Los Angeles Tenants Face High Rents, Little Legal Help – CES on KPFK Radio
Mar 15 2012
Being a renter in Los Angeles can be difficult, but a group of local tenants are suing their landlord because they say the company is making it impossible to do the most basic thing a tenant does — pay rent. In September 2011 the Jones and Jones Property management company notified tenants at its 300-unit south LA Woodlake Manor Apartments that it would only accept online rent payments.* The Coalition for Economic Survival and Bet Tzedek Legal Services announced last week that a lawsuit against Jones and Jones was filed on behalf of the tenants, who want to retain the right to pay rent by more traditional means. Many of the plaintiffs are elderly, and some are self-identified as “computer-illiterate.”
Larry Gross, executive director of CES, said the online-only rent policy, “is nothing more than a scheme to target the long-term, low rent tenants for eviction to obtain higher rents.” His suspicion is well founded. Landlords file approximately 70,000 evictions in LA County alone every year, and tenant advocates say not all of the evictions are for fair, or even legal, reasons. The Woodlake Manor Apartments’ tenants have lived in the building for years and enjoy affordable rent, something they would be unlikely to find elsewhere. California rental rates are the second highest in the nation. According to a report just released by the National Low Income Coalition, California’s fair market rent for a two bedroom apartment is $1,350 a month, with San Francisco holding the distinction of highest rent nationwide at $1,900 a month. The NLIC found that affordable rent is that which takes up no more than 30% of a household’s income. For a California household to meet this affordability threshold, it must earn a estimated monthly income of $4,500 a month, but on average most tenants fall short by hundreds of dollars.
GUEST: Larry Gross, Executive Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival
For more information, visit www.cesinaction.org.
*ADDENDUM: Jones and Jones notified the thousands of tenants living in 34 of its buildings, of which Woodlake Manor Apartments was one, that rents would only be accepted online.