction process.* The amount you ask doesn't have to be limited to actual moving expenses, or even the amount you'll have to pay to rent an equally good place elsewhere. You can negotiate the terms yourself, or you can have a lawyer do it for you.

*(Now it's not done because newer laws require the landlord to pay specific large amounts in order to evict without cause.)
posted by wryly at 4:46 PM on May 20

He is banking on you having no clue about tenants' rights in your city and moving out voluntarily. If you do, you will essentially be doing him a favor that may be worth tens of thousands of dollars. There is no way this guy doesn't know the regulations with his background, and it's incredibly unethical for him to be trying to skirt the laws with you.

You should absolutely consult a lawyer; when I went through the prior owners of my building trying to fake an owner move-in eviction (in Oakland, not West Hollywood, but still), I basically found that the firms for tenants would generally take solid cases on contigency, because they can be quite lucrative. Many will offer an initial consultation for free; you will get the most out of that if you first educate yourself on city/state policies as much as possible.

You can start with reading the city policies, found with a quick google search:

In addition, California has very strict regulations about when 30- and 60-day notices to vacate can be issued, along with very particular language that has to be included to make them legally valid. There's a Nolo book called California Tenants' Rights that I found very useful when I was first having landlord issues; should only be about $20, and your local library probably has copies as well.

Personally, I would suggest that you respond with something along the lines of "I am not interested in moving voluntarily, and I expect that all state and local laws will be followed regarding my tenancy." But as carmicha puts it, I am totally someone ready to play extreme hardball with my housing on the line.
posted by ktkt at 9:59 PM on May 20

And also, don't feel compelled to respond to anything sketchy especially quickly, because the longer it takes them to issue you a legally enforceable moveout notice, the longer you have to find your next place.
posted by ktkt at 10:01 PM on May 20 [2 favorites]

« Older Photo printer that is NOT wireless.   |   How do I turn my career around? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments