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Reader Rave: My Rent Is Now Halved. Woo-Hoo!

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A reader would like everyone to what happens when you win the rental lottery. Writes our excited friend: "Last year, I got an official letter from the Los Angeles Housing Department claiming that, because of uncorrected building deficiencies by my landlord, my rent can now be paid to the city's Rent Escrow Account Program (REAP) rather than my landlord...and that I can pay half the amount of my typical rent! So I did. I got three months of rent half off. And then I high-tailed it to Paris for a week." Guess what, his email ain't no joke.

What we learned: The city does indeed have a program called REAP to encourage slum, er landlords, to fix maintenance issues (like broken smoke detectors or hazardous storage) or pay a delinquent utility bill. The city will discover these malfeasances if a housing official comes upon them or if a tenant complains directly to the city. Until these problems are corrected, tenants pay an arbitrarily-chosen reduced amount of rent (up to 50% off) directly to the city. After the problems are addressed, the city returns the rent in the escrow account to the landlord, but tenants don't have to pay back the difference. And your landlord can't screw with you, the city's got your back.