HIGHLAND PARK (CBSLA.com) — Some local renters facing a possible dramatic rent hike in Highland Park are fighting back.

Marilyn Samaniego says she is willing to do whatever it takes not to have to move out from her apartment.

Despite a 60-day notice, she must leave due to remodeling and word rent could go up at least 50 percent.

“I have children and they shouldn’t be forced to be kicked out of their home because they want to bring in new people,” she said.

Theresa Andrad says this is the second time she’s been told to move from a home because of higher rent around Highland Park.

“I moved here to relocate over here and I’m doing the same thing again,” said Andrad, another tenant. “My daughter is going to graduate and to relocate her again, it doesn’t make sense.”

Some of the tenants are on a rent strike and they’ve hired a nonprofit attorney to fight with them.

“You may have a legal right to serve a 30 or a 60-day notice but you don’t have a moral right to do it,” said Elena Popp of the Eviction Defense Network. “We are defending our community.”

That begs the question: what legal rights to California renters have?

• Eleven cities in California, including Los Angeles, have rent-controlled units. But, in Los Angeles, exemptions include buildings completed after 1978. That’s why the Marmion Royal complex is not rent-controlled.

• Rental properties must be livable. For example, renters should have heat in the winter, and pest problems should be addressed. If they aren’t, renters may move out and not pay rent even if under a lease.

• The owner must give a tenant at least 30-day notice to move.

• The owner cannot lock a tenant out of their apartment or turn off the gas, electricity, heat, or water.

Popp says these tenants have dealt with poor living conditions and therefore the rent strike is justified.

The management company disagrees and says they’ve offered incentives to help tenants with the moving process while the complex is under construction.

“I have a history here. It hurts. It hurts. I don’t want to leave. I really don’t,” Samaniego said.

Popp says she started a nonprofit to fight evictions because she says 99 percent of tenants who take their evictions to court lose and she wants to change that.

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