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Tenants at Skid Row's Madison Hotel sue to improve conditions

Tenants at the Madison, a single-room occupancy hotel, are suing the owner for poor living conditions.
Tenants at the Madison, a single-room occupancy hotel, are suing the owner for poor living conditions.
Josie Huang/KPCC

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Residents of the Madison, a single-room occupancy hotel on Los Angeles' Skid Row, are suing their landlord for cutting off services and creating unsanitary living conditions.

The suit filed in LA County Superior Court names the Madison’s owner, Kameron Segal and its previous owner George Lintz as defendants.

"I'm looking for other options," said tenant Walter Jordan, one of 15 plaintiffs. "But the end result is that I shouldn't have to move."

Cheap, residential hotels are concentrated in downtown LA, where for decades, they’ve housed poor and disabled residents. But as downtown has gentrified over the last decade, hundreds of SRO units have disappeared, as building owners convert them into market-rate apartments.

The Madison, located on East 7th Street just feet away from rows of tents inhabited by homeless people, has more than 200 rooms. Residents say the cheap rents — ranging from about $300 to $500 a month — have kept them from becoming homeless. They say the hotel is unsanitary and that problems have gotten worse since Segal bought the property in June. 

They allege that management has let trash pile up, spoken abusively to tenants and gotten rid of the linen service that elderly and disabled residents depend on.

"Because of that there’s an infestation of bed bugs and roaches right now," Jordan said. "I’m sleeping on the floor. I had my own personal bed infected. They’ve refused to replace it."

Tenants accuse Segal of trying to force them out so he can make more money with new tenants rather than spend money to relocate them as required by the city for rent-stabilized units.  The complaint charges that “At least one manager has stated that the owner intends to renovate the building once it is empty.” Calls to the city’s housing department were not returned by deadline.

Neither Segal or the previous owner Lintz could be reached for comment. An assistant manager manning the front desk at the Madison also would not comment. 

Affordable housing experts say that with SRO's diminishing numbers, it could be hard for residents at the Madison to find replacement homes.

"They are the housing of last resort and they are what’s keeping people off the street," said Lisa Payne of the Southern California Association of Non-profit Housing.  

The plaintiffs also include the homeless advocacy organization, the Los Angeles Community Action Network, and are being represented by the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and the Inner City Law Center.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs say that the suit could take a year to resolve. In the meantime, Jordan said he's gathering proof of the living hardships at the Madison by collecting bed bugs in a jar — about 80 so far.