102-year-old woman faces eviction — here’s what people are saying

Thelma Smith, 102, shown in photo at right, is being evicted from her Ladera Heights residence of 30 years. Her longtime neighbor Pauline Cooper, left, spoke about her friend's situation.
Thelma Smith, 102, shown in photo at right, is being evicted from her Ladera Heights residence of 30 years. Her longtime neighbor Pauline Cooper, left, spoke about her friend’s situation.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

The story of Thelma Smith, a 102-year-old woman facing eviction, has garnered widespread attention, most notably from former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and has prompted an investigation into whether the notice to terminate Smith’s lease complied with Los Angeles County’s interim rental protections approved last fall.

Many people have inquired about ways to help with monetary or legal assistance. A handful have offered her a place to stay.

Several shared similar stories, including a 90-year-old veteran who was forced to move without moving expenses when his building was torn down and a mother and son who will be forced to leave their residence because the landlord failed to pay the mortgage.


Some have tweeted and emailed support for Smith.

It may be legal but to do it to a 102-year-old who has been a loyal tenant for 30 years is diabolical.

This situation is symptomatic of where we are at as a society.

Just because the landlord has a legal right in this case, doesn’t make it morally right.

This is so saddening.

Smith’s situation has drawn so much attention because of her age, but it illustrates a reality that many renters face in L.A. County.

Smith’s landlords said they were ending her month-to-month lease at the Ladera Heights residence because their daughter is graduating from law school.

“The dwelling is needed as her principal place of residence,” the notice of lease termination said.

Under the city of Los Angeles’ Rent Stabilization Ordinance, a landlord can legally end a lease agreement with a tenant to accommodate a relative’s housing needs.

According to the law, if the units are of comparable housing, the last person who moved in would be the first person forced to leave. That regulation is meant to protect low-paying tenants from being targeted.

But in unincorporated areas of L.A. County, including Ladera Heights, the law is weaker.

“They use this law to target long-term, low-paying tenants,” said Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival.

Smith’s story has also stirred debate over whose rights deserve ultimate protection when it comes to rental agreements.

Many voiced support for the landlord, insisting that the property owner should have ultimate authority over the residence.

What the heck? It’s the landlord’s property.

She is renting the property, she does not own it. The owner has the right to ask the tenant to vacate the property

Others pushed back, arguing that tenants — especially the elderly — deserve stronger protections.

In a moral society, evicting a 102-year-old tenant of 30 years would fall under the category of “things you can’t do.”

How does one have the heart to tell a 102-year-old person to get out?

If you don’t like the laws, just change them.

Smith, a widow, worked for years with the Sugar Ray Robinson Youth Foundation and connected with public figures like Schwarzenegger and Elizabeth Taylor along the way.

She recently celebrated her birthday in the home where she has spent three decades.