For this edition of LA Law, I’m going to focus on renters’ rights via an open letter to one of my neighbors. Thanks for bearing with me.
Dear Crazy Lady:
You yelled at me yesterday for making too much noise. When I started laughing, making you even angrier, I realized that you totally failed to see the irony of all this. Let me explain.
My girlfriend and I, as the tenants right above your unit, are easy targets for you. For example, you drunkenly jaunt up the stairs at midnight to pound on our windows and doors while you rant about something that happened three months ago. If we ask you to leave, you yell and scream about how awful we are, and, more importantly, will not leave. You corner us, at all hours, with random questions. For once and for all:
- No, we will not help you look for your cell phone. I do not know where it is.
- Yes, I know you love animals. Yes, your cat really does have fleas.
- No, we do not think you are beautiful. No, the reason we are having problems with you has nothing to do with how jealous we are, or are not, of your beauty.
- Corollary to above: Please do not leave your apartment wearing only your teddy. Ever.
The Notice to Evict posted on your door, and where you can get free legal help, after the jump.
I know you think that we are out to “get you,” as you said (yelled) at me the other day as I was checking my mail. But, that’s not true. Our entire apartment complex is out to get you. Apartment A has told you repeatedly to not waltz into their apartment without knocking or permission. Apartment B does not ever want to see you naked under a trench coat again. All of us with pets are pretty sure you will take one of our dogs, like that time you unleashed Scout* the beagle from Apartment C’s lawn and took him to your unit. Thanks to you, I have the Santa Monica PD on my speed dial (number 3, right after my mother and my girlfriend, but before my best friend) (sorry, C.).
I understand that you may be depressed, an alcoholic, and/or abusing some prescription drug, but we all have been more than understanding, patient, and forgiving. It was only a few months ago that we started to overload the building manager and owner with our complaints. Most recently, I told him that unless he did something to curb your behavior, he was permitting an ongoing nuisance and breaching the warranty of quiet enjoyment that he made to us when we moved in. This is why you found a Notice to Quit taped to your door two weeks ago.
But, you have resources. There are a number of public interest organizations that provide low-cost or free legal assistance to renters being faced with eviction, even if they’re like you and really have no defense. This is the last favor I’m doing for you, besides not calling the police:
- BASTA: BASTA’s motto is “If the landlord wants a fight, we’ll give the landlord a fight!” Probably one of the most visible public interest organizations dedicated to tenants’ rights and advocacy, BASTA offers its services to tenants experiencing a whole host of problems, from getting your security deposit back to hardcore class action suits against slumlords. Fees are based on a sliding scale. Call to (213) 736-5050 to see how you can obtain their assistance.
- Eviction Defense Network: The EDN is dedicated to helping tenants who have been served eviction notices, and they also provide consultations for other tenancy-related issues. They have a daily walk-in clinic; first-time clients must arrive by 3pm to obtain same-day service. All the documents you should bring with you is listed here. Consultations are $60, services for attorney representation are based on a sliding scale, and other, a la carte-type services are based on a fee schedule. Drop by their clinic in MacArthur Park or call (213) 385-8112 for more information.
- Coalition for Economic Survival: I know, the name of this organization sounds a bit dramatic, but it nonetheless provides a valuable service. It hosts two legal clinics for tenants with basic landlord/tenant issues on Wednesdays at 7pm and Saturdays at 10am in West Hollywood. There are no income restrictions, and no one is turned away for lack of funds. (213) 252-4411.
- Santa Monica Renters’ Rights Hotline: This is not a legal service, but they do provide general advice to Santa Monica renters navigating the myriad of pro-tenant rent control laws. I actually gave them a call when I had my problems; while they were only marginally sympathetic to my attempt to do something about you, they did provide useful advice about the eviction process generally. This service is free; you leave a message with your issue, and a volunteer calls you back. I know, super old school. Hotline: (310) 394-0848.
- Bet Tzedek: Good old Bet Tzedek has an eviction defense practice. There are strict income requirements, however; call (323) 939-0506 for an appointment.
- Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice: The Housing Law Unit offers tenants a range of services, from consults to court representation. They focus on eviction defense, substandard living conditions, and full-scale litigation against slumlords. Finally, the organization operates an Eastside Housing Clinic, which provides free legal assistance every Monday and Wednesday afternoon. Appointments are necessary; call (323) 980-3500. You must meet their income requirements to qualify for assistance.
I am sorry that it had to come to this, but we really did the best we could to deal with your issues. Hopefully, you will find peace and let us have ours.
* Not the beagle’s real name.