Renters Say Landlord Leaving Them In Dark -- Literally

Know Your Rights When Renting

The ongoing storms are uncovering another big problem in San Diego. The rains are exposing the renters' rights issue.

Last week during the storm, a large portion of a eucalyptus tree came tumbling down and smashed windshields, poked holes in ceilings and knocked down power lines at a Linda Vista apartment complex.

Joel Cruz said it's always "tomorrow, tomorrow," when they call the landlord to fix the problems. It's been more than one week and tenants still don't have electricity.

As desperate residents try to find a source of power, electrical cords criss-cross the complex. But in some cases, the cords are dangerously submerged in water.

Residents have also tied up power lines with ropes creating another hazard. People who live in the complex said Bernard Lewis, the property owner, is to blame.

Lewis blames the electrical company and San Diego Gas & Electric for the slow response. But tenants say this is typical.

"You know if the landlord's house lost power, he or she would take care of it right away," said one of the tenants.

SDG& said they received a call from the location Wednesday, Dec. 29 at about 8 a.m. and restored service by 1:30 p.m. They said that in that complex, power travels from building to building and while power was restored to the first building, it was the owner's responsibility to repair the lines between buildings.

SDG& said they do place locks on some meters to keep them from being removed. Since private repair crews sometimes need to work on equipment that requires that meters be removed, SDG& routinely sends out a troubleshooter to replace the locking rings around the meters. SDG& has no record that anyone has called us to remove rings at this complex in the last week.

Steven Kellman is an attorney who works with tenants who are having problems with their landlord.

"Adequate housing, weather protection, electrical, hot and cold running water are certain basic standards. If they don't get these standards, they do have a right to stand up and complain and have the landlord make repairs," Kellman said.

Kellman said people like the residents at the Linda Vista apartments should put their complains in writing. If the problems aren't taken care of, they should call the city and other agencies who can help them get results.

Kellman said even people who are undocumented have the same rights as legal residents.

For more information on tenants rights and the Tenants Legal Center, visit www.tenantslegalcenter.com.

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