In some of our previous blogs (see links at the end of this page) we discussed the requirements of the City of Los Angeles’ Soft Story Retrofit Program, which identified buildings vulnerable to structural failure both during and after an earthquake.  In this blog, which is the second in the series on the City’s Soft Story Retrofit Program, we discuss the mandatory requirements of the City’s Tenant Habitability Program, as administered by the Housing and Community Investment Department (“HCIDLA”).

The Tenant Habitability Program requires a property owner / landlord undertaking a Soft Story retrofit to develop a Tenant Habitability Plan (“THP”) to mitigate the impact of retrofitting construction activities on the tenants residing at the property.  The THP also allows property owners / landlords to recoup some of the costs of the Soft Story retrofit as a pass-through to their tenants.

As part of the THP, property owners / landlords must take a number of important steps to ensure that tenants can remain safely in-place during construction activities, or alternatively, if tenant safety cannot be arranged, temporarily relocate the tenants elsewhere.

How does a property owner / landlord file the Tenant Habitability Plan (“THP”)?

Property owners / landlords must file the THP application promptly with the HCIDLA at any time before the retrofit work begins.  Typically, the steps for filing the THP include:

  • Property owner / landlord receives the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (“LADBS”) Order and responds to it by providing a structural analysis.
  • LADBS requires the property owner / landlord to obtain HCIDLA clearance of the THP.
  • Property owner / landlord contacts the HCIDLA to obtain and complete the THP application forms.
  • Property owner / landlord and contractor jointly develop the THP, including an estimate of the duration of work and impact to tenants, and property owner then submits the THP to the HCIDLA.
  • The HCIDLA will accept the THP if it adequately mitigates the retrofit work impact on the tenants residing on the property.
  • The property owner / landlord must serve each tenant a copy of the HCIDLA-accepted THP (in writing, and in the same language the rental agreement is written in).
  • Tenants may appeal the THP within 15 days, in which case the HCIDLA will conduct a THP appeal hearing and determine appropriate next steps. If the THP is not appealed, the HCIDLA will clear the retrofit permit for issuance.

What is included in the Tenant Habitability Plan (“THP”)?

The THP applications typically contain the following information:

  • Property ownership information, property identification, and a list of the tenants that includes the amount of their rent payments.
  • A description of the anticipated impact of the work to the apartments and common areas, as well as the proposed mitigation measures.
  • The anticipated impact of the work to tenants’ personal property and the proposed mitigation measures.
  • A discussion on the accidental and/or planned temporary disruptions to water, electrical, gas, or sewer services (e.g., if such disruptions are necessary, then they may not occur outside of the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday).

Are tenants allowed to remain in their rental apartments during construction?

Yes, tenants can remain in their apartments while the Soft Story retrofit is taking place, so long as the construction doesn’t make the rental unit uninhabitable, or exposes the tenants to harmful materials.  The Soft Story retrofit contractors are allowed to work at the job site on Monday through Friday, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, and if utilities must be turned off during construction, they must be turned back on by 5:00 pm.

Is the THP always required?

Yes, the THP is required even if the property owner / landlord and contractor do not anticipate any impact to the apartments or to tenants’ personal property.  This is because the THP also covers other important information such as the contractor’s work hours, the estimated duration of the work, the estimated completion date, and the general construction safety requirements that are applicable to the worksite.

Can the property owner / landlord’s contractors start work before obtaining approval of the THP?

No.  Property owners / landlords should note that the LADBS will not issue a retrofit permit, and retrofit work cannot begin, until the HCIDLA accepts the THP and provides a clearance to issue the retrofit permit.

Can a property owner / landlord recover the costs of the Soft Story retrofit?

Yes, the HCIDLA can approve a rent increase if a property owner / landlord submits a temporary rent increase request within one year of completing the Soft Story retrofit.  The HCIDLA will notify tenants of the increase and the tenants will have the opportunity to submit their objection in writing.  If the rent increase is approved by the HCILDA, the property owner / landlord can typically recover up to 50% of the Soft Story retrofit costs in a rent increase which is spread out over a number of years.

Next week we’ll discuss how the Soft Story retrofit project is kicked-off!

Meanwhile, if you wish to discuss with one of Weinstein Construction’s Soft Story experts the paperwork requirements for a Soft Story retrofit, or if you’d like to schedule a free, no-obligation inspection of your Soft Story structure, call Weinstein Construction at (800) 862-6582.  Be prepared and have peace of mind when the next “Big One” hits!

Other Weinstein Construction blogs on Soft Story Retrofits and the Requirements of the City of Los Angeles can be found below: