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Slumlord Ordered to Serve Time in His Own Apartments

April 29, 1993|TOMMY LI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

ECHO PARK — Large cockroaches, worn-out carpeting, leaky ceilings and missing or broken smoke detectors.

Those are some of the conditions that led to the conviction of slumlord Sun Ly Lim, who began living in one of his Echo Park apartment units this week as part of a 30-day sentence for violating probation, officials said.

The 48-year-old Long Beach resident was sentenced last week to house arrest at his own three-story, 14-unit building at 1410 Sunset Blvd.

Lim, who bought the complex in October, 1989, had pleaded no contest last November to six violations of health and building and safety codes and was ordered to pay $5,465.25 in fines and to repair the building.

A Los Angeles Municipal Court judge placed him on three years' probation and set a Feb. 9 repair deadline. After Lim failed to meet that deadline, the judge agreed to a deputy city attorney's recommendation of house arrest. The landlord was fined another $1,082 in investigative costs and ordered to pay $595 for an electronic system to monitor his movements in the apartment. He also has to meet a new June 8 repair deadline or face up to a three-year jail term.

"This will give an opportunity for the tenants to let him know exactly what they're unhappy with," said Deputy City Atty. Michael R. Wilkinson, who handled the case.

Lim's attorney, Hiram Kwan, thinks the city is picking on the wrong person.

"They just want to make an example of him to warn other people, but it's not a good case," Kwan said Wednesday. "The apartment (building) is fairly wellkept. However, there is a problem of gangs in there that would tear out and steal things."

The attorney said Lim could not meet the February deadline because his mother had died in Cambodia and he had to go there to make funeral arrangements.

As part of the house arrest, Lim will not be allowed to leave his complex between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. He will have to wear a waterproof ankle bracelet throughout the 30 days. The bracelet is an electronic monitoring system that sends an alarm signal if Lim were to leave the complex and violate his house arrest.

On Tuesday, Lim said he was willing to serve the time inside apartment No. 5 and fix the place. He has lived in the building several times before.

"I hire somebody and I do (the work) myself too," said Lim, who came from Cambodia in 1976 and worked as a handyman and an auto mechanic. He is married and the father of three sons and a daughter.

Despite their landlord's statements, most of his tenants doubt that the house arrest will result in Lim making repairs and improvements.

"He's always looking at what's happening around here. Sometimes he spends all day here," said Evangelina Gutierrez, 38, a 16-year tenant. "He knows how we live."

She and her husband, Gus, complained of broken heaters, worn carpeting and cockroach and rat infestations, although neither rats nor cockroaches were spotted Tuesday.

Some tenants expressed sympathy for Lim.

"It's not that bad (here)," said Tim Taing, 14, who has lived with his mother in the building for three months. "He doesn't have enough money to pay (for) all the repairs because they (the tenants) don't pay the rent at the right time."

According to Robert Barton, a Los Angeles city building inspector, contractor fees and other costs to repair the building could run as high as $100,000.

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