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Pico Plaza Tenants Put a Stop to Landlord's Illegal Rent Payment Scheme

ECONOMIC JUSTICE-Coalition for Economic Survival tenants at Pico Plaza Apartments, a 43-unit rent controlled property in Pico Union, successfully challenged their landlord's attempt to illegally make them pay rent only via electronic or online payment.  

 

The owner told tenants he would no longer accept checks or money orders. Tenants without email access would be forced to pay their rent at a 7-Eleven through electronic cash payment using a PaySlip program, which also requires a $3.99 processing fee per transaction. 

In 2012, CES won state legislation, introduced on behalf of CES by State Senator Ted Lieu (now a U.S. Congressman) prohibiting the practice of demanding tenants pay only online or through electronic cash payments. The City followed suit with an enforcement process on a motion by LA City Council Member Paul Krekorian. 

Pico Plaza tenants went to the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department on January 22, to file complaints against the scheme. The landlord's actions violated three laws. In addition to the State law, it also was an illegal change in terms of tenancy and an illegal rent increase due to the processing fee.  

The Housing Department informed the owner it was illegal and on February 1, tenants received a new notice announcing they could continue to pay rent in person via personal check or money-order. 

CES tenant leader Ana Muñoz stated, "I am very happy for the win. The unity of the residents provided us the ability to achieve this victory."

 

(Larry Gross is Executive Director the Coalition for Economic Survival and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.