L.A. Controller Calls for Code Enforcement Upgrades

LOS ANGELES – L.A. Controller Ron Galperin today released an audit of the Systematic Code Enforcement Program (SCEP), which inspects the City’s residential rental units to verify compliance with state and local health, safety and building codes.

The Controller’s audit includes recommendations to streamline the program and to improve compliance so that all rental units within Los Angeles are safe and habitable.

“The health and safety of people who reside in L.A. needs to be of paramount importance,” L.A. Controller Ron Galperin said. “Our City has over time improved its code enforcement programs. But there is more we can and should be doing to respond quickly to complaints, to ensure the absolute accuracy of inspections and to modernize how we do it.”

“We’re extremely supportive of SCEP and of L.A. Controller Ron Galperin for pinpointing where we need to better focus our resources to ensure these are truly successful programs,” said Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival. “We know that the L.A. Housing and Community Investment Department is committed to renters and the city as a whole. Programs like SCEP are crucial to ensuring renters of the city are able to reside in a safe and habitable rental units. While it’s important that we constantly reassess the work and effectiveness of these programs, it’s just as important for the City to provide whatever resources are needed to ensure the safety of Angelenos.”

Created in 1998 to provide routine inspections of residential buildings with two or more rental units, SCEP inspections aim to curtail and remedy substandard conditions. More than 96,000 properties and more than 740,000 rental units are subject to SCEP, which is conducted by the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department (HCID).

To improve SCEP’s fiscal processes, effectiveness and complaint response times, the Controller’s audit recommends that HCID:

  • Respond more quickly to complaints to address response times that have lagged. HCID’s ability to respond to complaints within its goal of 72 hours fell from 89% in 2011 to 70% in 2017.
  • Update HCID’s list of properties subject to SCEP to ensure inspections and billing are accurate. Currently, certain properties are erroneously inspected while others are incorrectly billed due to erroneous information.
  • Modernize the refund process that has not efficiently issued balances due back to property owners. In April 2017, more than 17,000 properties had credit balances of $2.9 million. Due to this audit, that number was whittled down to $1.9 million but HCID needs to do a better job of not wrongly billing – and notifying property owners proactively and timely if they are owed refunds.
  • Determine why Notices of Substandard Conditions have drastically fallen despite an increase in violations. While the number of SCEP violations have increased since 2007, NSCs fell from 1,886 to 209 over the same ten-year period. Policymakers should be apprised of the reasons for the steep decline.

Read the report.

Watch the explainer video.

Follow L.A. Controller Ron Galperin at @LAController on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.