SANTA MONICA—The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office obtained a stipulated judgment and injunctions against local landlords in a lawsuit where the city alleged the landlords refused to allow a low-income tenant the right to use her Section 8 Housing Choice voucher. The voucher represented rental assistance that was offered to help the tenant stay in her home of twenty-five years.

The city of Santa Monica indicated in a press release that they filed the lawsuit in February 2022, which alleged the landlords committed housing discrimination against the tenant who was 69 years old, disabled, a liver transplant recipient, and paying all but $198.00 of her monthly income on rent, while using food stamps.

According to the city’s lawsuit, the tenant was “just one unexpected expense away from losing her home” in December 2021 when she came off the waitlist for a Section 8 voucher. Section 8 Housing Choice vouchers, administered by City’s Housing Authority, provide monthly rental assistance for eligible low-income households. Her landlords allegedly refused to allow her to use the voucher.

In 2015, Santa Monica amended its fair housing law to ban such treatment of voucher holders. The ordinance was one of the very first in California to expressly prohibit landlords from turning away applicants with Section 8 vouchers or refusing to allow existing tenants to use theirs.

Since that law’s passage, the Public Rights Division of the City Attorney’s Office in collaboration with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles used it at least 23 times to turn landlords’ denials of vouchers into acceptances, helping those applicants and tenants get a new, affordable home or to remain in their present one.

“Closing the door on Section 8 discrimination opens many other doors for applicants and tenants,” said City Attorney Doug Sloan. “The vouchers, this law, and our enforcement program are making a meaningful difference for rent-burdened Santa Monicans.”

The judgment, signed by the parties and approved by Judge H. Jay Ford, III, includes the following requirements for the defendants Jonathan Lee, Leon Lee, and Jenny Lee:

-Accept the tenant’s Section 8 Housing Choice voucher.

-Adopt a City-approved written fair housing policy for the rental units.

-Complete a City-approved fair housing training.

-Payment of $20,000 for the tenant’s restitution and the City’s costs.

City of Santa Monica v. Lee is the fifth tenant protection case in just over eight months in which the Public Rights Division has obtained a judgment and injunctive relief.

Santa Monica’s fair housing ordinance prohibits a landlord from discriminating against tenants on the basis of source of income, disability, age, parenthood, pregnancy or the occupancy of a minor child.  For individuals with questions or fair housing complaints contact the Public Rights Division at (310) 458-8336.