REAP Endures Legal Challenges

In the City of Los Angeles, REAP (which stands for "Rent Escrow Account Program") is an administrative project that comes from the Los Angeles Municipal Code. Employees of the Los Angeles Housing Department will identify a property for the program based on specific indicative criteria, such as a failure to restore the property to habitability by the landlord. When a property qualifies for the REAP program, the tenant pays a reduced amount for rent. The Housing Department determines the amount of rent that the tenant pays based on the habitability violations.

What Are REAP Escrow Accounts?

REAP allows gives tenants the ability to pay their rent into an escrow account rather than directly to the landlord. In instances like this, tenants will not send their monthly rent directly to the landlord, but will instead deposit the money into a REAP escrow account established and maintained by the Housing Department. Either the landlord, the Housing Department, or the tenant can withdraw funds paid into the REAP account to repair the identified and preapproved habitability issues that have occurred on the rental property.

What Specific REAP Issue Did Landlords Over?

In Sylvia Landfield Trust v. City of Los Angeles, there was a quartet of landlords who owned individual apartment complexes which were each placed into the REAP under the codified parameters established by the Los Angeles Municipal Code. According to the complaint that was filed by the four landlords in district court, the placement of their property into REAP constituted a violation of their due rights. The claim filed in district court was dismissed, and the appellate court affirmed the decision of the district court.

Does REAP Violate Due Process Rights?

To determine whether the placement of their respective properties into REAP had violated the due process rights of the four landlords, the court considered whether Los Angeles had placed the rental dwellings into REAP to accomplish a goal related in some rational way to a legitimate government concern or purpose. Since the group of people who qualify as "landlords" do not qualify as a protected class, and the ability to rent housing that is not eligible as habitable is not a guaranteed right, the court reviewed the case on a rational basis.

Does REAP Accomplish a Legitimate Goal?

To survive the challenge presented by the four landlords who argue that the placement of their respective apartment buildings in REAP constituted a violation of their due process rights, the court had to determine whether the action undertaken by the City was reasonably related to a legitimate goal. Because providing habitable and safe housing is a reasonable goal and the REAP process is rationally related to accomplishing that goal, the appellate court determined that the complaint brought by the landlords was dismissed correctly, affirming the decision made by the district court.

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