A federal district judge on Friday gave final approval to a $3.3-million settlement in a lawsuit brought by public housing residents alleging the Los Angeles Housing Authority illegally charged them for trash collection.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Housing Authority will reimburse more than 4,000 residents of more than a dozen public housing projects for trash fees it collected as far back as March 2008.
The lawsuit, filed by the Western Center on Law and Poverty in 2012, alleged that the city's public housing agency shortchanged residents by charging them for trash pickup on top of rent.
Under law, trash collection is supposed to be included in rent calculations, Western Center attorneys argued. On average, tenants paid $24 for trash collection each month.
Robert Newman, a senior attorney with the center, said the average reimbursement to current and former residents will be more than $700.
Marco Galindo, the plaintiff in the case, called the settlement fair.
He said the trash fees made life difficult for residents like himself who have a limited income.
"Many of the people who live here have to make hard choices every month--do you pay the utility bill, the rent, or buy food?" he said. "This settlement...will help make those choices a little easier."
In addition to monetary relief, the housing authority will attempt to contract with a new trash company that charges less for trash collection at the 14 housing projects.
Tenants who are continuing to pay for trash collection without a corresponding reduction in rent will also be reimbursed by the public housing agency.
Housing Authority officials said they have changed how they charge for trash.