The Pasadena Weekly published a story dated May 14, 2020, with the headline “Local Tenants Blow the Whistle on Landlord Who Turned Off Water While Making Repairs on Empty Units,” which imputed, on Optimus’ part, malice toward or gross indifference to the tenants of the property. The imputation that the water shutoffs were intended to harass tenants is false.   

Optimus acquired this building in early April. The large majority of the plumbing in the building remains from when it was built 50 years ago. Almost immediately, Optimus was informed both by its general contractor and at least one independent expert that the plumbing and drainage systems constituted an imminent threat to the health and safety of the building, and the tenants (who, it should be noted, were largely sheltering at home, thus increasing the necessity that they be protected). 

In just over a month of ownership, Optimus received no fewer than 13 complaints for plumbing-related issues; has had to deal with two major leaks; and has inherited a drainage system which is wholly inadequate for the entire building.    

The water was shut off six times, one of which was an emergency shutoff caused by a pipe bursting. Of the remaining five shutoffs, two (those that occurred on May 7 and May 8) were in direct response to leaks in the water supply and drainage system. These repairs were directly as a result of specific tenant complaints. The final three were necessary and urgent repairs to the drainage system. These repairs, which occurred on April 24, April 30 and May 1, were to install sewer cut-outs, because the existing drainage system did not have them. The cut-outs are required to allow the landlord to gain access to the pipes in the event of a blockage. Without these cut-outs, the likely result would have been sewage backups into the sinks and toilets of the tenants, caused by blockages that could only be reached by drilling through sheer concrete, and possibly displacing tenants, who, in all likelihood, would not have had any place to go.

The renovations of the vacant units had no relation to the water shutoffs. Rather the shutoffs were necessary for imminently dangerous conditions of the entire property, and were performed by Optimus consistent with its principles of sound and prudent management, including minimization of disturbance of its tenants. In this case, however, there was simply no other alternative but to shut off the water to effect urgently needed repairs. n