“We basically sleep with the cockroaches.” South LA tenants sue
Nearly 100 residents of a large, troubled apartment complex in South Los Angeles have sued their landlord in recent months, alleging rampant vermin infestations, faulty plumbing, poor electrical and heating and other issues. significant habitability.
The claims made in three lawsuits filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court since December reflect the Chesapeake Apartments tenants’ deep frustrations with their landlord, Pama Properties. Although residents have long complained about the 425-unit World War II-era complex, the problems became public knowledge last spring when city code enforcement and public health officials discovered waste was dumped on public land outside the apartments and squalid conditions inside.
“We’ve been living in these conditions for all these years,” Diana Dean, 35, said on the steps of the Stanley Mosk courthouse downtown before one of the lawsuits was filed last month. “We’re fed up.”
Dean has been living in a one-bedroom apartment with her husband and five children since 2019. She said her family has filed numerous complaints, but property managers have failed to address electricity and vermin issues.
“We basically sleep with the cockroaches,” said Dean, who pays $1,678 a month in rent.
Dean and the other tenants seek damages and civil penalties against Pama and related entities.
Michael Goldberg, a spokesman for Pama, said in a statement to The Times that the owner is working hard to ensure the health, safety and well-being of its residents.
“While it is regrettable that these allegations have been raised against us, we will continue to work tirelessly to accommodate all reasonable requests made by tenants,” Goldberg said.
The complex, which spans 17 acres along Obama Boulevard and Rodeo Lane, has nearly two dozen two-story buildings built around courtyards and parking lots.
Over the past five years, county public health inspectors have found an average of more than three violations per month at Chesapeake Apartments, the most of any residential property in LA County during that time, according to a Times analysis of May 2022. Companies linked to Pama Properties Chairman Mike Nijjar own over $1 billion in real estate, mostly in Southern California. Many properties have had serious health and livability issues, according to a 2020 survey by LAist.
Last year, 16 tenants of Chesapeake Apartments agreed to resolve a habitability lawsuit filed in 2020 against Pama Properties. The tenants together received a $520,000 settlement, according to court records.
Christofer Chapman was the lawyer for those tenants, and he now represents 42 others in a case filed in December. He said the landlord ignores his obligations to the tenants.
“They’re so big and they really don’t care,” Chapman said. “These are owners who just operate that way.”
Goldberg, the spokesperson for Pama, said the landlord provides needed housing for low-income residents, which prevents gentrification and homelessness.
“We will not stray from our mission to serve the unknown and the underserved,” he said.
In 2017, then City Atty. Mike Feuer sued Pama Properties and Nijjar over crime issues, reaching a settlement that required safety and habitability upgrades.
Early last year, city code enforcement officials conducted an apartment assessment in Chesapeake that is required every two years and gave it a clean bill of health. But following an April 2022 Times article that revealed serious health and livability issues at the resort, city code and county public health officials underwent further inspections at the Chesapeake, ultimately identifying over 2,000 violations.
In the fall, the agencies eliminated the lion’s share of these violations. They pledged to continue inspecting all units on the property, including those where they needed to obtain entry warrants.
Tenants have complained of shoddy repairs after city and county investigations, such as the landlord installing new hinges on rotting wood cabinets and vinyl on floors that sag underfoot.
Los Angeles Times