Renting an illegal apartment unit refers to the act of renting a unit that is not in compliance with local building and zoning codes and regulations. This could mean that the unit was built without proper permits, or that it is being used for a purpose that is not allowed by the zoning laws in the area. Illegal apartments may be hidden within legal buildings, or they may be standalone units. They may be difficult to identify, as they may not have visible signs of being illegal.

Illegal apartment unit

Illegal rentals are all over Los Angeles County, some are easy to spot while others are hidden.

Earlier this year I was kicked out of my own illegal rental in Downtown Los Angeles. I lost my job right after and to make it worst I didn’t know my apartment was illegal.

That’s a horror story for another time, but it was a universal takeaway: knowing what’s legal in your rental market can save you a lot of trouble as a renter in the long run.

Laws differ by location, so protect yourself by educating and researching the building and its local ordinances.

Here are a few red flags the apartment you’re about to rent is an illegal rental.

You’re renting a basement, cellar, or attic

Basement apartments might seem like a good deal since they are often cheaper. These types of apartments are “cheaper” for a reason. In cities like Los Angeles, where rent is high with a high demand for housing landlords sometimes take things into they’re on hands.

Start renting out your basements and attics but the problem with these units is that they don’t meet basic housing criteria. For example, in Los Angeles, an apartment unit has to have a minimum ceiling height of 7 feet.

A big giveaway is when a unit has low ceilings and tiny windows if you come across an apartment or room for rent like this definitely do more research on whether this space is legal to rent as a residence.

You’re renting a loft or converted warehouse

The industrial look that many lofts are known for has been on the rise since the late ’90s. Even though lofts have a cool look most of these former factories are illegal rentals because they aren’t up to snuff in terms of safety and fire codes.

So, ask the landlord for a residential Certificate of Occupancy, and beware of lofts where typical residential amenities like bathrooms, plumbing, and electrical seem hacked into the layout in a way that seems less than safe.

With the demand for more homes in the DTLA area, many of the old warehouses were converted into lofts. These homes rushed to meet the high demand.

Not enough windows, exits, or doors

If you’re renting a room or bedroom in a large apartment with other people make sure your “bedroom” is legit. A new law in California passed where landlords are now able to add different sections to an apartment unit.

These sections are usually converted into additional bedrooms. However, the problem with these types of conversions is that they are not required to pass an inspection.

The main problem with add-on sections is that they don’t have proper fire exits.  This is a major problem because they lack windows and doors, which is a big concern for most.

The garage

Renting a garage is a dead giveaway that your living space is an illegal rental. Renting a garage to live in is never a good idea; garages don’t have proper ventilation and may be a health risk.

It is common for many homeowners to convert a garage to an additional room to rent and make extra money but the problem with this is that homeowners don’t hire the proper constriction workers to pass inspection since it’s cheaper.

What happens when if someone gets caught living in an illegal rental unit?

If a tenant is renting an illegal apartment unit and is caught by the city the tenant will most likely be evicted. The landlord will be forced to give the tenant the security deposit but the tenant is still required to pay the rent that is due.