Tenants Win Preliminary Injunction Against Owners of the Huntington Hotel for Discrimination and Illegal Rents
Attorneys at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and Steptoe & Johnson, LLP won a preliminary injunction yesterday that enjoins the Huntington Hotel owners from discriminating on the basis of source of income, disability and age.
The lawsuit was filed in December, 2011 on behalf of four displaced tenants and the community organization the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) . The Huntington owners, who bought the 200 unit building in September 2010, had displaced all but two tenants. After renovating the units, they are leasing up the property, but have refused to accept applications from anyone on public benefits, including testers sent by LA CAN.
The Court found that plaintiffs “submitted ample evidence that the Huntington has engaged in a practice of violating fair housing laws by discriminating against persons based on their source of income” and also that plaintiffs submitted “credible evidence that defendants have discriminated against elderly and disabled tenants.” Becky Dennison of LA CAN explained: “LA CAN members with disabilities had been turned away from the Huntington, being told the building was only for working people and students. Not only is this illegal, but completely disregards and disrespects the large community of people with disabilities in great need of housing in Skid Row.”
Plaintiffs had won a previous preliminary injunction that enjoins defendants from renting 50 units for market rates because under a city law, the rents cannot be increased above the amounts they were at while the building was in the Rent Escrow Account Program (REAP).
However, defendants have stated that they will not rent the lower priced units for a year until they are lawfully entitled to charge higher rental rates. “Los Angeles faces a shortage of affordable housing options, especially during these tough economic times,” said attorney Fernando Gaytan. “This landlord’s decision to purposefully keep this valuable affordable housing off the market when it is most needed only exacerbates the city’s housing crisis.”