Healthy Homes

No family should ever have to live in an unhealthy home. Since ICLC’s founding, combating slum housing has been central to our mission. Through community outreach and education as well as litigation against slumlords, ICLC’s Healthy Homes Project seeks to reduce and ultimately eliminate slum housing conditions in Los Angeles while also improving and increasing safe and affordable housing.

Many health problems are connected to the environment where we live. Lead poisoning and asthma are just two examples of serious health threats linked directly to illegal and unhealthy housing conditions. Our clients, like most people, spend most of their time indoors, eating, sleeping, and playing. Often they are exposed to mold, dust, rats, cockroaches, bed-bugs, lead-based paints, carbon monoxide, fires, and poisons that make their homes unhealthy.

ICLC’s Unique Healthy Homes Project

ICLC’s Healthy Homes Project is unique among public interest law firms and tenants’ rights organizations because we combine outreach, education, tenant organizing and litigation to address housing-related health hazards that threaten vulnerable, low-income tenants. We help protect children and their families from health and safety hazards in the home.

The low-income communities that ICLC serves are disproportionately affected by substandard housing. Too often, low-income tenants live in unhealthy and unsafe conditions that fail to comply with state and local building and health laws, and with hazards that endanger the health and safety of occupants. Children and the elderly are the most at risk and unhealthy conditions can be can be devastating to their health.

Empowering Tenants

ICLC educates tenants about their rights and responsibilities and the impact of healthy homes. ICLC tenant organizers help tenants understand the connection between housing and health. They provide tips for making homes healthy and information about lead poisoning and other home health risks.

ICLC provides information and materials necessary to empower tenants to assert their right to habitable housing conditions, and offers help with the process of filing health and safety code complaints with landlords and the Los Angeles Housing and Health Departments. In addition, our tenant organizers provide landlords with information about their responsibilities and about various resources and programs. We attempt to work with landlords to voluntarily repair their buildings.

ICLC is also involved in housing policy. In 1997, ICLC spearheaded the creation of the Blue Ribbon Committee on Slum Housing, which resulted in the creation of the Los Angeles Housing Department’s Systematic Code Enforcement Program.

Housing Litigation

Litigation is an integral part of ICLC’s approach to combating slum housing. ICLC sues slumlords and forces them to repair substandard, unhealthy conditions and compensate tenants for physical and emotional injuries suffered from being forced to live in dangerous and illegal conditions. ICLC reduces slum housing conditions through litigation.

Every day in Los Angeles, mothers are awakened by the cries of their children being bitten by roaches, bed-bugs and rats. Families struggle to cook meals without electricity and to live without hot water and utilities. Senior citizens wonder how they will make it through the winter without heat. Children have their health assaulted by mold, lead and vermin. In our own community, thousands of children and families live in slum conditions – and have the physical and emotional scars to prove it. ICLC works to stop slumlords from causing and profiting from this human misery, using our substantial expertise to force property owners to repair their buildings, comply with health and safety laws, and compensate tenants who have suffered from unsafe, unsanitary, and dangerous housing conditions.

The Housing Litigation team gives teeth to tenants’ rights, and improves the quality of housing and life for some of the most vulnerable in our community – low-income children, the elderly, the disabled, veterans and immigrants. Our lawsuits not only force slumlords to compensate tenants for their suffering, but also to force them to clean up their buildings and maintain them in a livable state long-term. ICLC approaches each case with the understanding that every building is different and the needs of the families living in these conditions remains our principal concern. Through litigation we educate landlords on their responsibilities and the steps that must be taken to turn their slums into healthy homes.

Since our founding in 1980, ICLC has successfully litigated many cases on behalf of tenants against property owners who deliberately break health, safety and housing laws in order to maximize profits. Through litigation, ICLC has eliminated slum conditions and obtained compensation for tenants, making being a slumlord less profitable. We fight because no one should live in a slum.

Continuing Our Mission

Despite ICLC’s successes, unhealthy housing conditions remain a major problem in Los Angeles. ICLC’s continued and increasing focus on healthy homes and in particular on our litigation against slumlords is in direct response to the ongoing economic and affordable housing crisis, and to slumlords who are in the business of taking advantage of low-income tenants, placing their health and safety at risk every day.

ICLC is committed to defending the right to decent, safe, affordable housing and ensuring justice in housing. Every Los Angeles home should be a safe and healthy place for children and families.

For more information about how you can help with this project please visit our Get Involved page or contact our Director of Pro Bono at Probono@innercitylaw.org. For more information about how Inner City Law Center can help you please visit our Get Help page.