Hueston Hennigan Halts Eviction of Disabled Elderly Tenant

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After 20 years as a tenant in the same South Los Angeles apartment, Maria, a disabled senior citizen, suddenly found herself in a dispute with her landlord and facing eviction. The apartment was one of few she could afford on her highly limited monthly income and she had a strong network of friends and neighbors in the community who provided crucial support. To fight eviction, Maria turned to Inner City Law Center for help.

Hueston Hennigan LLP partnered with the center, and Associate Zachary Elsea took on Maria's unlawful detainer case.

"After looking into the circumstances around the unlawful detainer action, we found that it was the landlord, not Maria, who had repeatedly violated the applicable regulations," Elsea said. "The landlord was attempting to evict our client for lawful actions she took in response to the landlord's violations."

For example, he continued, the landlord held Maria responsible for temporarily discarding an old toilet on the premises. In fact, her plumbing had malfunctioned and the landlord had not repaired or replaced the toilet as required, leaving Maria to do it instead.

When Elsea confronted the landlord with this and other derelictions, the landlord voluntarily dismissed the case. The Inner City Law Center handles roughly seven to 10 unlawful detainers a week, and for many tenants, the pro bono representation provided by Hueston Hennigan and other law firms is all that stands between them and homelessness.

"The threat of losing housing is monumental for the people we see," said Vidhya Ragunathan, the center's pro bono coordinator, and having representation makes a significant difference. "When you go down to the courthouse and you see the folks who are representing themselves, and you see how quickly those folks get evicted, and then you see what happens when you have somebody who can advocate on their behalf, that means a lot in terms of bargaining, negotiations and the final outcome."