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Ventura County

County Files 13-Misdemeanor Complaint Against Landlords

January 08, 2003|Sandra Murillo | Times Staff Writer

Ventura County prosecutors have filed a criminal complaint against the owners of a dilapidated apartment complex near Oxnard, alleging 13 misdemeanor violations that include failure to provide heating, smoke alarms, running water and properly working toilets.

Altagracia and Samuel Martinez, owners of El Tapatio Lodge on Hueneme Road, are named in the complaint filed by the district attorney's Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit.

Tenants have complained for years about leaky roofs, inadequate heat and broken sewage pipes. They recently withheld their rent in protest.

If convicted, the Martinezes each face a maximum $1,000 fine and six months in Ventura County Jail for each misdemeanor offense, authorities said.

Los Angeles businessman Yancey Hawkins, who took over the property management in November, responded last month by serving all 41 tenants with three-day eviction notices. Hawkins says he can evict them because zoning has changed from commercial to agricultural.

County officials said the eviction notices were invalid.

"Tenants have a legal right to stay because of the repairs and conditions of the building," said Greg Ramirez, a Ventura attorney representing more than half the tenants.

Sheriff's officials Tuesday informed Mike Zambrano that he had to leave his apartment. Zambrano was served a notice accusing him of harassing Hawkins and of being late on his rent.

He said he withheld his December rent because his plumbing complaints were not addressed. Zambrano vows to fight the eviction.

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