Santa Ana and Landlords Settle Lawsuit : 2 Owners of 10 Properties Agree to Pay $60,000 in Penalties

Times Staff Writer

The owners of 10 dilapidated properties in Santa Ana agreed Friday to pay $60,000 in civil penalties to end a lawsuit accusing them of false advertising and of renting properties that were not habitable.

The tentative agreement between landlords Dempsey and Joy Stocker and the Orange County district attorney's office is expected to be final sometime next week, lawyers on both sides said.

The 10 properties are part of 14 Stocker rental units that the city of Santa Ana included in its yearlong crackdown on slum housing. The Stockers renovated four of the houses to meet city codes and have them rented, but the other 10 houses remain boarded up.

During the crackdown, more than 100 civil and criminal actions have been filed against several landlords. Hermandad Mexicana, an immigrants' rights organization, is leading a rent strike in which about 500 residents of 10 to 12 apartment complexes have withheld about $150,000 in rent so far, trying to force landlords to make needed repairs, said spokesman Nativo Lopez.

The Stockers are not among the landlords involved in the rent strike, but they still face criminal charges brought by the city involving their properties, which are just south of the Civic Center.

The city's criminal action accuses the Stockers of maintaining dangerous and unsanitary conditions, including electrical, plumbing and structural deficiencies and vermin infestation.

The county's civil action had claimed the Stockers violated state business laws by falsely advertising that their units were in good condition and by renting units that were not in condition to be inhabited, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Paul Odwald. The suit had sought a total of $840,000 in civil penalties.

Milton C. Grimes, attorney for the Stockers, said his clients were attempting to raise money to renovate the 10 properties and were working with the city to get building permits for the repairs. If they cannot get financing or if repairs cost more than the value of the property, Grimes said, the Stockers will probably demolish some or all of the houses.

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