San Francisco Judge Cracks Down on Landlord with $2.4 Million Fine

lili-popper-29464-300x169San Francisco rental and housing costs have skyrocketed in recent years. The amount a landlord can get for a small unit has doubled or tripled compared to potential rent prices just a few years ago. This potential financial gain means it is often in the landlord’s best interests to have a long-term tenant move out so that the new rent can be increased a significant percentage – a move that may not be possible with current tenants under rent control laws. This motivation has led landlords across the area to illegally evict tenants. However, lawmakers and prosecutors are cracking down on this type of behavior and at least one notorious landlord has been fined millions of dollars for deceptive and bad faith practices.

San Francisco Landlord Heavily Fined

In a ruling against local landlord Anne Kihagi, Judge Angela Bradstreet stated there was a pattern of bad-faith harassment, retaliation, and fraud against Kihagi’s tenants, San Francisco Gate reported. Kihagi was found to have intentionally ruined her tenant’s ability to quietly enjoy their rental property due a campaign of continual harassment, a reduction in services, and unlawful evictions. She was fined close to $2.4 million for violations of California housing law and ordered to pay all of the city’s court and investigative fees, which are expected to be a couple million dollars.

Kihagi has been accused of intentionally purchasing rent-controlled buildings with many longtime tenants paying below current market rates. She then uses both legal and illegal practices to get these tenants to leave so that she could jump the rent to market rate. These practices include offering buyouts, threatening an owner or relative move-in, or using threats and harassment. Through these business practices, Kihagi has allegedly added more than $8.8 million in value to her property portfolio consisting of 50 rental units.

Ruling Against Kihagi Saves Many People’s Homes

The ruling is momentous for many of Kihagi’s current tenants as it voids all pending evictions. Tenants who Kihagi was attempting to evict now have the right to stay in their homes. She must also stop having any contact with previous, current, or future tenants. Instead, her properties must be managed by an independent property manager approved by the city. If any of the tenants were being evicted based on a real issue, then the independent property manager will have the option to proceed with lawful evictions in the future.

Is Your Landlord Trying to Evict You?

San Francisco landlords have increased their use of owner or relative move-in evictions. This type of lawful eviction is available to landlords who want to move themselves or close relatives into the unit and remove that unit from the rental market for a period of time. However, there is little oversight into these types of evictions, which enables landlords to abuse this option. Many San Francisco landlords claim they or family members will be moving in, when really they simply raise the rent and put the unit back on the market.

If you believe your landlord is unlawfully evicting you and other tenants by fraudulently claiming an owner or relative-move in, then contact an experienced San Francisco tenants’ rights attorney at Brod Law Firm today.  

(image courtesy of Lili Popper)