A 102-year-old widow is being removed from her apartment in Ladera Heights, Los Angeles, California.
According to eviction notice given to her, she is being evicted so the landlord’s daughter can move in. The centenarian is given three months to vacate.
Thelma Smith received eviction notice on March 8 stating that she must vacate the single-family home where she has resided for nearly 30 years.
Her landlords said they were ending her month-to-month lease because their daughter is graduating from law school.
“The dwelling is needed as her principal place of residence,” the notice said.
Is the action legal?
The Los Angeles’ Rent Stabilization Ordinance shows that a landlord can legally evict a tenant to accommodate a relative’s housing needs. But the law indicates the person forced to leave first would be the tenant who has moved into a unit of comparable housing most recently. In greater L.A. County, where a temporary rent-stabilization policy for unincorporated areas went into effect in December, the law is weaker.
“They use this law to target long-term, low-paying tenants,” Executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, Larry Gross said.
He added: “It’s pretty outrageous and heartless to be evicting this woman.” “It just shows a perfect example of how tenants without strong rent-controlled protections are vulnerable to displacement and injustices.”
Pauline Cooper, a longtime neighbor of Smith’s, said that in the past year, at least one person has moved out of her friend’s small complex, which consists of three brown Craftsman-style homes with rock landscaping. Cooper didn’t know whether the once-empty space was occupied now, though.
“She’s been there a thousand years and is paying very low rent,” said Cooper, who has lived in the quiet neighborhood in the unincorporated area between Culver City and Baldwin Hills since 1999.
As part of the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance, relocation assistance is available for evicted tenants in L.A. who are 62 or older, are handicapped or disabled. But elsewhere in Los Angeles County, there’s no such help.
Smith, who did not wish to be interviewed, is relying on friends and faraway family to find a new place to stay, Cooper said. She has offered Smith — a widow she describes as “spry” — a bedroom in her own home, but Smith currently doesn’t want to go anywhere.
“I’m trying to get her settled,” Cooper said.
“The only thing I can say is that I’ve tried to live a good life,” Smith told KCBS-TV Channel 2 this week. “I never wanted to harm anybody.”
Smith, a former executive secretary for the Sugar Ray Robinson Youth Foundation, a nonprofit that has served underprivileged youths, recently celebrated her birthday in the home where she’s spent three decades.
The celebration may be her last there. She has until June 30 to vacate the property, her landlords say.
The woman’s situation has garnered the attention of many throughout the country, including former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who tweeted about his friendship with her.
Thelma has been a dear friend for a long time. Imagine doing this to a 102-year-old woman who gave back to the community her whole life. It is heartless. Thelma, I’ll be reaching out to help. Landlords, you’ll hear from me too. https://t.co/IJQrclGQ6I
— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) May 24, 2019
Sources: Msn, KCBS-TV, Los Angeles Times