The Real Deal Los Angeles

Rent strike fallout in Westlake: FML Management opens new eviction cases

Tenants at 3 buildings had refused to pay rent after citing unsanitary conditions
November 19, 2018 09:00AM

In September, tenants at three Westlake apartment buildings declared victory after a months-long rent strike. Or so they thought.

Landlord FML Management has opened 16 new eviction cases since announcing it would drop all eviction cases against tenants who participated in the strike, according to Curbed. The property management firm said those tenants, who cited unsanitary conditions at the units, are still not paying rent or are allowing people to live with them who are not on the lease. The properties are at 131, 143 and 171 South Burlington avenues.

What has followed since the strike ended sheds light on the consequences of such an action by tenants, especially when public interest wanes. Rent strikes in Los Angeles have become an increasingly common response to climbing rents.

Tenants at the buildings went on strike in the spring after a $250-a-month rent hike, arguing they couldn’t afford such an increase and that the building had a litany of problems, including rodents and mold. Eighty-five of the 192 units withheld rent at the start of the strike. The tenants called themselves Burlington Unidos for the building’s address. The Los Angeles Tenants Union helped organize and publicize the strike.

The strike ended with no agreement over back-rent due or future rent increases. Burlington Unidos attorney Elena Popp said that the tenants sought an agreement with FML to reduce back rent owed, according to Curbed.

Tenant Alba Arevalo, who helped lead the strike, believed she wouldn’t have to pay rent she withheld once the eviction cases were dismissed. Meetings between the tenants and the L.A. Tenants Union have ceased since the eviction cases were dropped, although a representative for the group said it would turn its attention back to the Burlington Unidos now that voters rejected Proposition 10, which would have opened the door for increased rent control statewide.  [Curbed]Dennis Lynch