West Hollywood landlords squarely on the hook for earthquake retrofit costs

City council denied surcharge plan that would have forced tenants to pay half

West Hollywood Mayor John Duran and buildings damaged in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake
West Hollywood Mayor John Duran and buildings damaged in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake

Landlords of earthquake-vulnerable buildings in West Hollywood will completely shoulder the costs to retrofit their buildings.

The five-member West Hollywood City Council voted unanimously on Monday against adding a rent surcharge for tenants that would help pay for the retrofits, according to WeHoville. The retrofitting costs should be shouldered instead by landlords, council members said, because they considered it to be a maintenance cost.

More than 750 buildings around West Hollywood need such work. The city estimates it will cost an average of around $160,000 for each building.

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The vote defeated a surcharge plan drafted by the West Hollywood Department of Human Services and Rent Stabilization that required tenants to pay half the cost of retrofitting their buildings over 10 years. The surcharge was capped at $38 per month per unit, or $4,560 over a decade. The surcharge would have kicked in when a landlord started the retrofit process, according to WeHoville.

The decision runs contrary to the City of Los Angeles, where lawmakers approved a pass-along charge. Some property owners are choosing to sell their vulnerable assets instead of securing them.

West Hollywood’s surcharge measure has been on the table since earlier this year. Last June, the council exempted condo owners from paying for retrofits. The hearing included comments from tenants who said the surcharge would increase the value of buildings they had no equity in. One tenant argued that landlords would apply the maximum surcharge even it cost them much less to retrofit the building. [WeHoville] – Dennis Lynch