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Santa Monica Launches Website for Disabled Tenants and Their Landlords

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By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

June 27, 2014 – The Santa Monica City Attorney’s office launched a new website Wednesday to help improve housing for tenants with disabilities.

The site, called “The Nifty Fifty,” provides information for both disabled tenants and landlords and includes 50 real-life anecdotes describing accommodations and modifications that can be made to housing.

The website already has ten tenant stories uploaded, and will add 40 more by National Fair Housing Month in April 2015.

“Every week in Santa Monica and all over California, tenants and landlords are coming up with inexpensive and nifty solutions to accommodation problems,” said Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades.

 “But also every week, other tenants and landlords are looking for information and examples to help them reach a resolution,” Rhoades added.  “By providing ‘The Nifty Fifty’ free and online, we are putting the many real-life solutions to work for everyone.”

Santa Monica tenant Juditte Erki says she could have used the website when she had an accommodation issue with her landlord.  

“’The Nifty Fifty’ is very helpful,” said Erki, “The website tells the stories of tenants who faced a problem in their home like I did, and then it shows you ways you might deal with it.”

Erki, who is a wheelchair user, had been parking her modified, ramp-equipped van in the same space at the Sea Castle Apartments for more than five years.  Her parking space was sized and marked for accessibility to wheelchair-users and it is the only type of parking which Erki can safely use. 

However, the Sea Castle changed the entire parking garage to a valet-only area.  The Sea Castle management notified Erki that she must either park in a city parking lot next door (where accessible parking is first-come, first-served) or purchase valet services at the unaffordable rate of $150 a month.

Erki could not find any resources to help request an accommodation to the new valet policy, so she turned to the Consumer Protection Unit (CPU), which accepts complaints for housing discrimination based on race, religion, disability and other protected classes,  for help.

“The CPU wrote a letter to Sea Castle for me, and I got to keep my parking space,” said Erki.

Had the website been available, she could have checked before calling, Erki said.

The website was created in response to a surge in disability cases in 2012, especially those in which a disabled tenant needs a change in the building’s rules or a modification to their apartment unit, according to Rhoades.

Also, existing online resources for these housing issues did not include real world examples, he said.

After consulting with the City’s Disabilities Commission, the CPU decided to create an online resource accessible from smart phones and personal computers.
The site’s content includes: 

  • An annually renewed list of 50 recent stories.
  • Brief hyperlinked summaries with detailed stories on a separate page.
  • Information on how to request an accommodation.
  • Links to other housing and disability resources.
  • A submit-your-own-story button.
  • Brief legal analysis of each example.
  • Summaries of the all-time top five California court decisions involving reasonable accommodations or modifications.

The website, which can be found at, was built by the City of Santa Monica’s Web Development Team and launched on June 26. 

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