The property owner and management company of a 48-unit apartment complex on Fourth Street in Santa Monica has settled for $85,000 a tenant’s lawsuit that alleged his unit was damaged with water leaks and mold, causing him to suffer health effects.
Beau Rivage, LLC, property owner of the complex at 808 Fourth St., near Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, and the management company RHB Management, agreed last month to pay tenant Hugo Martinez $85,000, including attorney fees, to settle his complaint, said Robb Strom, Martinez’s attorney.
The tenant, who filed the lawsuit in May last year, initially sought $250,000, but both parties came to an agreement for the lesser amount prior to going to trial.
“I think the settlement was fair, given all of the habitability issues Mr. Martinez had to deal with,” Strom said.
While the property owner and management company did not admit any wrongdoing in the case, the insurance company representing the defendants viewed the settlement as a way to cut its losses in “exchange for a guaranteed result” of avoiding the trial process, said attorney Chris Bagnaschi, who represented Beau Rivage and RHB.
Martinez, who has lived at the complex since 1995, claimed in the lawsuit that water leaks developed in a number of locations in his unit but after he contacted the management company, it failed to fix the problem in a timely manner. As a result of multiple leaks, the apartment suffered water damage and mold developed around the unit, the complaint said.
The tenant claimed that his exposure to the conditions caused him to experience health effects including skin rashes, difficulty breathing and depression. The apartment experienced various other poor conditions, including termites, holes in the living room ceiling and a deteriorated balcony, some of which were violations cited by the Santa Monica Building and Safety Department.
The lawsuit alleged that despite the tenant’s reports of unsanitary conditions, the defendants ignored the request for repairs until after Martinez retained counsel and the property owner was cited by the city. Any repairs that were made were “intentionally insufficient,” consisting of painting over water damage, the complaint said.
The defendants did not dispute the claim that Martinez was impacted by the water damage but they wanted to investigate the other claims of mold and health effects, Bagnaschi said.
“The plaintiff was inconvenienced by water intrusion into his unit,” Bagnaschi acknowledged.
The defendant attorney said once the companies became aware of the issue, they responded by temporarily relocating the tenant while repairs were made to his apartment.
Strom said that about nine other apartment units at the complex had also experienced varying degrees of problems, some of which were cited by the city. The tenants of those apartments arranged resolutions with the landlord, while Martinez was the only resident to file suit, Strom said.
As a result of the settlement, the previous claims against the defendants have been dropped and the landlord and tenant will continue with the lease agreement, Strom said.