SANTA MONICA—A 79-year old Ukrainian man, Dimitry Shuster, and his Lithuanian wife, Regina Smolyansky – who underwent a kidney and liver transplant and is currently on dialysis – were evicted from their apartment on the 1400 block of 21st Street on Wednesday, May 31.
According to documents provided to Canyon News, the court-ordered eviction brought about by Geneva Plaza Inc., claims that Smolysansky breached a material term of the lease by allowing Shuster – an “unauthorized occupant” deemed “a threat to the health and safety of the community” – to live at the apartment.
Smolyansky has been the named tenant in the apartment since January 2020, under a Housing Assistance Payments Contract for low-income individuals; her monthly rent was $294. Shuster moved in with Smolyansky at the same time and they got married at Van Nuys Superior Courthouse. Shuster was never put on the lease agreement.
“Regina became sick about a year ago and became hospitalized,” Shuster said. “She expressed a worry that I would leave her, so I told her ‘let’s get married so we can put that worry aside’,” he continued.
Smolyansky underwent surgery and has been in and out of hospitals ever since; she is currently at Beverly Hills Rehabilitation Center receiving dialysis treatment. Shuster visits her almost everyday to bring her “flowers, vitamins, fruit, whatever she needs.”
Shuster – who has been residing at the residence while Smolyansky remains hospitalized, in poor condition – claims to have been harassed by the property manager, Dawn McKay, starting around the time Smolyansky was no longer at the apartment.
According to Shuster, his first encounter with McKay occurred when CVS Pharmacy staff came to the apartment complex to administer COVID vaccinations. “She told the staff ‘do not give [Shuster] a vaccination, he doesn’t live here’,” Shuster stated.
The relationship between Shuster and McKay reportedly grew worse. Shuster claims that he was not receiving his mail for three months. On January 6, 2022, he confronted a postal woman at his building to demand why he hadn’t been receiving his mail and showed her his ID with the address.
According to a written statement by McKay, the postal woman – confused as to why his name was not listed on the mailbox – spoke with McKay about the situation who explained that “Shuster is not a resident and not on the lease” therefore his mail should not be coming there.
According to Shuster, McKay has a drinking problem and in another instance on one particular night, he was playing pool with McKay and other tenants at the building. “She was so drunk that she couldn’t hit a ball with the pool stick,” Shuster said. “[McKay] collapsed under the pool table and I tried to help her up and she didn’t like that, she seemed embarrassed and became angry with me,” he continued.
Shuster explained that there were various times McKay approached him in a hostile manner and he did not want to engage with her because she “smelled of alcohol.” “I called her a drunk and she grew angrier,” Shuster explained.
By April 12, 2022, McKay filed a restraining order against Shuster as she “[did] not feel safe on the property while he was around.” On May 5, 2022, the restraining order was denied after an evidentiary hearing.
By November 4, 2022, he was served the first eviction notice addressed to Smolyansky. By January 1, 2023, Geneva Plaza Inc. stopped accepting Smolyansky’s rent checks; several rent checks were returned to Shuster. On Wednesday, May 31, Los Angeles Sheriff Deputies came to escort Shuster out on a court-ordered eviction notice.
Canyon News reached out to the office of Dawn McKay for comment but did not hear back from McKay before print.
Shuster has yet to tell Smolyansky about the eviction. “I don’t want to add stress to her already deteriorating condition, I just want to fix the situation.” Should she be released from the rehabilitation center, she has no idea that she has no home to go back to.
Shuster is staying at a motel in Santa Monica until he figures out what to do next.