Most of us have had a frustrating situation with a business or a customer, or a landlord or a tenant, and thought, “Someone ought to do something about this!” The good news is that if you’re in Santa Monica, there’s an agency available to help with many of the vexing consumer and housing issues that happen every day.

We’re the Consumer Protection Division of the City Attorney’s Office. We’re dedicated to promoting fairness in Santa Monica through education and enforcement of the law. Our attorneys and staff serve the community in these key areas:

Tenant Harassment – As long as tenants are paying rent on time and obeying the rules, they should be left in peace. Unfortunately, some landlords try to force out rent-controlled tenants so they can bring in higher-rent, market-rate tenants. We enforce Santa Monica’s Tenant Harassment law, which makes it illegal for owners and managers to harass tenants in certain ways.

Fair Housing – We enforce laws that bar discrimination in housing on the basis of race, religion, disability, and other factors. Much of our work involves helping tenants with disabilities. The law says that landlords have to adjust their policies and sometimes make changes to the property itself, to assure disabled tenants have equal access. We’ve come up with some pretty creative solutions to help make this happen.

Consumer Protection – We use California’s false advertising and unfair competition laws to make sure Santa Monica businesses follow the law and don’t rip off consumers. We’ve brought cases against all kinds of businesses, from small local stores to huge national companies.

Smoke-Free Laws – We provide education and help enforce local laws on smoking in residential buildings and public places. We’ve helped Santa Monica pioneer many of the nation’s leading smoke-free policies, including being the first American city to prosecute bars for allowing smoking.

Education – We help tenants, landlords, consumers, and business owners understand their rights and responsibilities. We can’t represent people directly, but we can give referrals and information about the law. We also do community outreach, including a fair housing workshop every April and a landlord-tenant forum each December.

We also help enforce the labor laws in Santa Monica (including wage theft); we work to ensure that election rules are followed; and we collaborate with agencies throughout California on other issues, including statewide consumer protection cases.

The Consumer Protection Division serves the entire Santa Monica community – tenants, landlords, consumers and businesses. Visit our website, to learn more about what we do, how we can help and how to file a complaint.

Future columns in this space will focus on many of the issues we handle. We’ll write about the topics that generate the most questions and complaints. Look for future columns about tenant harassment, rent payment, emotional support animals, security deposits and other issues of interest.

If you have a question or complaint, we want to hear from you! Call (310) 458-8336, or email to consumer.mailbox@smgov.net.

The City Attorney’s Consumer Protection Division enforces the law and educates the public about tenants’ rights, fair housing, consumer protection and other issues. They can be reached at (310) 458-8336 or smconsumer.org.

—Submitted by Adam Radinsky

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