City sues landlord to enforce fair housing and tenant harassment laws

May 23, 2024 8:58 AM

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (May 23, 2024) – The City Attorney’s Office Consumer Protection Unit has filed a lawsuit against the landlord of a rent-controlled property, alleging violations of local laws protecting tenants against housing discrimination and tenant harassment.

In the complaint, the city alleges that landlord Masoud Atef intentionally discriminated against his tenant based on disability. One tenant who has resided at the property since 2021, and who is immunocompromised, made multiple requests in the past year for a reasonable accommodation that Atef professionally remediate toxic mold in her unit and temporarily relocate her during the remediation.

The complaint alleges that Atef declined to consider the request and told the tenant that his building is not suitable for tenants with “special conditions,” and that it is “not a wise choice for someone with respiratory issues” or for those who “require special care and attention.”  

Santa Monica’s Housing Anti-Discrimination Ordinance prohibits discrimination by landlords against tenants with disabilities.

The protections include:

“The City Attorney’s Office works diligently to affirmatively further fair housing in our city,” Deputy City Attorney Denise McGranahan said. “Our goal is to protect all tenants in our city and eliminate discriminatory practices through education and litigation, if necessary.”

The complaint against Atef also alleges that he has engaged in harassment against tenants of multiple units at the same property. This includes Atef demanding tenants move out and threatening to evict tenants when he had no legal basis to do so, demanding entry to units without required notice, yelling at tenants in front of their children, and cutting off access to common areas and facilities in retaliation for tenants exercising their legal rights.

The city’s lawsuit seeks a court order that Atef refrain from future harassment and discrimination, receive training in fair housing and landlord-tenant laws, grant the disabled tenant’s reasonable accommodations request, and restore housing services taken away from the tenant. The suit also seeks to recover monetary damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, and other relief.

The complaint, City of Santa Monica v. Masoud Atef, Case No. 24SMCV01606 is available here.  

Two of Atef’s former tenants, who allege they moved out because of the harassment have filed their own lawsuit with 12 causes of action, Cano v. Atef Case No. 23 SMCCV044. Those tenants are represented by Tobener Ravenscroft LLP. The City’s and the tenants’ lawsuit are being heard by the same judge. 

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