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Santa Monica Landlord Settles Tenant Harassment Lawsuit Filed by City
By Jorge Casuso
July 20, 2022 -- A Santa Monica landlord who allegedly tried to wrongfully evict a family from their rent controlled apartment has agreed to pay $65,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the City.
According to the City Attorney's Office, the landlord used "fraudulent and coercive tactics" in an effort to force the tenants to leave after they asked for repairs and maintenance work.
They then listed the unit "for a much higher rent," according to a press release issued by the City Attorney’s Office on Wednesday.
“Protecting tenants’ rights is a fundamental part of what we do,” said City Attorney Douglas Sloan.
“We expect both landlords and tenants to play by the rules, and when landlords abuse their position, the City’s Tenant Harassment Ordinance ensures accountability,” Sloan said.
The lawsuit alleges the landlord "used delay tactics in responding to tenants’ repeated requests for repairs," according to the City Attorney's Office.
The tenant's requests included addressing the "lack of hot water, black wastewater in the bathroom, broken outside lighting, and a fly infestation," the City claimed.
"When tenants sought to correct a rent payment issue, the property manager told them to wait to pay and refused to answer questions about how to pay," according to the press release.
"The landlord then brought an eviction lawsuit without providing the legally required eviction notice" and refused to provide contact information so the tenants could reach them, the lawsuit alleges.
In addition to paying $65,000 to the City for tenants’ restitution and the City’s costs and fees, the defendants must attend property management training in 2022 and 2023.
They also must report all eviction notices and lawsuits in Santa Monica to the City Attorney’s Office for one year and provide City-approved disclosures meeting state law requirements to all tenants in Santa Monica properties.
In agreeing to the stipulated judgment, the defendants did not admit to any wrongdoing.
The defendants' attorney, Thomas S. Gelini, declined the Lookout's request to comment on the settlement.
It is not the first time defendant Vaisburd settles a tenant harassment lawsuit filed by the City ("Two Landlords Settle Tenant Harassment Case," May 29, 2001).
In 2001, Vaisburd and Daniel Smith of Cabinda, LLC. agreed to pay the City $20,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging they repeatedly harassed a tenant living in a $598 a month rent-controlled apartment on Sixth Street to force him out.
The City's most recent lawsuit lists 848 18th Street LLC as one of the defendants.
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