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Gas Shut-Off Leaves Tenants Boiling Mad

November 05, 1987|MARILYN GARATEIX | Times Staff Writer

ROWLAND HEIGHTS — Socorro Reyes went two weeks without being able to count on having a hot shower.

"We have showered in more places than I can count," Reyes said.

Lavonna Tucker rented a motel room for a few hours to give her two young children baths.

Reyes, Tucker and their neighbors in the 240-unit Sunrise Apartment complex have been locked in a heated dispute with their landlord since the gas was turned off Oct. 17 because of leaks in the pipes.

For almost two weeks, residents managed as best they could, boiling pots of water for baths and washing dishes and clothes.

Even after a propane gas tank was installed Oct. 27, some tenants said figuring out when to take a shower was like playing the lottery. And, they say, they didn't always win. For example, some said they went five hours Sunday without hot water.

The managers of the complex said they have been doing their best to correct the situation.

"We've done everything that we possibly could," said building supervisor Dinah Shah.

"We all live in the building, too, and we've been boiling water," said Shirley Miller, a property manager. "We're working just as hard as we can."

Richard A. Hauer, president of Amarik Properties, which took over management of the complex Monday, said he plans to install new pipes in three to four weeks.

County health inspectors visited the complex several times in October and on Oct. 20 ordered the owner to provide hot water, said Stan Sarkisian, senior environmental health officer for the East San Gabriel Valley.

The Department of Health Services conducted a hearing Oct. 29. The next day, the new propane tank, which management officials said had been vandalized soon after it was installed, was repaired.

Sarkisian said the case has been forwarded to the district attorney's office to determine whether the owner should be charged with not providing constant hot water in violation of a county public health code. Deputy Dist. Atty. Jackelyn Lacey said no decision has been reached.

Owner Shashikant J. Jogani did not return phone calls.

In an Oct. 29 notice, residents were offered a $50 deduction in their November rents--which include gas and water--as compensation.

But some residents said they won't settle for that.

"It took me an hour and a half to boil hot water to fill the tub for my bath," said Deborah Williams.

"I had to go to work an hour early to use their bathroom to wash up," said Cheryl Hutchinson.

Pennie Pittman said that the lack of hot water went beyond the mere inconvenience of having to boil water to clean up when a co-worker suggested she put on perfume to cover up body odor.

Some residents say they are considering legal action and have consulted an attorney.

Saying that they were not notified that the gas was being turned off or when repairs would be made, about 20 petitioners have collected almost 140 signatures in protest.

"I can deal with the gas (being turned off), but to not be told, that's what's irritating," Williams said.

Shah said the management has done its best to let the tenants know what's going on: "All the residents know this is the rental office. It's open and they have the phone number. Tenants have come here and we've answered their questions."

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