Another landlord is being sued by City Hall for alleged tenant harassment.
This is the second case involving a landlord that city attorneys say is revoking parking spaces for tenants with disabilities filed by City Hall in less than a month.
According to their complaint, filed last week, the Ben Leeds Property Management company, landlord Fidel Alonso, and Crenshaw Two LLC, are failing to provide reasonable parking for two tenants with disabilities.
A representative from Ben Leeds Property Company who refused to give her name said the company would not comment on the lawsuit.
Alonso did not respond to requests for comment. Representatives of Crenshaw Two LLC could not be located for comment.
Attorneys allege that the landlords revoked parking spaces from two tenants, one that has been in her apartment on Seventh Street since 1982, and the other hasbeen there since 1995, and forced them to share a tandem spot.
“Under the landlord’s new parking regime, if one tenant goes out to her vehicle and finds herself blocked by the other tenant’s vehicle — a common occurrence with tandem spaces — then each time both tenants with disabilities would be forced to do more walking and climbing stairs to resolve the situation,” the complaint reads. “Foreseeing such situations, the tenants’ doctors verified that due to the nature of the disabilities, tandem spaces were not suitable.”
Landlords refuse to restore the original parking space, attorneys said in the complaint, a violation of a slew of state and local housing laws.
“I haven’t seen this before,” city attorney Gary Rhoades said, “where they tell the two tenants with disabilities that they are losing their parking spots and they’re going to have to share the tandem spots. The difficulty for those tenants becomes pretty obvious that they’re parking close to the units because they need it.”
Last month, City Hall filed a suit against a landlord who city attorneys say revoked the parking space of a long-time tenant with a disability without just cause.
These suits come after numerous discussions by the City Council and the Rent Control Board about how to curb rising complaints of tenant harassment. Santa Monica’s Rent Control law prohibits landlords from raising rents to market rate until a tenant has vacated the apartment. As property values rise the incentive for ousting tenants becomes greater for Santa Monica landlords.
Laws were tweaked last year, in theory making it easier for city attorneys to prosecute tenant harassment cases.
Residents who spoke at the meetings claimed that landlords had harassed them with the hopes pushing them out and raising rents.
“We’re seeing more reasonable accommodation cases where owners are either denying or delaying approval of the requested accommodations and it’s putting a lot of stress on tenants,” Rhoades said.
He said that City Hall has a few more of these types of cases in the works.
City Hall cannot defend a tenant in an eviction case but it can sue a landlord for violating tenant harassment laws, as it’s attempting to do in this case.