For those of you who don't know me well, my name is Chara. I was born/raised in Los Angeles. I am chronically ill with multiple disabilities. Prior to the pandemic I was trying to find a suitable job that could accommodate said disabilities and now I feel even more overwhelmed and hopeless regarding a stable job and income (that's covid safe). the past few years I've worked as a photographer, photo retoucher and model, though I've been looking for a career change as my body can't handle the demand and I am still making below poverty level. Due to covid and my health issues I have been in lock down since March and haven't been able to work. For the past 14 years I have lived in the same apartment complex and it's my apartment and the situation surrounding it that is the reason for this GFM.
So here's what happened. In summary, the apartment manager who sexually harassed me for years decided to retaliate against me by convincing my mentally unstable, drug addict, roommate to stop paying rent. I am a model tenant (never so much as a late rent check in 14 yrs and I keep to myself) so he knew the only way to evict me would be if someone in my apartment stopped paying rent and refused to leave. If she had stopped paying rent and just left I could have figured out a way to cover her rent for a month or two and gotten someone else in quickly since rent is super cheap. But my manager knew this and told her she could stay rent free for 6 months. The apartment is rent controlled and I took over someone's lease so it's been the same lease for 20 years which is why my rent is insanely cheap. I literally cannot afford to live anywhere else in LA because everywhere else is at least 4x what I currently pay and can afford. Anyway, management has wanted me out for a while because they want to remodel this apartment and charge 3-4x more. If you were to Google the owner of the properties you would see all of the negative comments about him doing illegal things to get people out and overall being a greedy, terrible human. In fact, I am not the only one in my complex that he is doing this to. There is a woman whom has lived here longer than I and she was a victim of harassment by the same manager who sexually harassed me. They've refused to fix basic necessities for her and tried to illegally evict her. Luckily she doesn't have roommates so they can't use the same tactic on her that they used on me.
Anyway, there's actually a lot of information regarding this entire situation but it is a lot to unpack and it sounds a bit insane. I have been served with an unlawful detainer (which I have answered) and due to covid and everything piling up at the courthouse I do not know the exact date that I will have to be out of my place. I sought legal counsel and was told that despite what the apartment manager did (and my now ex roommate admitting it) I will not win in court due to the fact that I don't have hard proof. The only way for me to keep my place would be to pay the back rent. I can cover my portion of back rent but I cannot cover the back rent for my roommates which is $24,000 at this point. I highly doubt that I will be able to raise anywhere near that amount but I'm hoping whatever I can raise will go towards legal fees and/or moving expenses.
For those who are still reading and want some more details here's more information on what happened with the apartment manager and my roommates. My mentally unstable roommate had been very verbally abusive towards me. She had stolen my things and ruined items out in the common area. She would have people living in her room with her and would constantly smoke in the apartment and light incense despite being told that was not allowed prior to moving in due to the fact that it is a non smoking apartment and I am allergic. She was also prostituting herself, which I have nothing against and I think it should be legal, but I'm not okay with it happening in my home especially when I'd wake up in the middle of the night and strange men would be outside my bedroom door. Especially as someone who's experienced multiple sexual assaults, I felt unsafe and I worried about the safety of the other tenants. She began having visual and auditory hallucinations. In December of last year she attempted to physically assault me. A friend was over at the time and she witnessed the incident. I went to the police and filed a restraining order. The police told me to install security cameras (in common areas that couldn't see into bedrooms or bathrooms obviously), so I did. The apartment manager served me with a 3 day perform or quit in an attempt to illegally try to evict me because I put up a security camera in the hallway of my own home. This ended up being a great call though because prior to receiving that 3 day perform or quit, the hallway camera is how I found out that my apartment manager illegally entered my bedroom while I was out of town and stole items (including money) out of my room, while my roommate played lookout. I have no idea how many times he had illegally entered my room before then but I finally caught it on video. I filed a police report against him though none of the items he stole were ever returned to me. In January I find out that she put makeup on to make it look like she had a black eye and filed a report saying I hit her. It went nowhere because apparently it was a very obvious fake black eye and again, I had a witness. January was also the month that she decided she wasn't going to pay rent anymore. I covered her rent in January and hoped that she would just leave. At this point I was not aware that management had told her to stop paying rent and that she could stay there until June rent free. I let my other roommates know that if she did not pay rent we would be evicted. The one male roommate living here at the time decided to up and leave in the middle of the night, steal my couch, and not pay rent. That meant that I now had two roommates' rent that I had to cover. I couldn't do it. I had also been paying his rent increase (and hers) for the past 1.5 years because he didn't believe in rent increases and told her not to pay it either. The last roommate ended up staying here until around September. She had mostly been staying at her boyfriends but kept all of her stuff here. She had last paid rent in January and didn't even offer to help with the utilities (which I was still paying 100% of). Despite my other two roommates not paying rent her and I actually did submit our rent for the next two months. Management kept returning it, so after it was returned about four times I stopped trying. Now, the big issue here is that because I was served with a 3 day pay or quit at the end of February it meant that I legally could not bring in any other roommates to help cover the cost of the apartment. Ethically I also could not do so since my roommate was a liability and needed serious mental health intervention. It was so bad that at one point my other roommate and myself had locked ourselves in our bedrooms to stay safe from her. I even called her parents and asked them to help her but they didn't seem to care that she was hurting me or my roommates or that their own daughter needed help. Now cue covid and eviction moratoriums. This caused about a 9 month delay in them being able to actually serve me the unlawful detainer, which meant that back rent just kept getting higher and higher and there was nothing that I could do about it. After speaking to legal counsel, due to the insanity of this entire situation, I was under the impression that there would be a good chance I could win in court and not have to pay rent, at which point I would find new roommates and hope they were better than the last. But after recently meeting with legal counsel that doesn't seem to be the case and I was told I would lose my home if I didn't pay the back rent. I was told we could try to fight it but it would be expensive and it would just delay the inevitable if I couldn't pay the owed rent.
Maybe you're wondering why I want to keep my place after all of this. Here's why. As I mentioned, this is literally the only place that I can afford in LA. It is in a safe area and the building is pretty secure. It is a large space, and while I still have to live with roommates to afford it, I can always just stay in my room and it feels like my own studio space. I also have my own bathroom which may not be a big deal to some but due to certain medical issues I have it's kind of a necessity for me. I like my neighbors and it's pretty quiet. This is also my home. Maybe I'm stubborn but I don't want to be bullied out of my home. I don't want the "bad guys" to win. I have had too many awful people in my life get away with terrible things and prosper and I just don't want these guys to get away with this. What they did to me, what they're doing to me, is inhumane and soulless and it isn't right. They've done this to others and gotten away with it every time and they are trying to do it to my neighbor now too and I just don't want them to win. I also, obviously, don't want to be unhoused. I am so stressed about where I'm going to end up and how I'm going to support myself and all of this during a pandemic. The pandemic makes everything so much more complicated. I haven't seen a single friend longer than for a contactless pick up/drop off since March and I stay isolated so even something like putting all of my stuff into storage and couch surfing at different friends' isn't a possibility due to the risk to my health as well as the risks to others.
There are other ways that you can help that don't involve donating money. If you hear of any jobs that you think I may qualify for (that are covid safe), please let me know. Feel free to share this GFM. Recommend me for retouching work; I edit headshots, portraits, fashion, family photos, etc. If you hear of some insanely cheap room for rent (preferably in the San Fernando Valley) please let me know. Maybe you know someone who has a room/guest house who's looking for someone to help them around the house, run errands, etc., for reduced rent. If you know of any cheap storage places around the Valley Village/Sherman Oaks/NoHo area, I'd love to hear about them.
I know this is so long already but I just want to thank you for taking the time to read this. Thank you so much to anyone who donates. Thank you for the support. Thank you to those of you whom have offered an ear for me to vent to. I truly appreciate each and every one of you. If you have any questions about any of this please feel free to ask me.
- Jason R Ehlenfeldt
- Joshua Clark
- Julian Watkins
- Garret Blythe
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