SANTA MONICA – A settlement agreement was made on Tuesday, March 4 following complaints of harassment and privacy violations from tenants at a 49 unit apartment complex.
According to Gary Rhoades of the Consumer Protection Unit in a news release from the City Attorney’s Office, several tenants had alleged that employees of the apartments had harassed tenants in many ways, including discrimination against Section 8 tenants, using security cameras to invade the privacy of those who lived there and promised commission to managers who were able to persuade tenants to leave the complex.
The City Attorney’s Office announced that the agreement that would have the property owners of AZ Shores and its property management firm, Wilshire Skylines, follow a number of different guidelines to prevent future complaints was drafted with help from the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) and the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
Under the agreement, both Wilshire Skyline and AZ Shores will agree to adopt a policy that would prohibit discrimination against all tenants, including those labeled as Section 8, while also restoring parking spaces to disabled residents. For disabled tenants, the apartments will now be required to have improved access for social workers.
LAFLA Senior Attorney Denise McGranahan said in a statement, “They deserve to live in a safe and affordable home, close to the many services that allow them to continue to live independently.”
The apartment complex will also have to adjust the line of view of all security cameras, adopt a policy that would limit the use of those cameras and draft procedures that would improve access to security footage in the event that it is requested by the city. Tenants will benefit from new policies that would clarify their rights to have guests.
“This is a great result for the tenants,” said Deputy City Attorney Rhoades. “It covers all aspects of their tendency. And we believe the privacy terms dealing with security cameras and guests are the first of their kind in the City and probably the country.”
Repair requests will have to be processed much faster than before, as per the agreement, and the apartment complex must provide its tenants with clear instructions regarding “bug remediation,” which has to include a notice for disabled tenants who “may need more help with moving during remediation,” according to the agreement.
Commission to employees for persuading tenants to move or give up their parking spaces will now be prohibited. Penalties dealing with tenant harassment under the city’s Tenant Harassment Law will be upped from $1,000 to $2,500 for any future violations.
“We are delighted for our clients, who can now find comfort in knowing that they will be treated properly and respectfully by their landlord,” said Jay Srinivasan of Gibson Dunn in a public statement.
For its part, Wilshire Skyline denied the original allegations made towards the complex in a press release from the firm’s legal team, even if they and AZ Shores face no liability, guilt or fault under the terms of the settlement. It noted that when the apartments were acquired back in 2012, the firm had worked to retrofit and repair the structure to the best of its abilities.
“It was never Wilshire Skyline’s intent to inconvenience these tenants or otherwise give them the impression that they are not welcome to stay in their homes,” said the company in the press release. “To the contrary, Wilshire Skyline was attempting to improve conditions at a building which had not been upgraded in many years.”
One aspect the company wanted to make clear was its cooperation. “Wilshire Skyline appreciates the professionalism of the City Attorney’s office, Legal Aid and Gibson Dunn in amicably resolving this matter and looks forward to continuing to work with these parties in the future.” The City Attorney’s Office and LAFLA will monitor the agreement for 10 years.