PROPERTY CODE VIOLATIONS – EXCESSIVE FEES
Hi, this is Connie Saunders and I’m running for LA City Council’s position for District 7.
Today I want to propose a “Los Angeles City “Fair Fees Violations” Amendment to take care of the excessive and extortive fees being charged within 45 days of a citation of a violation.
In this example we have 15 days passed for fixing the violation, after which $550 was charged for Non-Compliance Enforcement. 30 days after that 2 times $550 or 1100 dollars was charged as a “Late Charge” totaling now 1650 and added to that is an additional 50% of that total or 825, now totaling $$2475. In addition, there are Code Violation investigation fee of $336, a System Development surcharge and late fee of 70.56 an and a Title Report fee of $42.00 totaling $2923.56, just 30 days late on the fixing deadline!
Nothing in US or State Law or our constitution allows for extortion, and therefore this system should be reformed to eliminate extortion from any administrative approaches to enforcement of these codes.
‘California League of Cities’ attorneys state “Civil penalties are subject to constitutional limitations prohibiting the imposition of excessive fees.
What is Excessive?: Excessive is “more than is necessary, normal, or desirable; immoderate”.
There is an immediate and urgent need for remedy of our current system which is Excessive and Extortive. What is extortion?
“Extortion is defined as “the practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats” and it is illegal.
In addition, I looked at the document packets sent to the violators. They contained a dozen or more pages such as Property Title report, comparable properties, etc. that had absolutelty nothing to do with the violation and only serves to clutter up the mind of the reader, who is thumbing through the package trying to make sense of it. It is unreasonable that one would get such a notice, in that form.
I can understand the city may wish to prove to themselves that this is the correct party to mail to, however this need not be sent to the violator. Also the city paying for a full title report when they only needed a $5.00 property detail report was exorbitant and un-necessary serving only to make things more complex for all. the notice is full of legalease and not at all simple to understand, including just the general statement of a violation and not showing on that page what the violation is.
This creates a real situation for property owners.
Mark Twain one said: “No man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session.”
While a city, such as Los Angeles, has no ability to make law, they get their power to ordain from State Law. Their local ordinances must be in keeping with four things, however: State Law, US Law, State Constitution and US Constitution.
Of course we all know that good administrative approaches to Code Enforcement are needed. Otherwise the city could become a war zone of graffiti, broken fences, debris and stench that can depress a neighborhood for all. But compliance is an interesting subject.
My viewpoint and experience is that if you really want compliance, just make it easy to comply. Keep it simple. But I’ve often noticed that if it is found to be very complex and hard to understand, all you have to do is follow the money for a better understanding on why it is so complex. (i.e. if the benefits to a City from non-compliance is high, then it is in the cities best interest for there to be non-compliance). Such a system as we have in place (with an over 300% return in just two months after a violation is noted, that it is likely to be no particular interest or support in reforming this system.
Ask any homeowner if they would rather pay $100 today or $600 in a month. What do you think?
But on the other hand ask the City if they would rather have $100 today or $600 in a month.
This, however, is not in the best interest of our property owners constitutional rights, or rights to affordable housing or California’s or US’s constitutions and it is therefore out of line for a City to purposefully collect funds from such extortive tactics as this, where clearly the property itself acts as a backup guaranteeing these fees (city liens having priority over mortgage liens, for example).
Let’s assume our City Officials want to remedy the violation, rather than extort exorbitant funds from their constituents. So how can we handle this more respectfully and effectively without all the fuss of changing every law on the property code books?
California law allows for flexibility on the part of Cities and a City can treat an ordinance (which bears misdemeanor status for non-compliance) administratively as an infraction and only after it has been made abundantly clear that the property owner has willfully failed to comply, a misdemeanor – which would then be managed with due notice (such as legal service) of complaint and higher attendant fees.
The idea behind my proposals below to be put in as an amendment to property code is that:
* Compliance should be easy and give the owner 3 months to get it, digest it and fix the violation.
* Letters with Details of Violations should be limited to the violation, codes violated and tiers of penalties and remedies available, rather than additional details about one’s property or ownership, on notices sent to property owners and all on the same page, rather than attachments.
* Any fees for violations should be made clear on the letter that they are “$0 if remedied within the 15 days and all other fees should be clean and clear, such as $150 if later than 15 days; $200 if later than 15 days and $300 if exceeding 90 days past violation citation and once 10 day notice, properly served on property owner, has expired.
* MAKE IT VERY CLEAR THAT IN 90 DAYS (UNLESS A HEARING IS REQUESTED) THE VIOLATION WILL BECOME A MISDEMEANOR. ATTACH A SEPARATE PAGE TO DETAIL ALL OF THE PENALTIES POTENTIALLY FROM THIS BUT IN THE LETTER PUT EACH FEE AND PENALTY AND ITS TIME FRAME FOR THE MISDEMEANOR HANDLING.
* Again, keep the letter regarding the violation very simple, embold each phrase that they need to look to an attachment for the answers to.
* Have an online site url on the letter where they may go to report compliance back, as an alternative to mailing or calling in.
* All of these things can be made very simple, no complex language and certainly no additional attachments other than the instructions on how to set up a hearing and the clear language on each fee will apply to this once it gets made into a misdemeanor status, with a simple timeline, showing what fee or action will apply when.
Paid for by the saunders4district7 2017 LA City Council campaign 12661 Gain St., Pacoima CA 91331.
For additional information please go to ethics.lacity.org.