Portland tenant who faced 45% rent hike sues for $1 million

A photo of Aleina Langford’s son is pictured on a flier that angry tenants of a Southeast Portland apartment complex circulated late last summer. (Courtesy of Portland Tenants United)

A 40-year-old single mother of two who says she was forced out of her Southeast Portland apartment last year because she couldn’t afford the 45 percent rent increase filed a $1 million lawsuit Friday against her former rental management company.

Aleina Langford’s attorney said she had no choice but to accept that the rent hike was coming. That’s because nothing in city and state laws stopped A&G Rental Management LLC from raising her rent from $825 to $1,200 a month as long as it gave her 90 days’ notice, which it did.

But Langford’s lawsuit seeks damages based on claims that the management company violated tenant housing laws, in part by allowing deplorable living conditions, including hypodermic needles, feces, rodents, insects and garbage on the grounds of Ash Street Properties near Southeast 119th Avenue and Ash Street. Management exacerbated the problem by refusing to properly light interior and exterior common areas of the property, the suit claims.

The suit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, also claims Langford’s apartment had problems, including a broken stove that A&G Rental Management refused to fix until the rent increase made headlines.

An employee of A&G Rental Management declined comment. She also declined to give her name.

Langford and other tenants grabbed media attention late last summer after they became vocal about the management company’s demand in July 2016: Pay significantly higher rents or move out by that October.

In September, tenants circulated fliers chastising the man they identified as the new owner of the company that recently bought the Ash Street Properties apartment complex.

The fliers featured a photo of Langford’s young son, standing outside the family’s apartment and holding a sign that read: “My mom can’t afford $1200 a month. She worries everyday. Someone was shot right here.”

A hand-sketched arrow on the sign points to small hole in the porch.

Since Langford moved out, the Portland City Council in February passed a requirement calling for most landlords to pay $2,900 to $4,500 to renters who they evict without cause or who must relocate because they can’t afford annual rent hikes of 10 percent or more. Landlords have filed suit, asking a judge to declare the requirement illegal, and the judge has yet to rule.

Langford and her children moved to Vancouver in November. But Langford’s lawsuit claims that the problems with Ash Street Properties are still ongoing.

The company is sending a collection agency after her to pay more than $1,500 for what she believes are bogus charges, such as a window that was broken after she moved out. She thinks it was broken by a squatter. Langford is worried that the collection agency could tank her credit score, says her Portland attorney, Michael Fuller.

The management company also violated state law by failing to return her security deposit until after the mandatory 31-day period under state law had passed, the suit says.

Langford’s suit seeks $10,000 in economic damages. She also is seeking $1 million in non-economic damages.

Fuller said at least three other Ash Street tenants plan to file similar lawsuits.

— Aimee Green

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler

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