There are only two elevators in the 260-unit building known as Cathay Manor in LA’s Chinatown, and neither of them works. The first elevator broke down in May, forcing the building’s 300 tenants—all of them over the age of 60, and many in their 80s and 90s—to cram into one elevator in the midst of a pandemic. Then the second elevator stopped working, and tenants, many of whom depend on walkers and wheelchairs to get around, found themselves trapped inside, unable to walk safely down the emergency stairwells of the 16-story building.
After months of trying to call attention to the broken elevators and other problems in the building—including a lone laundry room that has been closed since March—NLSLA is representing tenants in a lawsuit against the owners and managers of Cathay Manor, a federally-subsidized building for low-income seniors. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed earlier this month, include Long Thai, an 81-year-old tenant who lives on the thirteenth floor, Zhuo Chun Lin, an 80-year-old tenant on the fourteenth floor, and Dot Pot, an 85-year-old on the fifth floor.
“Despite receiving federal subsidies to provide safe housing for low-income seniors, the owners and managers of Cathay Manor have engaged in a years-long pattern of abusive behavior that has significantly escalated in the last few months,” said NLSLA attorney Ana Zuniga. “It is unconscionable to force disabled seniors to climb low-lit, dangerous stairwells while others are trapped in their apartments for weeks at a time.”
After tenants complained, the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department ordered the landlord and management company to repair the elevators and laundry machines no later than September 3, 2021. The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety issued a similar order, requiring all repairs be completed no later than September 6. Both of these deadlines passed, and no repairs were made. But just one day after the lawsuit was filed, city officials sent someone to repair the elevators.
Thanks to NLSLA’s advocacy, the tenants are beginning to get their housing rights restored.