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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 118777
Experience:  Attorney with over 24 years experience.
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Is there any degree of illegality in this housing situation?

Customer Question

Is there any degree of illegality in this housing situation?
I'm a student who moved out to Los Angeles for a 6 month internship. In my search for short term housing, I was approached by a company that supplies short living housing situations throughout LA. For a shared bedroom option in a 2 bedroom apartment, I was told that I would have certain amenities including a pool and gym access, a secured parking space, and on site laundry along with weekly housekeeping for a price of $850/month and a $500 deposit which would be returned to me at the end of my time.
It was pretty obvious that I was getting scammed upon arrival. Without my consent, they transferred me to "luxury housing" that was going to be $100 more a month, and did not have access to any of the amenities that were mentioned previously, besides laundry on site. To make matters stranger, I was living in a 2 bedroom apartment with 8 people (2 in one room, 4 in the other room, and 2 in the living room). I was meeting a lot of people right away plus I had already paid in full for 3 months so I didn't really mind the set up too much, until the bed bugs.
I started waking up with bites 2 weeks in and didn't begin to suspect bedbugs until one of the previous tenants told me that's why he moved out. When I contacted the "landlord" about it, she refused to do anything about it until I sent her disturbing photos of my bites. She then proceeded to order me a new mattress that wouldn't arrive for 2 weeks, so I was forced sleep on the couch. I was still waking up with bites and asked that greater measures be taken to remedy the situation, aka hire an exterminator. She had a deep carpet cleaning done instead, still refusing to take necessary precautions. I stayed in the hotel during this period, but was not reimbursed. When I finally returned, nothing had changed and I was still getting bites and we had photos of the bugs and the bites. I was looking for new housing and when I asked if I could get back the money for the 2 months that I would not be spending at the apartment. I never got a response back, so I never moved.
During this time, and I assume that it's because the situation wasn't being handled well by the "landlord", the "landlord" was fired and replaced by someone else. But the email lacking response rate and failure to treat me like a human being was the same.
Also during this time, one of the roommates who I was living with was hired by the company to be a "host" (a "host" is someone who worked under the "landlord" by supplying tenants with help when needed and finding new people to move in) since she was unable to pay for a new housing term, so instead they had her working for them for free rent. We were pretty close friends at this point so she was telling me many things about the company, but it was obvious that there was a lot she was refraining from telling me. What was very strange was that she was referring to the new "landlord" by the old "landlord"'s name by accident, but I didn't think anything of it. She did do me and my roommate in the shared room a solid by helping us get transferred to a new location down the street, but didn't help with getting our money back to escape living with the company. But we were going to a new 2 bedroom apartment shared with 8 people, still without a pool, a gym, or parking, but WITHOUT BEDBUGS, so things would be better.
Things WERE better, but as we kept meeting more and more people who got roped into living under this company, we were finding out new and stranger information about the company. They frequently talked about a certain "host", one who I had not heard of. But when they said this "host" was coming over to give a skype tour to a new victim, I was surprised to find me old roommate, the one who was just hired as a "host", and she was operating under a fake name. We were still friends so she would still tell me things and she told me that all "hosts" operated under a fake name.
Another thing that I discovered, something that one of my new roommates came across, was a record of arrest and a mugshot of the original "landlord" which stated an arrest for fraud in 2014. I was under the impression that she had been let go of the company, and that "landlord 2" had taken over in her place, but it was becoming obvious that Landlord 1 and Landlord 2 were the same person and that this woman who had been outed for her fraudulent activity and was now attempting to learn from her mistakes by operating more effectively under a new name as Landlord 2. No matter how many times I had asked, she refuses to meet in person or won't even respond. Also, I just received my final contract which shows Landlord 1 as the sender, but has Landlord 2's name in parentheses, exposure I'm sure she's unaware of.
Any advice on how to handle this would be MUCH appreciated. Or at least if anyone can tell me the extent of the legality or illegality of it all. It's been a miserable process. THANKS!
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 2 years ago.

Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.

Under CA law, the lease guarantees you peaceable use and possession of a habitable premises, which they are in breach of. If the premises is not habitable, they are liable to forgive any rent or pay for you to stay elsewhere until they fix the problem. So they are in breach of the lease and you have grounds to sue to recover ALL of your money, PLUS the money you paid to stay elsewhere.

Furthermore, this situation sounds like an illegal rental and it is grounds for you to file a complaint with the local housing authority as well as the local building inspector and health department for the bugs.

In addition, in suing the landlord for breach of lease, the fact they offered you one unit and gave you something else is an unfair and deceptive business practice under law and it would entitle you to sue for up to THREE TIMES your actual damages, plus attorney's fees.

So I would suggest you get a local attorney and sue the landlord for breach of your lease as well as unfair and deceptive business practices and file your complaints with housing authority and building inspectors and get out of this situation as soon as possible.