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Friday, March 27, 1998
Valley Edition
Section: Metro
Page: B-4

Leaky Roof Leaves Tenants Homeless;
Housing: Displaced residents demand repairs and a place to stay from
apartment manager.;


Tenants driven from their apartments by a leaky roof angrily confronted a building manager Thursday, demanding immediate repairs and a place to stay.  The eight-unit building in the 14800 block of Erwin Street was deemed
uninhabitable by the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety on Wednesday, more than two weeks after city building inspectors ordered the landlord to repair the leaky roof, according to David Keim, the city's chief
building inspector.

Following Tuesday night's heavy rain, the Red Cross provided shelter for about 30 displaced residents at a nearby hotel Wednesday night. But they had to check out by noon Thursday if they were unable to pay their own way, residents
said. Realizing they had no place to stay come nightfall, residents confronted representatives of Silverstar Realty, which has managed the building since January.

In a two-car caravan about six residents drove a short distance to the management company's offices at Van Nuys Boulevard and Sylvan Street. They were met by company President Yoram Stern and Jim Carter, a spokesman for
the building owner, whom he declined to identify.

Public records list M.N.E. Funding Inc. of Van Nuys as the property owner and Yocheved Druke as company president. Stern said the company is made up of a group of investors.

"Where are we going to go? To the park? Back to the apartment?" resident Fredy Zuniga asked angrily. "Where are we going to sleep? In this office? We are living like animals."

"I would like to tell you that we could pay for you to stay in a hotel, but I can't," Carter said.

"You don't have a checkbook?" barked tenant Charlene Giffin.

"I wish I had an answer for all of you," Carter said. "I am going to keep working on this."

Carter said the building owner is aware of the tenants' plight, but that he was not going to repair the roof without knowing for certain that he would later be reimbursed by his insurance company.

Stern blamed the lack of repairs on red tape within the owner's insurance company, Farmers Insurance Group, saying the roof could have been fixed weeks ago if the owner's claim had not been assigned to a new adjuster.

"We knew the rain was coming," Stern said. "We wrote letters telling them to hurry up and come out and fix the roof.

"This is not some big, bad landlord," Stern said, adding that the landlord was in the process of upgrading the building.

Tenant complaints about the roof prompted a city building inspector to issue an order March 9 for the landlord to repair the roof, Keim said. A second order was issued Wednesday.

The building's previous owner, who requested anonymity, said he sold the property in December, only six weeks after acquiring it, because it did not meet his standards, though it was livable.

"It was more than I wanted to deal with," he said. "I don't like properties that messed up."

Meanwhile, displaced residents spent Thursday seeking temporary housing through various relief agencies, friends and family.

"I have seven people in my family and I don't have any money," said Adan Corea, who missed work Thursday as a day laborer in Valencia. "I have friends, but they don't want us in their apartment when they're not there."

About 5 p.m. the Red Cross offered 22 residents shelter at Van Nuys High School, where they would be given cots and three meals a day, a spokesman said. Hotel rooms were too expensive, he said. He said it wasn't known where the residents would stay tonight.

"We have been working with the landlords and their insurance company to find a more permanent solution for the renters . . . but we haven't been able to resolve that as of yet," Radillo said.

PHOTO: Jim Carter, a spokesman for the owner of uninhabitable Van Nuys apartments, told residents: "I wish I had an answer for all of you."


Copyright (c) 1998 Times Mirror Company


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