LOS ANGELES — A state agency has sued the owners and manager of a Cudahy apartment complex, alleging they discriminated against a tenant with a mental disability by telling his relatives he should be kept inside and was not allowed on the exterior grounds.
The state Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed the lawsuit on behalf of Leonel Castaneda, his mother, Lida Chapa, and his sister, Irma Martinez.
The suit names as defendants the landlords, Robert and Beverly Sanchez; the management company, Jervis Property Management; and the property manager, Lydia Delgadillo.
The suit seeks at least $4,000 in damages for each alleged violation of the state Civil Code, compensation for emotional distress and an injunction directing the defendants not to discriminate against tenants and applicants based on disability.
Representatives for the defendants could not be reached for comment.
The complaint states that Castaneda suffers from a mental disability and sees a psychiatrist, but gives no details on the nature of his problem.
In 1999, the plaintiffs moved into the complex, which consists of two buildings totaling 32 units on Santa Ana Street. Castaneda was a minor at the time and was diagnosed with his disability after he turned 18, according to the suit.
Castaneda prefers to sit outside on the stairs or lie on grass in the courtyard, according to the complaint, which says other tenants are allowed outside to enjoy the complex’s amenities.
“However, defendants have repeatedly told Mr. Castaneda and his mother that he needs to be inside the apartment at all times,” the lawsuit states.
Delgadillo has called the police numerous times because she disapproved of Castaneda being present in the common areas, according to the plaintiffs, who allege the management has threatened to evict the trio if they do not “control” Castaneda and keep him inside.
Martinez sent two letters to Delgadillo in 2013 disclosing that Castaneda has a mental disability and that he was entitled to reasonable accommodations, the suit states. The letters warned that further harassment would be in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act and the state Civil Rights Act, according to the complaint.
The family also sought help in mid-2014 from the Housing Rights Center, a social services organization that investigates housing discrimination complaints, according to the complaint. Witnesses interviewed by the center denied allegations by the defendants that Castaneda had exposed himself and said he did not pose a threat to other tenants, the suit states.
The center requested that the alleged harassment of Castaneda stop and that the manager undergo training, the suit says.