SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco has filed a lawsuit against a property owner, claiming she has been harassing and intimidating her rent-controlled tenants to force them from their apartments.
The lawsuit filed on Thursday came as rents in the city have climbed past $3,000-a-month for one-bedroom apartments and $5,000-a-month for two bedrooms in some areas.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera says property owner Anne Kihagi used “strong arm and unlawful tactics” to force rent-controlled tenants out so she could take advantage of market rates.
Kihagi and her associates own at least nine multi-unit residential properties in the city and have more than 50 rent-controlled apartments, according to the city attorney’s office.
“It takes breathtaking cruelty to so aggressively bully and displace even elderly and disabled tenants from their rent-controlled homes, especially in the midst of our severe housing crisis,” Herrera said in a statement.
Attorney Karen Uchiyama, who represents Kihagi, said the city attorney’s office has no case against her client. People who have been evicted were breaking rules, mostly by subletting in violation of their leases, the lawyer said.
“It’s not that they are being evicted because Anna scares them,” she said. “They are being evicted if they create legal cause for the landlord to evict them.”
Uchiyama said her client is being harassed by an organized group of tenants and has no problems with most of her tenants.
Kihagi filed a complaint in March, claiming city inspections of her properties amounted to illegal searches and trespassing, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. She accused the city of targeting her in part because she is a female, African American immigrant who owns property.
Herrera’s lawsuit accuses Kihagi of bullying tenants by disrupting mail, gas, electric, water and cable service, failing to cash rent checks and later claiming they were late and refusing to fix problems that created safety hazards, among other things.
Uchiyama said Kihagi did hold one tenant’s rent, but that was because she was investigating him for possible subletting.
Nick Reggars, who works in advertising, moved out of one of Kihagi’s buildings because he felt threatened and harassed, he said.
He told the Chronicle his parking spot was taken away, the laundry machines disappeared and Kihagi said she was going to move her sister into his unit.
“The stress and anxiety level was getting crazy,” he said.
He was paying $2,900-a-month for a two-bedroom unit and now rents a one-bedroom apartment that costs him $3,600.
Uchiyama said Kihagi removed the laundry machines when she bought the building because they were illegally installed, and she had to find a good place to put them.