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Landlord Blames Tenants' Complaints on Rent Increase

April 17, 2003|Karima A. Haynes | Times Staff Writer

The owner of the Loma Vista Apartments in Pacoima, where tenants have angrily complained about deplorable living conditions, said Wednesday that he has spent nearly a quarter-million dollars on improvements.

Since buying the property for $4 million in November, Marc S. Barmazel of Santa Monica said, he has installed a new roof, added a 17-camera security system, put down new asphalt and concrete to prevent flooding in a courtyard and made repairs to nearly half of the 60 units, among other upgrades.

"I have had people working on my building from the day I bought it," Barmazel said. "We are not nearly finished with the building. We are doing everything that we should and need to do. We are going over and above what the tenants are asking for."

Residents only complained after they were notified of a rent increase effective June 1, Barmazel said.

"The reason people are upset is not because of the conditions, but because I intend to raise the rent to market levels," he said. Since Barmazel bought the building, only nine maintenance and vermin complaints have been filed with the Los Angeles Housing Department -- all lodged Tuesday and Wednesday, said Chief Inspector Scott McGill.

Inspectors investigated the complaints and notified Barmazel, who said he would comply with their orders to make the repairs, McGill said.

However, tenant Rosa Mariscal disagreed. "It's not true. People have complained to the manager since November, but maybe the manager didn't tell the owner."

About 100 residents gathered Tuesday in front of the complex at 12544 Van Nuys Blvd. to complain that they are being forced to pay exorbitant rent to live in squalor.

They demanded immediate repairs and a new building manager, and urged passage of five proposed state housing bills.

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