Earlier this month, the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office successfully resolved a case involving a disabled 88-year-old man who had been forced to vacate his Santa Monica apartment for almost a year.
Since April 21st last year, the tenant had been displaced so that the landlord could make repairs required by a city compliance order, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
The tenant has been living with his sister in Laguna Niguel, about 70 miles away from the Santa Monica apartment which has been his home since 1969.
When apartments become uninhabitable and tenants are forced to leave for more than 30 days during the repairs, Santa Monica law requires landlords to provide their tenants with temporary apartments that are located in Santa Monica, according to the city attorney.
If the displacement is less than 30 days, landlords must make daily payments to compensate tenants for temporary housing, meals and other expenses.
As a result of being displaced from his home, the tenant in this case had to live without most of his belongings; reschedule or cancel his doctors appointments, most of which were in Santa Monica; and live with the stress of not knowing if or when he could return to his apartment, the City Attorney’s Office alleged.
Initially, the landlord refused to pay any relocation benefits to the tenant, refused to accept his rent payments and refused to acknowledge his right to return to his unit, the City Attorney’s Office alleged.
After months of impasse, a family member of the tenant finally complained to City Hall, the City Attorney’s Office says.
Last week, the City Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit settled the case with the landlord, who agreed to pay the tenant $15,928 in relocation fees, and to fully comply with the other provisions of the City’s Relocation law.
“When we learned of this situation, we immediately contacted the landlord to advise her of the law and get her side of the story,” said Paula Rockenstein, the city’s Consumer Affairs Specialist.
After learning that the city was poised to file a lawsuit to enforce the law, the landlord agreed to pay the tenant for his time out of the apartment.
“Once the landlord realized that the relocation law applied to her — and that the city would enforce that law — the parties came to a swift resolution,” reported deputy city attorney Eda Suh.
The settlement agreement provided that:
ï the landlord pay the tenant $15,928 to compensate the tenant for the 11 months he has been displaced, in lieu of the comparable housing required by the law.
ï the landlord continue to pay the tenant the equivalent value of comparable housing until the tenant moves back into his apartment;
ï the landlord accept rent payments from the tenant;
ï the landlord acknowledge the tenant’s right to return to his unit upon completion of the repairs; and
ï the landlord make timely progress on the repairs to the building to ensure that the tenant is able to return to his apartment as soon as possible.
“It turned out that both the landlord and the tenant were unclear about the relocation law and all of its requirements,” said Suh. “It’s a great example of how educating our residents about the law can help to bring these problem situations to a good resolution.”