A Ventura woman who claimed her landlord tried to evict her in retaliation for complaints she made about asbestos lost her case in court Friday and was ordered to leave her apartment.
Municipal Judge John J. Hunter ruled that the managers of the Driftwood Apartments on Ventura's Woodland Street were within their rights in giving Kristy Johnson a 30-day notice to move.
"I have not seen one shred of evidence of retaliation," Hunter said when he issued the eviction order.
The self-described "tenant from hell" said afterward that she will probably pursue a claim against the apartment owner for damage to her health.
Johnson, a paralegal employed by a Camarillo law firm, said she discovered asbestos in the apartment's "cottage cheese" ceiling when she tried to have the ceiling repaired.
State figures indicate that two-thirds of Ventura County's 231,715 dwelling units were built before a federal ban against asbestos building materials went into effect in 1979. The substance is not considered dangerous if left undisturbed, but once it becomes airborne, it can cause a host of diseases that are often fatal.
Karen Kurta, attorney for the property management firm of Derrick & Associates of Oxnard, said Johnson was evicted because she refused to allow entry to contractors she considered unqualified.
Attorney Edward J. Lacey, representing Johnson, argued that the landlord evicted Johnson "for standing her ground" after learning about the risk of removing asbestos without special procedures.
"If tenants can be kicked out for complaining about health conditions to the proper authorities, it can have a chilling effect on other tenants," Lacey said.
According to Kurta, managers of the 12-unit Driftwood Apartments are revising their rental agreement to tell prospective tenants that asbestos exists in the ceiling material.
Kurta said the managers will also periodically test the air in the apartments to ensure that the asbestos has not deteriorated.
Unless Johnson tries to fight the court order, she will be required to move within two weeks, her attorney said.