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City Wins Injunction to Keep Santa Monica Landlord from Rental Property
By Jorge Casuso
June 6, 2017 -- A Superior Court judge on Friday blocked an elderly landlord's access to the Santa Monica home he rents amid charges that he repeatedly entered the premises without providing proper notice to its young female tenants.
Signed by Santa Monica Superior Court Judge Lisa Hart Cole, the preliminary injunction bars Ronald Walden, who lives in Simi Valley, from entering the property on the 1400 block of Pacific Street where he rents rooms in the three-bedroom house.
Walden "regularly violates the tenants’ privacy by entering the house with no prior notice or legal justification, simply using his key to enter and remaining at the house for long periods of time," said Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades.
“We hope this injunction helps give the tenants some peace and maintains the status quo until trial,” Rhoades said.
Walden's attorney Richard Knickerbocker, who was Santa Monica's City Attorney in the 1970s, said his client will abide by the order.
"We don't have a problem following what the injunction says," Knickerbocker said. "He (Walden) was always in compliance. He would give notice.
"He sent emails saying, 'I want to show a new tenant' or 'there's a plumbing problem.'"
But officials in the City Attorney's office, which filed the tenant harassment lawsuit on April 24, said their investigation "revealed numerous complaints by current and former tenants that Walden had committed acts of harassment and discrimination at the property."
Rhoades said that five of the tenants, who were typically between the ages of 18 and 25, confirmed the allegations.
Usually four or five tenants at a time have occupied the home near Santa Monica College, Rhoades said.
The tenants are exclusively women, according to the City Attorneys office. Walden, who is in his seventies, refuses to allow male visitors.
"Landlord-tenant law in California is clear on the privacy rights of tenants," the City Attorneys office said. "Even though the landlord owns the property, it is the tenant’s home. The law puts strict limits on when a landlord may enter."
Examples of typical reasons for entering are to make repairs, show the property to potential renters and in cases of emergency, officials said. Except for emergencies, a 24-hour advance written notice is required.
Knickerbocker said that Walden rented the property to students in order to make extra money.
"This was a service he was providing," said Knickerbocker, who was City attorney from 1970 to 1981.
"We have a finite number of rental units in Santa Monica, where they would otherwise not be able to rent."
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