‘Ratlord’s’ Home is His Castle For Now
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A convicted slumlord and Beverly Hills neurosurgeon confined to his rundown property while serving a sentence for health and building code violations is catching up on his reading.
″He seems to like it, actually,″ said attorney Donald Steier who represents Dr. Milton Avol, the physician and real estate investor known as the ″Rat Lord.″
″He putters around the building and spends his evening reading novels. He said he hadn’t been able to read novels for years,″ Steier said.
Avol, 63, moved into the half-empty, rat-infested Hollywood building on July 13 for a 30-day stay after a 15-day jail sentence. He chose to sleep at the apartment as an alternative to spending more time in jail, Steier said.
Municipal Court Judge Veronica Simmons-McBeth imposed the sentence, under which Avol wears an electronic ″leash″ that discloses his location, because of repeated infractions of city health and building codes.
Some cleanup was evident Thursday at the building. ″It’s a lot better,″ said Adi Cavazos, 26, who lives on the second floor of the old brick apartment complex.
″It’s cleaner than before. There used to be a lot of garbage. We have a problem with roaches and mice, but the tenants won’t help,″ she said, explaining that some apartment-dwellers keep filthy households.
Avol shunned reporters Thursday. No one answered a knock at his newly painted door in room 207, and an employee said he had been told reporters were not allowed inside the building on threat of arrest for trespassing.
Avol has been obeying the conditions of his sentence by remaining at the complex during the day and in his room at night, said Stephanie Sautner, supervisor of the city attorney’s housing section.
″He looked quite content to be there, to tell you the truth. He’s a strange guy. He had a lot of magazines and legal documents. I think he’s catching up on all his lawsuits.″
Avol earned his nickname because he has been cited for hundreds of health, fire and building code violations and more than a dozen criminal code infractions at buildings he owned since 1977.
In addition to rodent infestation, inspectors found missing or broken windows, lack of fire exits, electrical problems and deteriorating plaster.
Avol has claimed vandalism ruined his properties and that tenants must share the blame for the conditions. He has since sold four of five buildings, and the Hollywood complex is for sale.
Ms. Sautner said Avol has had electricians re-wiring some areas, and was putting new carpet in some of the apartments, where 18 families live.
But she said most of the repairs were impermanent and cheaply done, using unskilled labor.
″He’s cheap. I would term what he’s doing now is whitewashing to make it look good so he can sell it,″ she said. ″But I’m happy that he’s getting out of the business.″