Cockroaches scurried from the light of the door as Alex Giaque returned home – not what he wanted to see right after work, but his pest problem had no solution except to wait for the landlord.
Long Beach renter Giauque, 25, said he had been trying to get his landlord to exterminate the cockroaches in his apartment near Pacific Coast Highway and Redondo Avenue for some time before he resorted to resolving the issue himself.
After living with cockroaches for longer than he was comfortable with, Giauque said he wished he had an additional right as a renter:
“[The] right to take care of issues without written consent,” Giauque said. “Especially because they make it so hard to get anything done.”
Monica Gomez, a junior business management major at California State University, Long Beach, said she has had more than trouble with getting repairs fixed.
“He never answers my calls, and anytime I text him about necessary repairs he’ll ignore me and reply days later,” Gomez said. “He also cashes my checks weeks after rent is due. Last month he cashed my check on the 28th, and I was constantly checking my bank account to make sure I had sufficient funds.”
According to an article in the Long Beach Post, nearly 70 other supporters of protection and increased rights for renters marched through downtown Long Beach on Jan. 20. Their march ended at city hall where they shouted for Long Beach to adopt the Rent Escrow Account Program.
REAP, used in other large cities like Los Angeles, is a program used to encourage the hasty resolution of renters’ complaints, according to the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department.
According to the City of Los Angeles website, tenants pay into an escrow account when a landlord fails to bring a residence into compliance with city codes within the allotted time. The landlord receives those withheld funds when the issue is resolved.
Greg Chen, a senior business major at CSULB, is a landlord in Long Beach. He said he supports the implementation of REAP.
“It would be much easier for the renters to get…necessary work done from the landlord,” Chen said.
Chen said he can recall an instance when he admitted that a repair on a garage door at one of his properties took too long. He said he believes REAP would help renters speed up resolution of similar issues.
Karin Ouk, a renter in Long Beach, said she had a landlord who never fixed anything she complained about. She said she was forced to pay out of pocket for necessary repairs and had money taken from her security deposit for the other repairs she reported that were left unfixed.
Ouk said she is not necessarily convinced REAP would be a complete solution for all renter issues.
“Some repairs are more than what the rent is,” Ouk said. “[For] example, updating a bathroom might be anywhere from zero to $10,000 depending what you doing and what repairs.”
In serious situations California renters may deduct money from their rent to pay for repairs, abandon an inhabitable residence or withhold rent until a repair is made according to the California Department of Consumer Affairs. In all of these cases the renter could be taken to court and would have to prove their situation justified their actions.
California law does protect tenants from retaliation from a landlord for exercising their lawful rights as a tenant.
The CSULB website directs students to the Fair Housing Foundation for information on renter’s rights. The Fair Housing Foundation offers various workshops including ones for tenant’s rights. The calendar for these events is on their website where students can RSVP for the workshop as well. Students may also use the website to submit renting and housing questions that they need answered.