Sabrina lived in unbearable conditions and her landlord kept refusing to make repairs to her unit. The home was infested with rats, cockroaches, and mold; and there were numerous problems with the plumbing and electricity. ”We didn’t have heat for months at a time,” she recalls. “Sometimes the lights in the house didn’t even work.”
Sabrina contacted the SF Housing Authority to conduct inspections, which the landlord failed. As a result, the landlord lost his rent subsidy from the Housing Authority. Defeated and furious, the landlord tried to persecute Sabrina, attempting to have her government housing benefits taken away. When this did not happen, he attempted to evict Sabrina and her children from their home for physical damage that Sabrina had nothing to do with.
At this point, she decided to seek legal advice. She was first referred to the Housing Rights Committee, who helped get her hearings with the City and County of San Francisco. As a result of the hearings, the landlord was legally obligated to make the repairs and pass inspections, or else face fines. However, at the time of inspection, the landlord would “patch up” or make temporary repairs, and in the meantime continued to try to evict Sabrina. Terrified of losing her government housing benefits, she was compelled to move out of her apartment but continued to seek justice for her cause.
She found out about Open Door Legal through a Salvation Army program, which shares space with our legal services office. Her case was soon taken on by one of our volunteer attorneys, Julia Quinn. Julia secured $20,000 in damages, partly for the possessions Sabrina had to throw away when she moved because she could not afford a moving truck.
“The only thing I got to take were my kids’ clothes, because that’s all that fit in the car,” she recounts. After years of facing eviction, living in appalling conditions, and losing most of her possessions, Sabrina was relieved to finally receive justice and begin to rebuild her life. Although Open Door Legal did help her win the case, Sabrina says legal support wasn’t the only thing that they offered.
“The people who helped me really were compassionate, understanding about my issues, and gave me support more than just doing the paperwork. There were times when I was stressed and crying, and they just helped me through everything. They rock.” She walked away with more than just money in her pocket; she also had the reassurance that “[the landlord] can no longer do that to me or anybody else.”