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Ask A Landlord: Fixing An Always-Broken Elevator; New Paint For Your Long-Time Apartment

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Throughout Renters Week, a real live Los Angeles property manager (not technically a landlord, but with plenty of landlordy experience) will be answering reader-submitted, rental-related questions of all natures.

Is a landlord/bldg. owner required to keep the elevator in working condition in an apartment building? It's cute on Big Bang Theory that their elevator has always been out-of-service... But in my historic building in Hollywood [name redacted], it is quite difficult for the upper floor residents. Since March 2012 the elevator is routinely out-of-service, several instances for up to 22 days. Many times people get stuck inside and the fire department must be called to get them out. (Is the elevator required to have an "Inspection permit" posted within it? there is no signage in our elevator).

That sounds like a real pain, and a broken elevator in a high-rise certainly goes to what a reasonable person would call habitability. Not cute. However, the California Tenants handbook is silent on elevators. It may be time to play hardball and file a complaint with the city. Code enforcement for multi-family residential dwellings is handled by Housing and Community Investment Department--per their website, you can call the Code Enforcement Complaint Line weekdays between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm at (866) 557-RENT, visit one of the Los Angeles Housing Department's Public Counters (your closest one is likely 3550 Wilshire Boulevard, west of Normandie), or submit a complaint online here. If you can talk to a few of your neighbors and have them do the same, or at least back you up on the frequency and severity of the issue, that should produce some results--especially if any of your neighbors are elderly or disabled.

I know in some major cities such as NYC landlords are required according to the law (New York City Administrative Code Article 3 - § 27-2013), to repaint walls and ceilings in apartments if requested if a tenant has lived there for three years. Is there a similar law/ordnance in the LA/ Santa Monica Market? Anything else we can ask our landlords for after we have had some longevity in an apartment? Thanks!

I can't speak for Santa Monica, but as far as Los Angeles goes there is no rule I'm aware of that compels a landlord to make what are generally considered cosmetic improvements in an already-occupied unit. If the issue is not a priority, they probably won't want to spend the money. Maybe if you have one of those elusive "cool" landlords, you could offer to do it yourself if they provide the paint or have some on hand, but I know the answer from my boss would be a resounding "no." My building has a long-term tenant who moved in during the '70s and her apartment is like a powder blue time machine furnished with 30-year-old carpet. Perhaps this is another one of those perverse incentives that results from rent control policies--you're somewhat locked in on price, but you're also locked in on aesthetics. Commenters, what do you think?
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