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Legal Aid is ‘Uplifting Inglewood’

Kim, a single mother of a special needs son, was shocked when her new Inglewood landlord recently demanded a 79 percent increase in her monthly rent. Despite working several jobs, Kim struggled to make ends meet, especially with expenses related to her son’s medical needs.

Nearly half of Kim’s income helps her pay the rent. She also sets aside an additional 25 percent of her income to cover uninsured medical expenses due to her son’s disability. She worried about the unexpected rent hike. Kim wanted to move, but she needed more time to find an affordable option.

As the rent increase loomed on the horizon, Kim turned to staff attorney Natalie Minev at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.

Several months prior to Kim’s surprise rent increase, a group of concerned Inglewood residents banded together under the auspices of the “Uplift Inglewood Coalition.” As the group needed help formalizing its structure and providing legal education to tenants in the city, the Coalition approached LAFLA for assistance. LAFLA attorney Jonathan Jager helped the Coalition write its governing documents, and Natalie led a series of educational “know-your-rights” workshops in Inglewood.  When Kim shared her recent rent increase with Uplift Inglewood, the group referred her to Natalie for legal help.

The Uplift Inglewood Coalition was created in response to rising living and housing costs in the City of Inglewood in light of ongoing construction of multiple sports venues. Such sports franchises as the Clippers, Rams and Chargers all want stadiums in the City of Inglewood. As a result, many tenants have experienced an uptick in rent hikes and evictions as speculative investors and property owners attempt to cash in on rising property values.

Through Uplift Inglewood, concerned residents educate neighbors of their rights as tenants. The coalition also advocates for inclusive changes that would benefit all city residents and not just wealthy developers.

Once Kim turned to LAFLA for help, Natalie sent Kim’s landlord a comprehensive request for reasonable accommodations, given that Kim’s son has a disability. Natalie outlined how a significant rent increase could potentially violate her son’s rights.

After several weeks of negotiations, and pushing back on the landlord attorney’s misinformed and intrusive requests for additional medical documentation, Natalie brought the landlord to the table to engage in the interactive process required by federal and state fair housing laws. Natalie also fought the landlord attorney’s unethical attempts to contact Kim’s employers.

The property owner recently agreed not to raise Kim’s rent until 2019, giving Kim time to find a new home.