MID CITY — Four Santa Monica tenants have filed suit against landlord Jerome Nash alleging that Nash harassed them and refused to make repairs in an attempt to force them out of their homes.
The lawsuit alleges that the tenants — Judy Lorden, Louis Levine, David Dondick and Dondick’s 14-year-old daughter — lived in apartments in a building on the 1000 block of 12th Street that were infested with mold and termites, had leaking gas lines and broken plumbing.
Furthermore, the tenants allege that Nash, who has significant property holdings in the Los Angeles area, berated them, calling them names and even threatening Levine’s livelihood.
The lawsuit also names Nash’s longtime property manager Daniel Bleiberg, who was in charge of the property between 2000 and 2010.
The goal of the mistreatment, according to the complaint, was to force the residents out of their homes which, under rent control laws, could then be rented out at market rate.
Since at least one of the tenants has lived at the building for 17 years, the rents could be substantially more if a new tenant moved in.
Nash has denied all charges, and filed a countersuit claiming that the tenants were responsible for the damage to the apartments.
“All of the plaintiffs are longtime residents of the building, and in two of the cases have over the course of time caused a lot of damage in their apartments,” said Gary Fidone, Nash’s attorney.
According to Fidone, both Dondick and Levine let problems in their apartments go for long stretches of time, problems that eventually caused worse damage than they would have had they been addressed early.
There is also evidence that problems in the apartments have been taken care of within a day or two, Fidone said.
The lawsuit stretches back two years, although conditions for tenants became significantly worse in the last year, said William Litvak, attorney with Dapeer, Rosenblit & Litvak LLP.
In that time, the tenants have suffered emotional distress, he said.
“People don’t understand how devastating it is when you don’t have peace in your own house,” Litvak said. “It’s very disconcerting.”
The complaint asserts that Nash had conducted a “reign of terror” against his tenants.
In addition to letting the units decline and verbally abusing the tenants, the lawsuit further details allegations that people were allowed to park in Levine’s driveway, cause damage to Lorden’s car and others were let into the various apartments without permission.
The tenants hope that the lawsuit will allow them to live in peace and have their units maintained, Litvak said. They also want to be compensated for the stress and other damages.
“We also ask for the court to make an example out of this landlord,” Litvak said.
Nash has not escaped headlines in his time as a real estate owner in Los Angeles.
In 1984, he sued City Hall for the right to take his rental properties off of the market, a request he was denied until the Legislature passed the Ellis Act in 1985.
The Ellis Act specified that landlords had the right to kick tenants out of their apartments and close the building down.
Most recently, he got in a public disagreement with West Hollywood officials when he used the Ellis Act to shut down the landmarked El Mirador apartment building.