Two renters and a family member are suing Equity Residential for maintaining dangerous conditions that resulted in severe mental distress and assaults that caused injuries and forced them to vacate the property, according to a lawsuit filed in San Mateo County Superior Court on April 28.
Residents Ana Rubio and Leonardo and Gabriel Mendez sued landlord EQR-Woodland, commonly known as Equity Residential, and its aliases after the company allegedly failed to maintain the home they rent at its Woodland Park complex in a manner fit for human habitation, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit claims Equity Residential failed to correct dozens of problems since the residents moved there in 2007, including unsealed windows; a broken door frame; broken heater; exposed electrical wiring; loose plugs; rodent and cockroach infestations; rotten, moldy and buckling floorboards; an unsupported front porch structure; ceiling cracks and lead paint.
The plaintiffs made numerous requests for repairs and maintenance to EQR-Woodland Park and REDUS Woodland, LLC between December 2010 and July 2011. The City of East Palo Alto issued a notice of violation listing 29 corrective actions required by Aug. 29, 2012, but no repairs were made, according to the lawsuit.
The city's building services division red-tagged a room containing the hot water heater and a storage room behind the house that Equity allegedly had rented out as illegal units.
The company made some repairs in late 2012, but many other problems remained unfixed, despite repeated requests. On Sept. 19, 2013, the shower curtain rod broke from its attachment on the wall. Ana Rubio sprained her shoulder when she reached to prevent it from hitting her as it fell, the lawsuit claims.
Gabriel Mendez, who according to the lawsuit had complained to the landlord about the lack of adequate security many times, was assaulted and held at gunpoint by two unknown men in the home's driveway on July 29, 2012. The lawsuit said he specifically had complained about the front gate, which did not close securely due to a broken post and lack of latch, leaving it wide open. Less than one month later, Leonardo Mendez, who was visiting, was assaulted in the driveway. His injuries required overnight hospitalization and he has had ongoing health problems, including blindness in one eye, as a result of the assault, according to the court filing.
The property was also burglarized on Aug. 29, 2013. Rubio and Mendez's children were traumatized by the burglary and experienced bed wetting episodes and had difficulty sleeping, according to the lawsuit. Rubio was hospitalized on Sept. 28, 2013, after an extreme anxiety attack because of the incidents. The family was forced to vacate the property on Oct. 14, 2013, because of the ongoing problems, according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs are asking for $600,000 each for general and special damages, and more than $5.3 million for punitive and other damages and reimbursements.
Equity Residential owns 1,800 rental units in the Woodland Park complex, which is located on the west side of U.S. Highway 101 and south of University Avenue. Its holdings include apartments and single-family dwellings.
Equity Residential could not immediately be reached for comment.