San Francisco landlord fined more than 2 million dollars

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) — A San Francisco Superior Court judge on Tuesday ruled against a landlord accused of ongoing harassment of tenants and illegal evictions in a lawsuit filed by the city, issuing a sweeping order that voided all pending evictions, prohibits further contact with tenants and levies nearly $2.4 million in penalties.

In a tentative ruling, Judge Angela Bradstreet found that Anne Kihagi and two associates had engaged in a campaign of harassment, retaliation and fraudulent evictions of tenants at seven rent-controlled buildings in San Francisco.

Kihagi began buying rent-controlled buildings in San Francisco in 2013, then used a variety of tactics to push tenants out so that she could make unpermitted improvements to the units and re-rent them at higher rates to new tenants.

Kihagi’s tactics included threats, verbal abuse and interruptions to utilities and mail service, as well as fraudulent owner move-in evictions, the ruling found.

She failed to cash rent checks and then claimed tenants had paid rent late, and backdated correspondence and notices. She also entered tenants’ apartments without notice, refused to make timely repairs and even put surveillance cameras outside tenants’ front doors, according to the ruling.

In all, Bradstreet found that 23 tenants had been harassed and wrongfully evicted and 10 others had been illegally harassed, including one who died.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed suit against Kihagi in June 2015.

“This is a resounding victory for San Francisco tenants and the rule of law,” Herrera said. “I’ve gone after a lot of lawless landlords in my time, but Anne Kihagi has a special place reserved for her in San Francisco’s abusive landlord hall of fame. Her cruelty is stunning.”

The $2.4 million in penalties includes around $1.1 million for building code violations documented by the city’s Department of Building Inspection at Kihagi’s properties. Kihagi was also ordered to pay the city’s investigative costs and attorneys’ fees, which are expected to run into the millions.

Bradstreet issued an injunction ordering Kihagi and her two associates to hire an independent management company and have no further contact with her tenants for a period of five years. It also prohibits Kihagi from filing any litigation against tenants, including evictions, without the approval of the property manager.

The order nullifies all evictions pending as of Jan. 12 and requires Kihagi to remove surveillance cameras pointing toward tenants’ units and disclose all San Francisco properties in which she has an interest, along with tenant lists and rent rolls.

All tenants must be notified of the injunction and the city has the right to make unannounced surprise inspections every quarter.

Calls to Kihagi’s attorneys for comment have not yet been returned.

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