After receiving notice of rent increases as high as $400 a month, dozens of elderly Glendale residents who live in a 132-unit apartment building have been forced to search for new homes.
But in a city with no rent control, the tenants have little recourse.
Moreover, because of a 2- to 15-year wait for federally subsidized housing, many of the tenants said they have no choice but to move into smaller Glendale apartments, while others said they are physically and emotionally unable to make a move.
"It was like a bomb," said Otella, 91, of the rent increase. Otella, who asked that her last name not be used, is among the tenants who are moving to less costly Glendale apartments. "I just went to the doctor and he found my blood pressure so high he told me to come home and lie down. I never had a blood-pressure problem, but this has been traumatic."
Last month, Kenneth S. Hayashi Corp. of Los Angeles, the new owner of the complex at 245 W. Loraine St., informed tenants by mail of rent increases of as much as $400 a month for those living in two-bedroom apartments and about $90 a month for those in one-bedroom units.
About 75% of the building's residents are elderly, manager Nancy Berry said.
Beginning in March, two-bedroom apartments in the security building will rent for between $1,150 and $1,165, depending on size, and one-bedroom units will rent for $735, Berry said.
Management is also requiring rent payments by the first day of each month. Social Security checks don't arrive until the third day, residents said.
Residents and renters' advocates interviewed say they are concerned that the ability of landlords to raise rents as high as they wish may make Glendale too expensive for its elderly, forcing some to move away from their friends and doctors.
Worse, they fear, those who are physically unable to search for new homes or cannot afford rising rental costs in a non-rent-controlled community may be forced out onto the streets.
"This used to be a community for the elderly," said one frustrated tenant who is moving with his wife into a smaller, less expensive Glendale apartment.
Requests by tenants last month to meet with a representative of Hayashi Corp. were refused, said Jim Bishop, a conservator for an 89-year-old tenant who has opted to dip into her modest savings instead of move.
Bishop said he and the tenants wanted to ask that the new owner gradually raise the rent so that residents who could not afford to pay the increase would have time to find a new home.
'Requesting a Discussion'
"We really aren't demanding anything," Bishop said. "We're requesting a discussion on the rent increase and the problems it is posing to the tenants."
But Luis O. Carmenate, assistant vice president of the corporation and spokesman for Hayashi, has refused to meet with tenants, Bishop said.
Carmenate, contacted by The Times, refused to comment on the rent increase.
So far, more than 16 tenants, including Otella, have found new homes and have given the new owner notice, Berry said. About a dozen others, interviewed at the apartment complex, said they are still searching.
Others, such as an 88-year-old woman and her 96-year-old husband, said they are physically unable to leave, even if they could afford to.
"My husband cannot move," the woman said. "He hasn't got the strength, and he hasn't got the ability."
The couple said initially they were not concerned when the former owner refused last fall to renew their lease another year.
"I didn't think either one of us would live so long as to worry about a lease," she said.
But now, with only a "few years" of savings remaining in the bank to absorb their $340 increase, they find their future uncertain.
"I don't know what will happen," she said.
Those familiar with rental rates said the increase at the Loraine Street apartment is the largest they have heard of in Glendale. However, such severe increases are legal in Glendale because the city has no rent-control ordinance.
"They can raise the rent as much as they want, as often as they want," said Susan Bilow, housing coordinator for the Fair Housing Council of the San Fernando Valley. "The way California state law is written, all they are required to do is give them a 30-day notice in writing."
Rent-control advocates characterize the Loraine Street increase as an extreme example of how rising rental costs can adversely affect the elderly in Glendale.
"The biggest factor in homelessness is the cost of housing," said Gregg Roth, president of the Glendale Coalition for Emergency Food and Shelter, "and particularly in Glendale, we're going to see an increase because of the skyrocketing costs due to no rent control and increased development."
"What do you do with people who just can't afford to pay more?" asked Kenneth H. Carlson, a Glendale attorney and advocate of rent control in Glendale. "We don't have rent control . . . Housing assistance is inadequate, and they can't afford to live anywhere. The vast majority of them will be homeless."