The Real Deal Los Angeles

City Council grants amnesty to “bootlegged” apartments

Landlords of newly legalized units must meet affordability requirements

May 11, 2016 03:00PM

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Credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons

Credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons

Clink those glasses, because prohibition is over.

The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to legalize existing “bootlegged” apartments, which are the unapproved spaces walled off in apartments and rented as separate units.

The apartments that fall under this new amnesty must have already been “bootlegged” as of December 10 and must comply with a list of requirements. One of those demands is that bootleggers designate one additional unit as affordable to low-income households for 55 years, My News L.A. reported.

Only multi-family apartment complexes qualify for amnesty. Portions walled off in single-family properties or converted non-residential spaces cannot apply.

When it was drafted last month, the ordinance drew ire from landlords, who said the requirements are too stringent.

“No one is going to apply,” Harold Greenberg, a former landlord on the board of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, told the Times in April. “It’s going to be like a lot of things that the housing department has — it sounds good, but no one’s going to take advantage of it.”

Opponents of the new policy say it may be cheaper for landlords to get fined by city inspectors for operating illegal units than to provide affordable housing units. City planning officials, however, believe amnesty will allow landlords to avoid the $20,000 zoning variance for every extra unit.

Between 2010 and 2015, the city cited the owners of 2,560 illegal units, according to a city report. Only 201 were legalized, while the rest were destroyed. The amnesty policy could offer tenants a layer of protection against eviction. [My News L.A.]Cathaleen Chen