THE VIEW FROM HERE - When the bathtub is overflowing, one can hire a contractor to build more bathtubs to catch the over-flow, or one can turn off the faucet. Karen Bass lets the faucet run while diverting billions of tax dollars for more bathtubs, aka Affordable Housing.
The corruption in Los Angeles has become ruinous. While there is no easy solution, there is one thing which Karen Bass can do, but she hasn’t. Why is that?
The Basic Cause of the Homeless Crisis
The emphasis belongs on Crisis. Homelessness has been a feature of American cities for decades. The 1930's had the Depression hobos, and in 1964, there was Roger Miller’s song King of the Road. In Los Angeles in the 1970's, 1980's, and early 1990's, there were homeless people, often of the Hippie variety. By 2001, the onset of the Garcetti era, LA was still riding high as the nation’s most desired destination city. In perceptible at first, developers starting their attack on Rent Controlled Units (RSO’s). RSO units tend to be less profitable than other apartments. However, in Los Angeles once an apartment is vacated, the owner can rent it at market rate. As more owners wanted to make their properties more profitable, a new business arose – the Predatory Evictors. Some fashioned themselves as management companies, but their actual job was to make life miserable for tenants forcing them to move out so that the owner can raise the rent. (Look for a F rating by the BBB). Recently, some have given themselves fancier names like Tenant Relocators. Just as a rose by any other name smells the same, a thug by any other name is as vicious.
Karen Bass Has Not Alerted the Poor to The Garcetti Protection Scam
On August 6, 2021, The Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance (TAHO) became law. It was a fraud from the get-go. September 28, 2022, Capital and Main, A Year Into New Los Angeles Law to Protect Renters, City Has Taken Zero Landlords to Court, by Jack Ross. A law with no way to enforce it is another cruel lie to further victimize and demoralize the poor. When a law does not allow the poor person to obtain attorney fees, no tenants’ rights attorney can afford to do battle with the multi-billion dollar real estate industry. So what if the attorney wins? He gets zero attorney fees. Soon, the attorney too would be homeless.
Karen Bass’s Smile Is Concealing Deceit
What Karen Bass won’t tell anyone is that the new ordinance was 100% unneeded as there was already a strong law on the books. Karen Bass can advise the City Attorney to use Business and Professions Code, § 17200 Unfair Business Practices, aka Unfair Competition Law (UCL). It started in the 1930's. Under the UCL, the city can quickly get a Temporary Restraining Order to stop unfair, unlawful, and deceptive business practices, such as Predatory Evictors utilize. Then, the court sets a date for a Preliminary Injunction, where the city puts on more evidence to have the injunction continue until there is a full trial on the merits. And guess what? The City not only gets attorney fees but has the right to get $2,500.00 per violation. That’s a real money maker for the city rather than paying out huge damage awards!
How UCL Reduces the Homelessness
The UCL turns off the faucet which pours thousands of homeless onto LA streets. The law is usually slow, but legally speaking, the UCL is grease lightning. Without the Predatory Evictors, poor people won’t be forced out of their homes.
Mayor Karen Bass’s real fear of The Unfair Competition Law is that private attorneys can bring lawsuits against the Predatory Evictors. While they cannot get the $2,500.00 per violation penalty, they can get attorney fees and costs of suit, which The Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance withheld from attorneys for the poor. The right to attorney fees under UCL is already the law. Code of Civil Procedure, § 1021.5. With good reason the corrupt live in fear of even a single UCL lawsuit by the City Attorney. One injunction will “break the dam” and unleash a flood of litigation. When the City Attorney gets her first TRO, scads of well-heeled law firms will rush to file their civil lawsuits. Rather than personal injury ads, buses and TVs will carry, “Has your landlord screwed you?” ads. The Predatory Evictors are so way over the top in their brutishness that it’s like free money for plaintiff law firms.
Yeah, the developer backlash against Karen Bass and Hydee Feldman-Soto would be horrendous. The poor and suffering Angelenos are not among Karen Bass’s real constituents; her constituents are the developers, the affordable housing contractors, the international corporations building mass transit, and most of all Wall Street. The Homeless Crisis is a key stimulus for billions in construction frauds. If LA’s homelessness shrunk so would the public demand for more Affordable Housing.
If the City Attorney filed civil actions under the Unlawful Competition Law, she would not have the heavy burden of proof of Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, but the much easier burden of proof of More Likely Than Not (51%). Also, UCL lawsuits are bench trials, which are much quicker than a protracted criminal jury trial.
Civil Code § 2332 Thunders In Holding the Owners Liable
While some of the Predatory Evictors may be the type slime that closes down one day to re-open the next day under another name, an owner cannot do that. Under the UCL law, Civil Code, § 2332 makes the owner liable for every wrong of her agent, when she should have known about its behavior. Making certain the owner is on the hook for everything is simple. Letters of notification are sent to him/her/it. Soon, the owners will realize that either they close down the Predatory Evictors or they will face injunctions, attorney fees and horrendous fines.
But Wait, it Gets Worse for the Crooks
The most intransigent of the owners are one step away from real criminal prosecutions. Those owners who fight and persist in their vicious ways will become prime targets for the District Attorney to take the time and effort of criminal prosecutions against the worst of the worst.
Don’t be Naive
None of this is new to Mayor Karen Bass. The last thing she wants to do is to turn off the faucet which constantly sends more poor into homelessness. Homelessness is simply too profitable for her backers.
(Richard Lee Abrams has been an attorney, a Realtor and community relations consultant as well as a CityWatch contributor. You may email him at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not those of CityWatchLA.com.)