Tenant Unable to Pay Rent After Losing Job Alleges Landlord Retaliation

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Melrose District woman is suing her landlord, alleging she was harassed after telling the property owner she could not pay rent after being laid off during the early days of the coronavirus crisis.

Shanira Jackson's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges retaliation against a tenant for lawfully and peaceably exercising her rights under the municipal coronavirus protection ordinance, unlawful acts to influence a tenant to vacate, trespass, assault, battery, invasion of privacy and violation of the state Civil Code.

The complaint filed Friday against Mary Jane Kochoa and other anonymous defendants seeks hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

Kochoa could not be immediately reached for comment.

According to the plaintiff's court papers, Kochoa owns the duplex in the 700 block of North Harvard Boulevard, where leases are subject to limitations imposed by the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance, which also bans tenant evictions unless the landlord alleges and proves one of 14 permissible grounds for doing so.

Kochoa rents rooms in the duplex and each tenant has exclusive use of a bedroom with access to the kitchen, living room and bathrooms, the suit says. Jackson says she rented a room last October at $935 a month.

In March, Gov. Gavin Newsom authorized local jurisdictions to suspend some evictions of tenants in response to the coronavirus. Meanwhile, non-essential businesses, including restaurants, were ordered to close and Jackson was laid off from her job as a restaurant server, the suit states.

On April 1, after the City Council passed a law banning evictions of tenants unable to pay rent because their health or livelihoods had been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Jackson says she notified Kochoa that she did not have enough money for her rent.

Thereafter, Kochoa and the other defendants  ”began a series of acts designed to force Ms. Jackson to move out...,'' the suit alleges.

Kochoa went to the duplex and hit Jackson with her cane, the suit alleges. The plaintiff also claims Kochoa and the other defendants entered the premises many other times when she was asleep, though they had no reason to be there “other than to terrorize Ms. Jackson.''

The defendants shut off Jackson's hot water and electricity and put a camera in the living room of the duplex to watch the plaintiff, who was afraid to remove or cover the device, the suit alleges.

Kochoa and the others also drove their vehicles on the lawn to scare Jackson and posted a notice banning her from leaving her belongings anywhere other than in her bedroom, the suit alleges. Jackson also alleges she was not allowed to have guests and was told if anyone came, they would be “escorted out by the LAPD.''

Kochoa and the others also told Jackson to go to a homeless shelter “to protect herself'' and said they would be donating some of the rooms to health care workers and others who need places to stay due to the pandemic, the suit alleges.

Photo: Getty Images

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