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Morning Brief: Landlord Loopholes, Gas Prices, And Tiny LA

A for rent sign is posted in front of an apartment building in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) (Justin Sullivan/)
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Good morning, L.A. It’s March 10.

Over the past two years, renters in California have been protected from COVID-19-related evictions by state and local laws. The regulations were put in place to ensure if a tenant lost their job or faced other financial hardships due to the pandemic, they’d still have a place to live.

But my colleague David Wagner reports that some landlords have tried to find loopholes, dragging their tenants into court not for unpaid rent, but for nuisance claims and other minor issues.

One such tenant is Janine Johnson, 70, who rents an apartment in Venice. Johnson said that she was approved for rent relief last year, meaning that the state of California would send funds directly to her landlord on her behalf.

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But when that money was held up by the slow-as-molasses bureaucracy, Johnson said her landlord, a subsidiary of the publicly traded firm Apartment Income REIT Corp., tried to find other reasons to throw her out. Those included accusing her of running an illegal hotel because she posted an ad for a roommate and complaints about what Johnson calls routine disagreements with neighbors over pets and noise. 

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Johnson’s case isn’t unique. Freddy Vasquez, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, said landlords are “becoming skilled at finding ways to go around the current moratoriums the city has in place.”

“What I've seen is creativity from landlords’ attorneys,” he said.

For now, Johnson can remain in her apartment. But the anxiety of being evicted still looms large.

“Landlords are … finding other reasons to try to evict you,” she said. “It's terrifying.”

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A., and stay safe out there.

What Else You Need To Know Today

Before You Go ... A Small-Scale Artist Rebuilt An Eastside Burrito Joint, And More Legendary LA Spots

A small version of Al & Bea's Mexican Food in the foreground. It's a brown and tan-colored building with an awning that overlooks a front entrance with metal bars. A small open sign is in the window. On the right side is a wall that has a sign for the business and a Dollar Plus store. The building is being held up by the artist, who is standing in the background.
Kieran Wright creates miniatures from his apartment in Miracle Mile.
(Alborz Kamalizad
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Kieran Wright hand-crafts small-scale versions of places around L.A. His selections are based in the iconic and legendary — Dodger Stadium, the Troubadour in West Hollywood, the hot dog-shaped Tail o’ the Pup in Beverly Grove, The Black Cat in Silver Lake.

Most recently, he made a miniature of Al & Bea's Mexican food in Boyle Heights. Here's how he builds the little replicas, and why Al & Bea's is the latest addition.

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