Los Angeles apartment tenants are blaming their landlord after their homes were burglarized while the building was being fumigated.
Burglars hit four units in the six-unit building last October. Tenants said they had asked their landlord to provide an overnight security guard, after hearing about burglars targeting tented buildings in the area, but say she refused.
"She expected everyone to move out, two nights in a hotel," recalled artist Fernando Linhares. He says the landlord provided $100 to pay for their stay.
"She said if you would like a security guard, you can pay for a security guard," said fellow tenant Joe Wilson.
Wilson was so worried about the threat of theft, he took all his computer equipment with him to the hotel, while the other tenants left their valuables behind. When they returned two days later, their homes had been ransacked; their treasured possessions were gone.
"There’s a ladder up against the building to a second floor window," he remembered. "There’s screens hanging off, glass broken."
Among the items stolen from Linhares’ apartment: several pieces of his artwork, a safe, and his most cherished mementos.
"I lost tapes that I’ve been taping of my kids for the last 20 years. Things you don’t want to lose."
The landlord, Kaaren Kurtzman, refused the NBC4 I-Team’s request for an interview, but released this statement:
"I feel very bad that the tenants in four of the six apartments had to suffer from the actions of these criminals. I did everything I was supposed to do when the property was fumigated. I followed all rules and guidelines with regard to the tenants and even provided a little more compensation than required. I was not required to provide a security guard.”
Wilson said some of the tenants are considering lawsuits. According to Magda Madrigal, an attorney with L.A.’s Eviction Defense Network, they might have a case.
Madrigal told the I-Team that a tented building amounts to “a welcome sign” to thieves. The fact that tenants requested security, were denied, and then were burglarized means “the tenants may have a cause of action against the landlord for negligence,” Madrigal explained. “The tenants need to be made whole for the property that was stolen from them.”
Linhares said financial compensation can’t replace what he's lost.
"It’s so much stuff, I’m trying to forget."
If you’re a renter with a legal concern, you can contact the Eviction Defense Network at www.edn.la or 213-386-8112.
If you have a tip on this story — or anything else — the I-Team wants to hear from you. Give us a call at 818-520-TIPS or email nbc4iteam@nbcuni.