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Court Provides Huge Victory for Low Income Section 8 Tenants Facing Eviction

April 17, 2012

On April 12, 2012, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County ruled that Section 8 renters in the City of Los Angeles are protected by just cause eviction protections when landlords attempt to terminate their Section 8 voucher program (Housing Choice Voucher Program) contract. The court clarified that landlords may not terminate a Section 8 voucher contract in jurisdictions that have just cause eviction protections.

In the recent case of Tobias Crisales v. Monica Estrada, the landlord received a total of $950 per month in rent from the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) with the Section 8 tenant, Monica Estrada, paying $392 of the total rent.

The landlord, Tobias Crisales, wanted to evict the tenant in order to jack up the rent. The tenant was served a 90-day notice terminating the Section 8 contact citing it was for “business and economic reasons.”

After the 90 days were up the landlord then demanded the entire $950 rent from the tenant, an amount the tenant being of low income could not afford. The landlord than served the tenant with a 3 day pay or quit eviction notice. The tenant attempted to pay her portion of the rent, but the landlord refused to accept it.

The tenant was represented, pro bono, in this unjust eviction case by Michael Soloff of the high-powered downtown L.A. law firm of Munger, Tolless & Olson, together with Lane Nussbaum and Gurdeep Dhaliwal of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. The attorneys argued that the eviction was a violation of the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance’s (LARSO) just cause eviction provisions.

The landlord was represented by the notorious eviction attorney, Dennis Block.

In making its ruling, the court cited the previousd major tenants’ rights victory in the 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals ruling in BARRIENTOS v. 1801-1825 MORTON LLC, that Los Angeles’ rent control law is not preempted by federal laws or regulations.

That decision, which has had a national impact, specially provided Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) Section 8 tenants living at Morton Gardens Apartments in Echo Park protection against their landlord’s attempt to evict them. CES had been assisting tenants at that building for many years.

In this case, Tobias Crisales v. Monica Estrada, the court found that, “The general ground of a business or economic reason as stated in the plaintiff’s 90-day notice to defendant does not fall within any of the enumerated categories for eviction under LARSO.

Accordingly, the plaintiff’s notice failed to terminate the Section 8 tenancy, and therefore the plaintiff’s subsequent three-day notice was improper, and the plaintiff was not entitled to possession of the premises.

The bottom line is that this is another huge victory for low-income Section 8 families that have been threatened and faced unjust evictions.

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