Inner City Law Center Files Lawsuit Against Otsego Villas Owners and Managers Over Uninhabitable Living Conditions 

On Monday, July 1, Inner City Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of tenants against Paul and Edyth Ling, 11109 Otsego L.P., World Unity International, and Prime West Management  

Los Angeles, CA (July 8, 2024) — Collapsed ceilings, extreme flooding, and mushrooms growing in the halls — these are just some of the nightmarish living conditions residents of the Otsego Villas in North Hollywood dealt with in the months after Tropical Storm Hilary hit California last year. The storm caused significant damage to the building’s roof, which was already in disrepair and leaking, causing tenants’ living conditions to go from poor to outright uninhabitable.  

“Some of the building damage was from the storm, but some was because the landlords don’t maintain the building. During the hurricane, more and more water started getting into different parts of the building. All day while this was happening, I was trying to get ahold of management for a solution and we got nothing,” said Otsego Villa resident Truman Waller. “By the end of the day our roof had collapsed.” 

“They [the building owners] knew they had a problem with the roof months before the storm. Before the storm hit, my kitchen roof was leaking and that went on for months. When I told the manager I had a leak in my apartment, he told me, to just put down some buckets,” said Otsego Villa resident Johnny Santiago. “After the storm, the leak had spread throughout the entire apartment.”  

Tropical Storm Hilary hit California on August 20, 2023. By October, the living conditions inside the building were so dire, it received coverage from KTLA 5 News. It was around this time that Inner City Law Center got involved, which eventually led to a building-wide lawsuit filed last Friday against the Otsego Villas’ owners and managers. 

“Many of the tenants reported non-communication from management for days after the storm. Once contact was established, management downplayed the storm’s damage,” said Inner City Law Center Senior Staff Attorney Deborah Hoetger, an attorney on the case. “When the owners and managers finally began making repairs, they were adamant that they were not responsible for temporarily relocating any of the tenants during the repair process, despite many of the units being entirely uninhabitable or open construction zones.”  

When a unit becomes completely uninhabitable, landlords have a duty to relocate tenants to a habitable unit, yet the building’s owners and management insisted they had no such responsibility to tenants.  

“We asked management, ‘where are we supposed to go? My ceiling is currently on my floor,’” said Waller. “They said it was up to us to figure out where we were going to live while repairs were happening, or we could just stay in the unit during repairs, which just wasn’t an option for us because we had no walls or ceiling.” 

“The apartment wasn’t habitable, but they [the landlords] didn’t offer to put me up anywhere or do anything, so I just started to couch surf with friends. I lived out of a weekend bag for months,” said Santiago. “I was fortunate to be able to stay with friends, because there were tenants who actually stayed in the building during construction because they didn’t have anywhere else to go.”  

“The way management handled the repairs was downright hostile. Day after day, tenants received notices that maintenance workers planned to enter their units to make repairs. They would stay home from work, only to have no one show up again and again. On the rare occasion workers did show up, they left front doors wide open and damaged belongings inside the units,” said Inner City Law Center Staff Attorney Ted Lee. “This is either extreme negligence or outright harassment.”  

Today, nearly a year after Tropical Storm Hilary hit California, Otsego residents are still fighting to have repairs made to their apartments.  

“Repairs took almost four months; we didn’t get to move back into our apartment until January, and even when we were able to move back in, there were still things that needed to be fixed. Right now, there are workers making repairs to the balcony, so it still isn’t over. They are still doing repairs to damage from the storm,” said Waller.  

“There are still repairs that need to be done in my apartment. I still have a list of outstanding repairs posted on my door. They just ignore it,” said Santiago. “But they just raised our rent.” 


About Inner City Law Center  

Inner City Law Center is a nonprofit, poverty-law firm located in the Skid Row neighborhood of Los Angeles and working to end the homelessness crisis by providing free legal services to the most vulnerable residents of Los Angeles.   

Inner City Law Center’s staff of more than 130 (including 70 lawyers), together with hundreds of volunteers, fight for people facing eviction, struggling with landlord harassment, fighting to secure their veteran or disability benefits, or standing up to slum housing conditions.   

Contact: Jacqueline Burbank, Communications Manager, or (213) 947-7902