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City Obtains Injunction Against Landlords in Tenant Harassment Case
November 26, 2019
SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Two Santa Monica landlords have agreed to a judgment and court injunction after the City Attorney’s Office filed claims in state court against them under the City’s Tenant Harassment Ordinance.
In City of Santa Monica vs. Hsing-Ching Hsieh et al, Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. 19SMCV01521, the Consumer Protection Division of the City Attorney’s Office alleged that the owners harassed a tenant by: repeatedly parking in their parking space, raiding their storage space and disposing of items (defendants claimed it was a case of mistaken identity), and filing an untenable eviction case against the tenant that was quickly dismissed.
Pursuant to the judgment signed by Superior Court Judge Mark Young, the defendants must pay the City $35,000 in damages and fees. Judge Young also ordered the defendants to hire a third-party property management group to manage the apartment building and to pay the legal fees their tenant incurred while fighting the landlords’ unsuccessful eviction attempt. Under the injunction, future violations of the City’s Tenant Harassment Ordinance will subject the defendants to a minimum penalty of $10,000 per violation.
Since 2017, the City Attorney's Office has filed eleven complaints alleging tenant harassment or discrimination. Five have resulted in stipulated judgments and injunctions, two with settlements, and four cases remain pending.
The City’s Tenant Harassment Ordinance prohibits landlords and managers from engaging in a variety of actions by landlords against tenants that are made in bad faith, intended to upset the tenants and to make them want to move out. Here are a few examples of the conduct that Santa Monica law prohibits if done with the intent to harass:
- Taking away services provided in the lease (such as parking or laundry)
- Entering the apartment without proper notice
- Using lies or intimidation intended to make a tenant move out
- Giving a "three-day notice" or other eviction notice that's based on false charges
- Refusing to do repairs that are required by law
- Intentionally disturbing a tenant's peace and quiet
- Interfering with a tenant's right to privacy
If you believe that you have been a witness to or been the subject of unlawful housing discrimination or tenant harassment, please contact the City Attorney’s Office at 310-458-8336. The City's Code Enforcement Division and the City Attorney's Office investigate violations of City and State fair housing laws. Please be advised that the City Attorney's Office files enforcement actions on behalf of the City and the People of the State of California; the City Attorney's Office cannot represent individual tenants in legal matters.
On Wednesday, December 4, 9 a.m. to noon, Rent Control and the Consumer Protection Division will host the sixth annual Landlord/Tenant Forum at Virginia Avenue Park. The forum is part of the City of Santa Monica’s ongoing effort to increase public awareness of how local and state laws impact landlords and tenants. Registration is required.