‘We basically sleep with the roaches.’ South L.A. tenants sue
Nearly 100 residents of a large, troubled apartment complex in south Los Angeles have sued their landlord in recent months, alleging rampant pest infestations, faulty plumbing, inadequate electricity and heating and other significant livability issues.
The claims, made in three lawsuits filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court since December, reflect the deep frustration of Chesapeake Apartments tenants toward their landlord, Pama Properties. Though residents have long complained about the 425-unit World War II-era complex, the problems came to the fore last spring when city ordinance enforcement and public health officials discovered that sewage was leaking onto public lands outside of the apartments and deplorable conditions inside were drained.
“We’ve lived in these conditions for all these years,” Diana Dean, 35, said on the steps of the downtown Stanley Mosk courthouse before one of the lawsuits was filed last month. “We’re fed up.”
Dean has lived in a one-bedroom apartment with her husband and five children since 2019. She said her family had filed numerous complaints, but property managers hadn’t fixed power and bug issues.
“We’re basically sleeping with the roaches,” said Dean, who pays $1,678 a month in rent.
Dean and the other renters are seeking damages and civil penalties against Pama and its affiliates.
Michael Goldberg, a spokesman for Pama, said in a statement to The Times that the landlord is working to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its residents.
“While it is unfortunate that these allegations have been made against us, we will continue to work diligently to respond to all reasonable inquiries from tenants,” Goldberg said.
The complex, which stretches for 17 acres along Obama Boulevard and Rodeo Lane, consists of nearly two dozen two-story buildings built around courtyards and parking lots.
For the past five years, county health inspectors had found an average of more than three violations a month at the Chesapeake Apartments, the most residential properties in LA County during that time, according to a May 2022 analysis by The Times. Companies associated with Pama Properties President Mike Nijjar own more than $1 billion worth of real estate, primarily in Southern California. According to a 2020 LAist investigation, many of the properties had serious health and livability issues.
Last year, 16 Chesapeake Apartments tenants agreed to settle a habitability lawsuit filed in 2020 against Pama Properties. According to court documents, the tenants collectively received $520,000 in settlement.
Christofer Chapman was an attorney for those tenants and is now representing 42 others in a case filed in December. He said the landlord is ignoring its obligations to tenants.
“They’re such a big team and they really don’t care,” Chapman said. “These are owners who just operate like that.”
Goldberg, the Pama spokesman, said the landlord is providing needed housing for low-income residents to prevent gentrification and homelessness.
“We will not deviate from our mission to serve the unheard and underserved,” he said.
In 2017, the then City Atty. Mike Feuer sued Pama Properties and Nijjar over crime issues and reached a settlement that required security and livability improvements.
Early last year, city ordinance enforcement officials completed a biennial assessment of the Chesapeake Apartments and issued them a clean bill of health. But after an April 2022 Times story that uncovered serious ongoing concerns about the health and livability of the complex, city and county public health officials in the Chesapeake were re-inspected and eventually found more than 2,000 violations.
In the fall, the agencies eliminated the lion’s share of these violations. They pledged to continue to inspect all units on the property, including those where they were required to obtain search warrants.
Tenants have complained of shoddy repairs, such as: B. that the landlord puts new hinges on rotting wood cabinets and vinyl over floorboards that sag underfoot.
https://www.latimes.com/homeless-housing/story/2023-02-07/we-basically-sleep-with-the-roaches-tenants-sue-at-large-south-l-a-apartment-complex ‘We basically sleep with the roaches.’ South L.A. tenants sue