“Tenants File Lawsuit Against Owners of Downtown Hotel”
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Attorneys at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and Steptoe & Johnson, LLP yesterday announced that they have filed a lawsuit against the owners of a downtown hotel on behalf of displaced tenants and the Los Angeles Community Action Network.
The attorneys claim the owners of the Huntington Hotel—Rodney Goldberg and Richard Stromberg—evicted a majority of the existing low-income tenants after they bought the building in September 2010. The long-troubled building at 752 S. Main St. has been the subject of similar litigation under prior ownership.
These tenants, the majority of whom were disabled, were evicted without proper service, usually not finding out about the eviction until the sheriff was at their door, or harassed into leaving with far less than the legally required relocation amount, the attorneys contend.
Named plaintiff Edward Mason, who is recovering from colon cancer, allegedly was harassed and threatened until he felt he had no choice but to leave. He was given only $3,500, even though he was legally entitled to over $18,000, he alleges.
The complaint also asserts that the Huntington in October began showing the renovated property to prospective tenants, telling them that rents went as high as $1100 even though rents cannot be increased above the level they were at while the building was in the Rent Escrow Account Program, which averaged about $500.
The lawsuit seeks to restrain the Huntington from leasing up until the legal rental amounts can be determined, and to permit displaced tenants who were wrongfully evicted back into their units.
Becky Dennison, co-director of Los Angeles Community Action Network, warned that the Huntinton’s 200 units “ will be lost to the low-income community if we don’t stop this now,” as “our members and longtime Huntington residents can’t afford the illegal rents.”
Barbara Schultz, directing attorney of LAFLA’s Housing Unit said she was “shocked that despite our recession and its impact on our poorest and most vulnerable citizens, these actions continue to be taken by landlords and owners.”
She vowed that her organization “will continue to fight to preserve affordable for poor and low-income tenants.”