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South LA Landlord Crammed 44 Units Into Single Family House

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A man in Vermont Square has converted what Redfin says was originally a 1,172 square foot, two-bedroom, single family house into approximately 44 rental units, and the Department of Building and Safety gave him an updated certificate of occupancy just last month. The LA Times reported over the weekend that John Callaghan started construction on the house in 2008; in 2009, he got a temporary certificate of occupancy for three units. However, at some point, he "transformed the interior, a third-floor attic and a carport into a hive of rented bedrooms and shared kitchens and bathrooms." Lawyers for the tenants in those units estimate there are 44 units in the building; tenants paid "as much as $500 per unit." Shockingly enough, the conditions were not so good in the building, where tenants complained there were cockroaches and no heat, and that they were required to clean common areas.

The issues at the property were kicked back and forth between the Housing Department and Building and Safety over the past year (Housing gave abatement orders for several problems that were never fixed), and finally this past week Building and Safety found that the building's foundation might not be able to support its third story. Yikes. On Thursday, the Housing Department posted 30 day notices, "telling the landlord that he must empty the units, bring the property up to code and pay relocation assistance to displaced residents." A spokesperson for City Councilmember Jan Perry says the city might have to front the landlord the relocation money, which could come to about $300,000.

Meanwhile, remember the Building and Safety inspectors who were caught taking bribes earlier this year in an FBI sting operation? "Records show both inspectors worked on preliminary stages of the construction at [the Vermont Square building], although no evidence has surfaced of bribery in this case."
· Tenants ordered to relocate as officials investigate safety of converted home [LAT]