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The original item was published from 12/17/2018 4:35:42 PM to 12/28/2018 1:48:37 PM.

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Posted on: December 14, 2018

[ARCHIVED] Multiple violations, unsafe living conditions force city to take action on local landlord

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South Lake Tahoe, CA- Deplorable, unsafe living conditions at a South Lake Tahoe apartment complex forced the city to take action at a local apartment complex.
The property at 3546 Spruce Ave. was purchased by Leonard Lee on October 18, 2016. In May of 2017, the City started getting complaints about substandard housing at the complex.

On October 18th, 2017 the city completed its first inspection of the property under the new owner and found multiple violations, including malfunctioning appliances and missing smoke detectors, which Lee was asked to fix. The violations were not fixed. Lee then started doing unpermitted construction on the complex. The city ordered him to stop the work until he could get a permit. 

Although Mr. Lee did get a permit, he continued to do work outside the scope of the permit, resulting in removal of fire resistive construction through much of the lower floor of the building.
The city sent Lee a notice for yearly inspection on November 5th, 2018. Lee was a no call/no show on that notice, and told city staff he never got the notice. A new inspection date was set for November 14th. Code Enforcement, City Building Inspectors, and Fire Inspectors were all on hand to conduct the inspection but Lee hadn’t given the tenants 24-hour notice. City staff couldn’t go inside the apartments.

Lee was asked to pay a re-inspection fee and cited for trash and unregistered cars in the parking lot that day, and given 30 days to clean up. Even though they could only see the outside, inspectors present that day said they knew something was wrong.

On Wednesday, December 12th inspectors were finally able to go inside the apartments Lee owns. Inside they found apartments unsafe, in disrepair, and infested with insects and rodents.
Fire inspectors found only 2 working smoke detectors in all of the 10 apartments. They found\ breeches fire wall, dilapidated exterior means of fire escape (stairs), lack of required fire extinguishers, broken windows, blocked doors, overloaded electrical components, etc. Some of the apartments had no heat forcing families to run multiple space heaters just to stay warm, which overloaded electrical circuits and raised the risk of a fire to a dangerous level. City inspectors determined the apartments were unsafe for the families living inside.

“City staff has worked diligently for 2 years trying to get Mr. Lee to make these places safe to live in,” said Chris Fiore, Communications Manager for the City of South Lake Tahoe. “We’re not going to sit around and let someone, children and families, be put in harm’s way because of a landlord that isn’t holding up their end of the bargain.”

To keep them safe, 6 families will have to be relocated from these apartments by Monday, 12:00. The City is requiring the landlord to pay 5 of them 2 months fair-market rent, as defined by the State of California, plus $90 for utilities.

“We care about the people of South Lake Tahoe, and we expect the people who provide housing here to do the same and prove it by making those places safe and comfortable to live in,” said Fiore.

In order to assist the families, the city has provided them with lists of rental agencies and short-term housing options. The city has also worked with the school district and area non-profits to ensure the families have what they need to get back on their feet.

One tenant was ineligible for relocation assistance because of an ongoing Landlord/Tenant dispute. The city is working with the Family Resources Center and Tahoe Magic to get that family the housing and care that they need.

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