In 1994, Mr. and Mrs. Tello moved into an apartment in LA’s Miracle Mile neighborhood—a rental that the owner had illegally converted into two units. The Tellos never used the second unit, which was regularly rented to other tenants. In 2016 the owner rented the second unit to the Tello’s daughter, and had her sign a lease for both apartments, combining the rents. When their daughter moved out in 2017, the owner demanded the Tellos pay the rent for both units, even though they had never lived in the second unit. This demand greatly exceeded any lawful increase under local rent control laws. The owner filed an eviction case against them for nonpayment of rent.
NLSLA attorney Andres Rapoport represented the Tellos in the eviction case and won on a summary judgment motion. The judge ruled that the Tellos were not bound by the lease that was signed only by their daughter, and that the owner violated the rent control laws. The owner appealed that ruling and the trial court’s granting of attorney fees to NLSLA. Andres won both appeals, but the owner did not give up. He sued the Tellos for breach of the lease that the court had already ruled invalid.
At that point, NLSLA filed a cross complaint against the owner for violating rent control laws and engaging in financial elder abuse, among other claims. While that case was making its way through the courts, the owner filed a second eviction case against the Tellos—again for not paying rent on the second unit. Less than a month later, after a year of litigation, Mr. Tello passed away at the age of 98.
Rather than continue to subject herself to a hostile living environment, Mrs. Tello settled the second eviction case and vacated the property in November of 2018. Determined to get Mrs. Tello justice for the harm she and her late husband had suffered, NLSLA moved forward with the cross-complaint, which finally settled in June. Four years after this saga began, Mrs. Tello was awarded $225,000 for the harm she suffered, and NLSLA received $225,000 in attorneys’ fees for the program—money it will use to protect more vulnerable tenants who are fighting to keep a roof over their heads.