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Koreatown landlord accused of targeting and harassing Latino and disabled tenants

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Latino families say they were told they would be evicted if their children played in the halls

Civil rights advocates have filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against a Los Angeles-based real estate firm accused of targeting, harassing, and trying to evict low-income and minority tenants from a handful of Koreatown apartment buildings, reports The Guardian.

The lawsuit claims Optimus Properties created an “illegal eviction scheme” to replace tenants in rent-controlled units with wealthier, younger people, and harassed Latino tenants and residents with mental disabilities. Optimus vehemently denies the allegations.

According to The Guardian, the advocacy group, which filed the suit on behalf of 15 tenants from five buildings, says the lawsuit:

“provides a window into the tactics of profit-driven real estate investors who are aggressively purchasing and “flipping” older buildings, accelerating gentrification, displacement and income inequality in cities across the US.”

The residents provided heartbreaking examples of how they were treated:

  • Latino families said they received notices that if their children played in the hall, they would be evicted. (When a group of mothers complained, they say they were told that management would “call immigration, social services and the police.”)
  • “The landlords in one building allegedly told tenants that the new managers ‘don’t want to rent to people with mental disabilities, that they should move, and that they belong in group homes.’”

The lawsuit also claims requests for repairs from rent-controlled tenants for issues such as vermin abatement and plumbing problems have gone ignored, but “freshly renovated units in good and sanitary condition [are provided] to new tenants who are English-speaking.”

Optimus’ director of construction and multifamily asset manager, Jerome Mickelson, told The Guardian via email that the allegations are false and that the company “categorically [denies] each and every such allegation.” He added that all the buildings’ tenants “are treated with respect at all stages of their tenancy.”

Read the full article from The Guardian here.