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October 3, 2014: Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles to Pay $3.3 Million for Settlement of Lawsuit Brought by Public Housing Residents
Los Angeles, CA, October 2, 2014 - In a case where NHLP served as co-counsel, Federal District Judge George H. Wu entered a preliminary approval order today for a $3.3 million settlement between public housing residents and the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles. The settlement culminates over two years of litigation brought on behalf of a class of more than 9,000 current and former residents in 14 public housing developments in Los Angeles.
The lawsuit claims that the housing authority had overcharged rents for years by failing to include the cost of trash fees to the residents when calculating their rent, in violation of federal law. The lawsuit also alleges that the housing authority has breached its lease with public housing residents by not itself providing for trash removal.
A majority of residents are charged $24 per month for trash collection, a significant dent in their monthly budgets. Under the terms of the settlement, most residents will be reimbursed for the rent overcharges from March 2008 until February 2012, when the housing authority began including an allowance for trash fees in the rent calculations. A smaller number of residents will be reimbursed for their actual payments for trash collection from March 2008 through April 2014.
The named plaintiff, public housing resident Marco Galindo, commented: “Residents are facing difficult choices every month – between paying the utility bill, the full amount of rent, or buying food. This settlement will help make those choices a little easier.”
“Metro Los Angeles is the country’s least affordable rental housing market - this settlement will help public housing residents meet expenses and keep their housing,” observes attorney Navneet Grewal, Senior Attorney with the Western Center on Law and Poverty.
In addition to monetary relief, the settlement agreement provides that the housing authority will attempt to contract with a lower cost servicer for trash collection and that hundreds of tenants who are continuing to pay for trash collection without a corresponding reduction in rent will be reimbursed by the housing authority after the final settlement is approved.
District Judge Wu has set February 26, 2015, for the hearing to decide whether to give final approval to the settlement. “The settlement is a good one,” says Robert Newman, Senior Counsel with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, adding that “many class members stand to receive payment in the hundreds of dollars.”
The residents are represented by the Western Center on Law and Poverty, Arnold & Porter, LLP, the National Housing Law Project, and the Los Angeles Center on Law and Justice.