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Wins Injunction Against Landlords in Section 8 Discrimination Case

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By Jorge Casuso

August 8, 2022 -- The City Attorney's office has won a stipulated judgment against three landlords who refused to accept a Section 8 housing voucher from a disabled senior who has lived in her apartment for 25 years.

Filed in February, the lawsuit alleged that landlords Jonathan Lee, Leon Lee and Jenny Lee committed housing discrimination against the tenant, who came off the waitlist for a Section 8 voucher in December.

The 69-year-old tenant was "a liver transplant recipient" who was "paying all but $198.00 of her monthly income on rent while using food stamps," according to the City Attorney's office.

The tenant was “just one unexpected expense away from losing her home” when the landlords allegedly refused to allow her to use the voucher.

Under the stipulated judgment, the defendants must accept the tenant’s Section 8 Housing Choice voucher and adopt a City-approved written fair housing policy for the rental units.

They also must complete a City-approved fair housing training and pay $20,000 for the tenant’s restitution and the City’s costs.

David Lim, the defendant's attorney, declined to comment on the case.

The lawsuit was filed under Santa Monica's pioneering 2015 law that added income source to a list of traditional housing discrimination protections such as age, race and gender.

The local ordinance closed a loophole in state law by making it clear that the federal rental assistance vouchers qualify as a person’s income. It also barred landlords for posting "No Section 8" ads.

Since then, the City Attorney's office has succeeded "at least twenty-three times" in stopping landlords from turning Section 8 voucher holders away or refusing to continue renting to them, officials said.

The local law served as a model for statewide legislation that went into effect in 2020.

“Closing the door on Section 8 discrimination opens many other doors for applicants and tenants,” said City Attorney Doug Sloan.

“The vouchers, this law, and our enforcement program are making a meaningful difference for rent-burdened Santa Monicans,” Sloan said.

Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades said landlords who refuse Section 8 tenants often cite the government paperwork involved and the inspections required.

Those who welcome Section 8 tenants are those with apartments "in that rent range" who can count of the steady rent payments assured by the vouchers.

"Ninety-five percent of those landlords have been great," Rhoades said.

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