The mayor of Hawthorne could be forced to pay upwards of $11,000 in a landlord-tenant dispute over a condominium he claims was plagued with problems and infested with roaches, according to a Superior Court judge ruling.
Mayor Chris Brown was ordered last week to pay several months worth of the $2,200 rent to his former landlord, KIG Properties, LLC, which owns the 15-unit building in the 13700 block of Cordary Avenue in Hawthorne, according to an attorney representing the landlord.
While an attorney representing KIG confirmed an eviction notice was issued, Brown contends that he left on his own.
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Brown, who was elected city mayor in November, stopped paying rent several months before an eviction notice was issued, former property manager Guy Hocker said.
"After a couple months, I finally wrote him a letter that said, 'Dear Mayor, how about bringing in the rent?'" said Hocker, who served as mayor of Hawthorne from 1976 to 1985.
Brown, who said he wasn't evicted, but instead "left on his own," said he refused to pay rent because the property owner and manager would not address repeated complaints of broken plumbing and insect problems.
Brown said he made 15 to 20 complaints without any response from Hocker.
"Plumbing issues, only one working bathroom out of three bathrooms, the downstairs bathroom. Rodents, roaches, it was just infested, it was a sad case. There was no way I could live there under those conditions," Brown said in an interview from his new residence, which he now rents a few miles away from his previous condo unit.
Brown said the complex has received "many" complaints from other renters, though by Monday evening, the city was not able to provide any record of those complaints.
Hocker said aside from an issue with the stove when Brown first moved in last November, he had never received any other complaints from Brown.
"I've never heard of it, not at anytime did anyone call me and say 'Mr. Hocker the plumbing is not working,'" Hocker said.
Hocker called Brown's allegations "ridiculous."
"Why do I think he would do something like this? To cover his tracks in order to make it seem to others that it was someone else's fault," Hocker said.
Brown said he plans on introducing a "tenant bill of rights" to protect other renters from landlords who don't maintain their properties at the next city council meeting in October. He also plans on appealing the court ruling.
There are no plans from the city of Hawthorne to look further into the matter, according to the city manager, who called the dispute a private matter between a landlord and a tenant.