Judge Blocks Bid by Landlords for Rents

Times Staff Writer

An Orange County Superior Court judge Monday continued to block efforts by landlords to gain access to rents being withheld by about 500 tenants in a renters' rebellion in Santa Ana.

Judge Philip E. Schwab continued a temporary restraining order protecting the tenants, many of whom are in the United States illegally, from retaliatory action by landlords.

Five landlords had asked the court to force tenants to place their rent payments in a receivership so the landlords could use the money to repair their properties.

But tenant organizers said a receivership would "endanger" the rent strike. "It loosens the leverage that tenants have," strike organizer Nativo Lopez said.

Since Feb. 1, the tenants have refused to pay their rent, saying that their housing is blighted. Instead, the payments have been placed in a special fund administered by the nonprofit Legal Aid Society.

Terence L. Calder, attorney for landlord Carmine Esposito, said he favors a receivership arrangement because it would allow for distribution of the rent money to landlords to help pay for repairs.

Renters said after the hearing that they want all rent payments to go directly for repairs and not to landlords, who in the past, they said, have not made repairs.

Schwab is expected to rule on the receiver issue at the next hearing, scheduled for April 11.

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