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Landlord Won’t Charge Displaced Tenants Rent Next Month, Opens Possibility of Refunds for Lock-Out Period

Company cancels meeting after assistant city manager questions meeting rules

Published on Tuesday, January 28, 2020 | 9:51 am
Displaced tenants locked out of their apartments in a building at 215 South Madison Avenue shown addressing the Pasadena City Council in early January, 2020, complaining that they are not being allowed back into their apartments even to retrieve their possessions for nearly a month after a fire broke out at the building at about 11:30 p.m. on Dec. 19. Photo by Brian Biery

Local residents displaced by a fire in December won’t have to pay rent for February after all, and some of them may finally be able to enter their apartment units soon.

Tuesday the tenants of the South Madison apartment building received an email from officials with Trilliant Property Management notifying them that a meeting scheduled to take place at 2 p.m. today in the council chambers at City Hall had been canceled.

“Out of respect to your time, we are postponing the meeting which was scheduled for tomorrow, January 28, 2020. We were hoping to have information finalized, which includes actual move-back dates [or range of dates], among other pertinent information,” wrote Erik Rivera, chief executive officer of Trilliant.

Tenants have not been allowed in their unit since the blaze broke out on Dec. 19. After the fire, Tenants told Pasadena Now they received very little help from Trilliant and this past weekend, residents objected to paying February rent.

Since then there have concerns about asbestos contamination. The company said tenants in the units that may have been exposed to asbestos will receive an email today pertaining to their personal belongings.

“I hope this is a sincere first step in the resolution process. Everything up to this point has functioned as a type of indictment on the incompetence of all tenants when the conduct of one caused this displacement and discomfort. I welcome the opportunity for a meaningful conversation with Trilliant, Inc. about resuming ownership of my property,” said Tia Strozier, who lives in the building at 215 S. Madison Ave.

At least one tenant told Pasadena Now, he has moved from the building without retrieving his belongings. That tenant said he still hopes to get the items in his apartment at some point.

“ACH rent payments has been ‘turned off,’ the email reads. “You will not be charged with rent in February unless the apartment is ready for you to reoccupy, and then only pro-rated rent. We are working with our insurer regarding potential refunds and other payments.”

The email came hours after Pasadena Now published an email from Assistant City Attorney Nick Rodriguez questioning the rules established for the meeting at City Hall. Under those rules, tenants’ cell phones would have been confiscated, and speaking time would have been limited to just two minutes, disruptive tenants would have been expelled from the meeting. Trilliant also said they would not provide a recorded copy of the meeting or minutes of the meeting to the tenants.

That email also threatened the tenants with legal action if they violated the rules.

“The City fully supports the notion of a meeting, and that there be rules of decorum; however, the City does not assent to confiscation of phones, nor to the notion of expelling anyone from the meeting [absent a violation of the law and lawful removal by a peace officer.]. It is not clear how you intend to enforce either condition, but that raises ancillary concerns about the possibility of physical touching [“expelled immediately”] to which the City also does not consent,” Rodriguez wrote.

In a separate email to tenants hours later on Monday afternoon, Trilliant struck a different tone.

“We do have new, positive information which is contained in this email,” Rivera wrote. “Tenants in the non-asbestos affected units will be allowed to retrieve all of their personal items. If you are a tenant whose unit was not affected by asbestos from the fire event, we will send to you a separate email with instructions and information with the next steps, including the removal of your personal contents, without restriction, and how to move forward within the next two business days.

“…We assure you that we are doing everything we can do get the apartment building back in operation, and each of you back into your homes,” the email said.


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