L.A. Renters to Split Cost of Earthquake Retrofits With Landlords Equally: Proposal

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The cost of making buildings strong enough to withstand a major earthquake should be equally divided between apartment owners and renters in Los Angeles, a compromise that could clear the way for mandatory retrofitting laws, according to a proposal from city housing officials.

Since L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti called for the most sweeping earthquake-retrofitting laws in California history, the big question this year has been who will pay for the costly upgrades. The issue has been complicated by the fact that many quake-vulnerable buildings are older apartments, with residents who say they are already living in one of the least affordable cities for renters.

Garcetti’s plans would require owners to retrofit thousands of at-risk buildings across the city -- the costs could be as much as $130,000 for a weak wooden apartment and millions of dollars for a taller concrete building. Tenants have worried that owners would be allowed to recoup all of the retrofit costs through huge rent increases.

In San Francisco, officials passed a landmark law in 2013 that required owners to retrofit vulnerable wooden apartment buildings but allowed the costs to be passed on to renters -- even those protected by rent control -- over a 20-year period. Exceptions have been made to help ease the burden on renters with the lowest incomes.

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