The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office and the owner and manager of a 60-unit apartment building have finalized a settlement agreement regarding harassment complaints filed by tenants at the building.
The complaints arose after owner M West Holdings, LLC, bought the property at 3111 Fourth St. in July 2012 and hired Scott Properties Group, Inc. to manage the building, Deputy City Attorney Eda Suh said. Tenants claimed that the property owner and manager attempted to empty the building of rent-controlled tenants so they could remodel and re-rent the units at much higher rents.
Among the allegations were that the owner and manager unilaterally changed lease terms, including charging $250 for replacement keys, limiting hours of access to laundry facilities,
discontinued the practice of allowing tenants to pay rent onsite and failed to oversee construction at the property.
Tenants also alleged that the landlord refused to respond to tenant questions and complaints.
As a result of a three-session mediation through the Center for Civic Mediation, a settlement agreement was reached between the city and the owners and their attorneys.
Under the settlement, the owner agreed to terms such as rescind the most problematic new house rules, hire an onsite construction manager who will serve as liaison with tenants, follow a strict protocol for responding to tenant complaints, and ensure that all tenants may use the same methods for paying rent.
“This is a good and fair result,” said Suh. “We appreciate the owner and the tenants working with us to resolve this difficult case. We got results much faster than if we had been forced to pursue litigation against the owner.”
Suh noted that other city departments have also worked to resolve problems at the property. The city’s Code Compliance Division is addressing repair and code compliance issues, while Rent Control Board staff are hearing rent decrease petitions regarding the loss of amenities, Suh said.
“New owners of residential buildings have the right to make improvements, but they also need to comply with our laws, including the tenant harassment ordinance,” said Suh.
The city will continue to monitor the property owner’s compliance with the agreement for a period of 12 months.