Where are the Burlington Apartments? What is happening there?
How many tenants are facing eviction?
The Burlington Apartments are three buildings located at 131, 143, and 171 S. Burlington Avenue in the Westlake neighborhood near Downtown Los Angeles.
After being notified in February by property management of rental increases this year, some residents started withholding their rent beginning in March and refused to pay for several months. In response, the property management company took legal action intended to lawfully remove non-paying residents from their units.
Two tenants were evicted after losing in court. Other tenants paid their back rent, including increases, so that they can stay in their apartments. Realizing that some tenants may not be able to pay all the back rent at once, the property management company decided to dismiss the evictions and asked all tenants to pay September rent and work out an interest-free payment plan for past due rent.
While most of the buildings’ 190 units continue to pay rent, more than 80 residents refused to pay rent and faced lawful removal from the Burlington Apartments.
When were tenants notified about the rent increase?
Tenants were notified by the property management company, FML Management Corp., of the decision to increase rent in February 2018 and were given until April 1 to make accommodations. Approximately 80 tenants stopped paying rent in March, before the rent increase took effect. These 80 tenants have not paid rent for the last seven months.
Why were rents increased?
Why did rents at Burlington Apartments rise 20-40% at once instead of putting in gradual increases over the past 8-10 years?
Westlake, the neighborhood near downtown Los Angeles where the Burlington Apartments are located, has faced rapid changes in recent years, bringing a greater influx of renters to the area. Over the past ten years, the general costs of maintaining a large apartment complex in Los Angeles have increased dramatically. The Burlington Apartments management company determined that to remain competitive in the marketplace, the company would need to lawfully increase the rent at Burlington Apartments in 2018.
The management company understood that the residents of the Burlington Apartments’ are working families living on a tight budget, so they decided to only raise rents to a sustainable level for the buildings—not to the market rates in the neighborhood.
Residents have enjoyed below market rent without annual increases from 2008 to 2017, but it was time to bring the rent closer to market rate. Even at the new rates, the units are approximately $200 under the market rent and in-line with the 2018 HUD rates. The rent increase was never meant to surprise the tenants and was the equivalent of a modest annual 3% increase from 2008.
What is the market rate for the building? And what does ‘HUD Rate’ mean?
Who owns the Burlington Apartments?
HUD is the acronym for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD owns apartment buildings in every major metropolitan area in the country and rents them out at rates that are sustainable for residents in the area.
In 2018, the HUD rates for Los Angeles County is $1,284 for one-bedroom units and $1,675 for two-bedroom units. Residents in the Burlington Apartments had been paying 2008 rates for 10 years and, in February 2018, many of the Burlington Apartments’ tenants were paying as low as $950 for one-bedroom apartments and $1,050 for two-bedroom apartments. Meanwhile, one and two-bedroom apartments in the neighborhood rent from $1,500 to over $2,000 per month.
In March, rent in one-bedroom units were raised to $1,300 and two-bedrooms units were raised to $1,675, which closely track the HUD rates. New units in the buildings, however, rent for $100 to $200 more.
The Burlington Apartments are owned by the Ehrlich family through a family trust. They are managed by a professional property management company called FML Management Corp.
What is the 1979 Ehrlich Family Trust?
The 1979 Ehrlich Family Trust is the legal entity that owns the Burlington Apartments.
Is the landlord willing to let the non-paying tenants stay
Why would 80 tenants stop paying their rent all at once?
Yes. The management company desires to have all the tenants back. Much like the two residents who recently quit the “rent strike,”
all any tenant needed to do was come in to the onsite management office to figure out a payment schedule for past due rent and they can remain in their units.
That is why the management company dismissed eviction actions, because they wanted to give every tenant the opportunity to pay their rent and continue living at the Burlington Apartments.
The management company believes the tenants’ union and their lawyer—people who do not live in the Burlington Apartments with their own financial and political agendas—misled the tenants in the units who were refusing to pay rent. The management company never wanted to begin the eviction process against any resident. But when the lawyer and the union directed residents to stop paying their rent in March the management company had no other option but to start the eviction proceedings.