Pro tip: You don’t want to buy a building, only to find yourself in the middle of a war with the Los Angeles Housing Department (LAHD).
Under the standard California real estate sale contract between seller and buyer, the seller has a duty to disclose any on-going issues that may effect the value of the property, including any problems with regulatory agencies like LAHD. However, it is downright stupid to entrust yourself to the seller’s sense of honor or propriety in this regard.
Fortunately, LAHD does provide an online system for checking if there are problems with the building. Unfortunately, they make it kind of a pain in the ass to find.
So here’s how to do it:
- Go to http://lahd.lacity.org/
- Click on “Code Enforcement” on the left side of the page
- Click on “Prop Info / Complaints” in the gray window that opens on the left side of the page
- Click “Property Profile”
- In the boxes that appear: Type the street number and name of the street (exclude any directions, like “North” or “N.” and also the type of street like “Ave.” or “Dr.”
- Click on the address of the property
At this point, you’ll get a list of complaints, violatons, etc. Understand that almost all rental properties have had violations before, so you shouldn’t be scared off. But here’s what to look for:
- All complaints should include the words “Complaint closed” or “All violations resolved date”. If they don’t, they’re still open and you could be entering a world of pain;
- If you see the word “REAP”, proceed with extreme caution – this is a serious city program that you want to avoid unless you really know what you’re doing;
- If you see lots of complaints, you need to be aware of two potential issues, neither good: (i) the building could have a lot of deferred maintenance issues that will require you to spend money fixing, or (ii) there are one or more tenants who delight in causing trouble for the owner by calling in bogus complaints;
The city being the city, there is no guarantee that the list you see on the website is comprehensive. There could be complaints that have been made that have not yet made it into the system. But checking online is a good place to start and I highly recommend doing so BEFORE removing your contingencies on a property.