Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bureaucracy v. Bureaucracy; tenant wins for now

Crisales v. Estrada, sheesh, depressing case at the intersection of rent control and Section 8, and it's what passes for good news in legal aid.

Here's the picture:

Section 8 landlord tries and fails to get supposedly allowed annual 3% rent increase out of Los Angeles rent control bureaucracy. For eight years. At least once the housing authority folks send a confirmation letter with instructions, then say they can't find the request. And this sounds like the increase wouldn't have been at the tenant's expense: the way Section 8 works, I think the subsidy program would have paid the difference, not the tenant.

Anyhow, fed-up landlord finally goes all slap-happy drastic: tries to quit the Section 8 program and tries to charge the tenant the full $950 rent, which the tenant can't afford. Tenant quite sensibly objects in court, with really good pro bono and nonprofit representation.

LA Superior Court's appellate division says, no, under the LA rent control ordinance the landlord is at least for the moment stuck doing business on the pre-hissy-fit basis with both the Section 8 program and the tenant. Everybody, arguably, loses. Can't really be fun being either that tenant or that landlord.

Good ruling as far as precedent goes. A decision pointing any other direction would have dug a big hole in Los Angeles rent control. Lots of people are not homeless because of this decision.

Except, as the saying goes, hard cases make bad law.

Except maybe I'm missing something here, like another side to the story or a bigger picture. Nothing posted as yet on the news page of the Legal Aid Fdtn. of LA, which was on the case. At Munger Tolles, also on the case, the pro bono page says the firm "leads a city-wide litigation effort on behalf of hundreds of Los Angeles families receiving Section 8 assistance against landlords attempting to terminate their participation in the Section 8 program and circumvent rent and eviction controls." Oh.

Except, looking at the small picture, it still can't be fun to be either that landlord or that tenant.

Sad old world.

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