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Rent control is not intended to protect tenants paying artificially low leases for decades

Rent control is not intended to protect tenants paying artificially low leases for decades
Organizers with a local tenants' rights group hang a protest sign in the courtyard of an apartment building in Long Beach last June. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Judith Freeman may have inadvertently presented one of the strongest arguments against rent control.

She admits that the rent was low when her husband started his tenancy in 1970 and that the landlord kept it that way over the years. She described their landlord as having served as their “patron.” The couple enjoyed unrealistically low rent for decades, enabling them to purchase a second home out of state.

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The elderly landlord died, and after a lengthy probate finally resulted in a transfer of the property, the tenants refused the new landlord’s offer of the legal minimum compensation as an incentive to move (between $15,900 and $20,450, depending on the circumstances). Freeman alleges that the new landlord then used nefarious tactics to force them to vacate.

Rent control is intended to protect tenants from arbitrary and excessive increases in rent. Its unintended consequences include encouraging tenants, often those who have the means to pay market rents, to act like squatters.

Renée Dernburg, Los Angeles

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To the editor: My heart breaks that Freeman and her husband gave up their apartment after 48 years. Their landlord was vapid and cruel, and this further strengthens the need for the voters to pass Proposition 10.

I am also sad that Freeman and her husband gave up so quickly. For a flat fee of as little as $800, they could have hired the famed nonprofit tenants’ rights organization BASTA, located near their apartment in MacArthur Park, or another similar group, and the advocates would have done everything possible to save their apartment at a fraction of the fees that private attorneys charge.

If Freeman’s case went to trial, a jury surely would not have allowed eviction based on the facts described in the article. I faced an eviction after living in a rent-controlled unit for 22 years despite doing nothing wrong, and BASTA fought tooth and nail to successfully save my home.

Here’s hoping other tenants facing a similar situation do not fold their cards so easily, when saving a rent-controlled apartment should be the paramount goal.

Kenneth Scalir, Sherman Oaks

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