Completing a soft-story retrofit in Los Angeles is a complicated process. A number of steps have to be taken to keep the project moving forward. For many property owners, time is running out to get their retrofit done. The process begins with an assessment of your property to determine what work needs to be done.
Then engineering plans for the construction need to be drawn up and filed with the city for approval. Once the plans are approved, which often doesn’t happen with the first filing, construction permits need to be issued. Then before any work can begin, a Tenant Habitability Plan has to be filed with the Los Angeles Housing + Community Investment Department (HCIDLA).
What is a THP?
The Tenant Habitability Plan was first created as part of LA’s Primary Renovation Work Program. It allows landlords to “pass-through” some of the costs of renovations to tenants in rent-controlled apartments. When the city passed ordinance 183893 which made it mandatory for landlords to retrofit their apartments for earthquake durability, the THP was included in the paperwork process.
The THP details the work the landlord is doing to the building. It also lets the tenants know how the construction will affect them and how long the job will take. The Tenant Habitability Plan has to be filed before construction begins, and it is necessary if you want to recover part of your retrofit costs.
Notice of Primary Renovation Work
This notice needs to be served with a copy of the THP to the tenants. It lets them know that construction will begin in 60 days. The NPRW should include the same language the rental agreement is written in. Other details in this notice should include the date work will begin, what type of work is being done, how the work will affect the tenants, the plan for temporary relocation if it’s needed, and a summary of the THP.
In some cases, a tenant will not agree to the THP or the items listed in it. They can file an appeal, within 15 days of receiving the Notice of Primary Renovation Work. Landlords should attach an appeal form to the THP summary for tenants that wish to use one. Construction can begin 60 days after the notice is served as long as none of your tenants have filed an appeal.
Can tenants remain in their apartments while the retrofit is taking place?
The answer is yes, as long as the construction does not make the unit uninhabitable or expose the tenants to harmful materials. During the retrofit, contractors are allowed to work Monday – Friday from 8 AM – 5 PM. If the utilities are turned off for construction purposes, they must be turned back on by 5 PM. The THP should include an outline of any safe work practices the landlord is using during the construction phase.
What if one of your tenants wants to relocate permanently?
Your tenants do have this option and they have two chances in which to take advantage of it. Their first chance comes if the construction work will create uninhabitable conditions for 30 days or more. To take advantage of this option, the tenant must submit a permanent relocation form to the landlord within 15 days of receiving the THP. The second chance occurs if the work lasts 30 days longer than the THP stated it would.
Is the landlord responsible for relocation costs?
When a soft-story retrofit in Los Angeles makes it possible for a tenant to choose permanent relocation, the landlord will be required to pay some of the costs. How much that cost will be is determined by a number of factors. Some of these factors include, age of the tenants, is anyone in the household disabled, are they a qualified or eligible tenant, and how long they have been living in the apartment.
You can find the exact amount by visiting the Los Angeles Housing + Community Investment Department website. If the household contains a combination of two or more of the above factors, then the landlord pays the higher amount for that household. Tenants that are 62 or older, or fall under the handicapped statutes of Title 42 United States Code Section 423 are considered qualified. All other tenants are considered eligible.
What happens if the tenants need to be temporarily relocated?
If the apartments will be uninhabitable outside of working hours, or they could be exposed to hazardous materials, they will need to be temporarily relocated. When the THP is filed with the department they will decide at that time if temporary relocation will be necessary.
If relocation is going to last less than 30 days, the landlord has some options for helping their tenants. They can be moved to a safe apartment in the same complex, or another complex if it is available. They can be moved to a motel. Or the landlord can settle on a daily amount to pay the tenant for relocating. If the tenant finds their own place to stay, they are responsible for notifying the landlord and the HCIDLA of their address.
Can a landlord raise the rent after a soft-story retrofit Los Angeles?
If it is approved by the HCIDLA. A landlord must submit a rent increase request within one year of the completion of the retrofit. The HCIDLA will notify tenants of the increase and they will have 10 days to submit an objection in writing. If the request is passed, under the Seismic Retrofit Work Program, the landlord can recover 50% of the soft-story retrofit costs. The rent increase is temporary and spread out over 10 years. The city has set a cap of $38 a month for this increase.
How we can help
Filling out the Tenant Habitability Plan and filing it with the HCIDLA is part of the many services we offer at RetroFitting 360. Another valuable service for landlords is tenant management. You won’t have to be bothered with constant questions as we will handle that for you. RetroFitting 360 is a full-service contracting company specializing in soft-story retrofits Los Angeles. For more information, or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today.