Property Manager Responds After Locked Out Tenants Air Grievances Before City Council

Published : Wednesday, January 15, 2020 | 5:41 AM

A December 19 fire in one unit of an apartment building at 215 South Madison Avenue resulted in tenants being locked out of the building for almost one month. The tenants appealed to the Pasadena City Council at last Monday night's meeting. Fire response photo by RMG News. Tenants photo by Brian Biery.

One day after Pasadena Now published a story about tenants displaced by a fire that have not been inside their South Madison Avenue apartments for nearly a month, a representative of the management company sent a lengthy statement claiming the company is looking out for the tenants and communicating with them daily.

“Allowing residents into a contaminated building puts their health at risk and disregards best practices, and policies set forth by the above entities,” said Erik Rivera, chief executive officer of Trilliant, referring to a list of government agencies.

“Our due diligence, business judgment, and actions to protect the tenant’s health and safety should not be confused as a lack of empathy,” Rivera said.

“Trilliant has maintained consistent communication with each tenant, daily, with pertinent updates as it pertains to this incident. Tenants are encouraged to carry renter’s insurance to cover personal items and displacement.”

But tenants say they are not hearing from the company daily.

“Daily emails?” said Tia Strozier. “This is absolutely not accurate.”

According to Strozier, the Trilliant CEO has still not responded to her questions about the timeline sent two weeks ago.

“Also, I contacted the office by phone on December 30th and left a voicemail, still no call back from anyone at the company.”

Joshua Blumenkopf also said he has not had daily communication with anyone from the company.

The emails “are not daily,” he said. “He does respond to some direct emails, others he ignores.”

Strozier, Blumenkopf and an unspecified number of tenants have been locked out of their apartments since a blaze broke out at their apartment building on Madison Avenue on Dec. 19. The blaze left the building briefly uninhabitable because officials could not shut off the gas and water in the entire building.

After City inspectors gained access to the building following a temporary delay when a security guard refused to allow them access, they declared the building safe.

But Trilliant continued to lock out the tenants, its chief executive officer Rivera saying in late December that for the health and safety of the tenants further environmental and structural engineering tests were necessary to guarantee the building was free from risk.

Dozens of tenants, including parents with children, spent both Christmas and New Year’s out of their apartments in hotel and motel rooms and other temporary lodgings.

Tenants now say they want tenant displacement funds. The company claims it “communicated early on that building ownership is providing credit or reimbursement for the days respective tenants have been displaced.”

Rivera also claims ownership has offered to release any respective tenant from their lease, with a “generous payment” for the inconvenience.

Several tenants appeared before the City Council on Monday pleading for help. City Manager Steve Mermell said during Monday’s Council meeting that Rivera told him on January 3 that the testing showed the presence of asbestos in the building.

Mermell said that “City staff are very sympathetic to the plight of the residents,” but added that, “Primarily, the issue is between the tenants and the property owners.”

According to Rivera, the company is planning a face-to-face update with tenants soon.

“We have been very thoughtful in our daily communication with the tenants,” Rivera said in the statement. “We are planning a tenant meeting and will distribute information on the same to the tenants as soon as all pertinent information is available. We understand that this situation is very difficult and wish only to work with tenants to resolve this as soon as possible.”