Judgment requires landlords to accept voucher, pay $20,000 in restitution
By Sam Catanzaro
The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office has obtained a stipulated judgment and injunctions against three 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 offered to help the tenant, Liliana Dasic, stay in the home she had been in for 25 years.
The City’s lawsuit, filed in February of this year, alleged the landlords had 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.
“Ms. Dasic has been living in her rent-controlled apartment for twenty-five years and pays a controlled rent of $838.78, far below market rent,” reads the lawsuit. “If the Defendants can get Ms. Dasic out of the unit, they could raise the rent to market level, which, the City is informed and believes, is at least three times higher.”
According to the lawsuit, the tenant was “just one unexpected expense away from losing her home” in December of last year when she came off the waitlist for a Section 8 voucher. Section 8 Housing Choice vouchers. Her landlords allegedly refused to allow her to use the voucher.
In 2015 the City amended its fair housing law to ban such treatment of voucher holders. Since that law’s passage, the Public Rights Division of the City Attorney’s Office, often in collaboration with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, has 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.
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; and Payment of $20,000 for the tenant’s restitution and the City’s costs.