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Family on rent strike in Westlake is evicted after not paying rent

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“We regret having to take this action, but the tenant in this unit failed to pay rent for seven months”

Members of Burlington Unidos protest in front of their Westlake apartments on July 20 as part of an ongoing rent strike.
By Christian Monterrosa

A family of five participating in the Burlington Unidos rent strike in Westlake was evicted Wednesday after a jury ruled they violated their lease by refusing to pay rent.

Landlord Donald Crasnick and building owner Lisa Ehrlich filed a petition in Los Angeles Superior Court in March asking for an order to remove the tenants after they refused to pay rent increases. The family stopped paying rent, because they say they were living in substandard conditions.

“We regret having to take this action, but the tenant in this unit failed to pay rent for seven months,” said Robert Thaler, a spokesperson for property management company FML Management Co., in its first press release since the Burlington Unidos went on the media offensive.

A notice given to other tenants in the building immediately after Wednesday’s eviction says property managers would continue to enforce “eviction proceedings against the others refusing to pay rent,” but did not give a specific timeline.

In contrast to eviction notices, some tenants have been awarded rent reductions and repair orders by the court, according to the tenants’ attorney Elena Popp. That’s given other tenants hope, she says.

Tenants, who say they’ve been hit with price increases of $250 or more, are demanding the right to collectively bargain a new lease agreement.

In July, they accepted an offer from Ehrlich that would have increased rents by 7 percent, followed by another 7 percent in October. But negotiations fell through when tenants asked for families who had lost their cases in court be allowed to stay in their apartments.

“A number of false and misleading claims have been made by non-rent paying tenants about the condition of the building,” said Thaler in a statement. “The vast majority of residents are very pleased with the apartment buildings, their quality, upkeep and safety.

He says rents at Burlington had not been increased since 2008, and remained below market rate even after the recent increases.

“We are concerned that some of the 80 tenants who have been refusing to pay rent are getting bad and misleading advice from ‘tenant activists,’ who don’t understand rental contracts and property laws,” the statement says.

LA Tenants Union organizer Trinidad Ruiz said the evicted family will stay with other residents until the legal debacle is over.

“The only thing [Ehrlich] has succeeded in doing with this eviction is to reinforce a sense of indignation about how they’ve been treated over the past 15 to 20 years,” he said. “All of the buildings lack repairs, the sewage and the endless problems have culminated to this point and tenants are angry. They’re not scared anymore.”