How "Serial Evictees" Game A System Meant To Protect Renters From Abuse

There’s nothing we dislike more than people who scam a system put in place to protect vulnerable consumers from abuse, but the sad fact is that they do exist. SF Weekly has an article that tracks the exploits of a serial evictee, a “renter” who leases apartments with no intention of paying rent, and then games the system in order to stay rent free for as long as possible.

Depending on the vigilance of the landlord, a seasoned serial evictee like Getzow can get away with a minimum of 45 days and sometimes up to a year of free rent. The actual number of serial evictees operating in San Francisco is difficult to track, but some attorneys who specialize in representing landlords estimate there are between 20 and 100.

Landlord attorney Clifford Fried of Wiegel and Fried says these types of tenants know they’re unlikely to be punished for withholding rent. “You can go into a store and steal a loaf of bread and do a year in jail,” he says, “but you can steal months of rent from a landlord and never do any time in jail. It’s a great crime to commit because there are no penalties.”

The evictees are well versed in the ins and outs of the San Francisco eviction process. They take advantage of the all the programs and aid that the city provides to its residents who are facing eviction. Of course, they’re only a small percentage of the renters that seek help:

Carolyn Gold directs the San Francisco Volunteer Legal Services Program, which manages a group of 10 volunteer attorneys who help tenants in the 30 or so eviction cases that come through Superior Court each week. She says she sees very few serial evictees like Getzow. “In fact, what we see more of is serial evictors, landlords who continually come up with ruses for one eviction after another,” she says. “There are lots of tenants who have gotten themselves into a tight spot for one reason or another — they’re elderly, they have medical conditions, lost jobs — things that are beyond their control. I see it every day, and it’s very, very sad.”

The serial evictee profiled in the story, however, is an especially nasty one. His last run in with a landlord ended in charges for assault:

According to police, Getzow came into the Holy Grail on Feb. 10 at about 1:30 a.m. complaining about noise and attempting to goad O’Reilly into a fight. O’Reilly refused and tried to get Getzow to leave. Bartender Patricia Herlihy was so alarmed at Getzow’s behavior that she began taking photographs of him with a digital camera. Getzow approached her and shoved or pushed the camera into her face, SFPD Sergeant Neville Gittens says.

Herlihy was taken to the hospital, Gittens says, though the police report contains no information about the extent of her injuries. Getzow retreated to a nearby crepe restaurant, where he was still in such an agitated state when the police arrived that it took several officers to restrain him, the report says.

How Renters Work the System to Live for Free in One of America’s Most Expensive Cities [SFWeekly]


Edit Your Comment

  1. cmcd14 says:

    There are just some people that take advantage of every loop hole possible. It makes me sick.

  2. AI says:

    Just rent illegally without the paperwork. Then you can kick people out whenever you want. Avoid legal troubles by saying that whoever you’re renting to is a friend that’s just staying for free, and do all transactions with cash.

  3. BloggyMcBlogBlog says:

    I know I shouldn’t laugh at this, but the part when the deadbeat jerk hid out a crepe restaurant made me giggle.

  4. Skipweasel says:

    We have them here in the UK, too. A girl a few doors from here just got evicted – moved in not long ago, had all night parties and swung it as long as she could before the Housing Association got its act together and threw her out. The families either side of her are relieved, but know it may happen all over again next month.

  5. SadSam says:

    This is a problem in many areas. I understand the gov.’s motivation to err on the side of the tenant so that people don’t end up homeless. On the other hand, its absolutely theft and should be criminal. If the gov. wants to make it hard to evict people based on public policy goals then the gov. ought to spend more on rental assistance programs.

  6. rekoil says:

    I have a neighbor this sounds like – she hasn’t paid her mortgage (or her condo dues, which is the reason I care), in years, and she’s filed bankruptcy FIVE TIMES over the past two years, every time within days of the house going up for auction – each filing gets thrown out, and she just re-files a month or so later. Sickening.

  7. wattznext says:

    Getzow retreated to a nearby crepe restaurant, where he was still in such an agitated state when the police arrived that it took several officers to restrain him, the report says.

    That made me laugh out loud for some reason.

  8. tedyc03 says:

    This should be a crime. If they can prove you’ve been evicted two or more times you should be punished with a crime. This is theft of services plain and simple.

  9. EBounding says:

    “San Francisco”

    Ah, makes sense.

  10. Coder4Life says:

    Landlords should be able to give a 30 day notice to move out and if they don’t the police should be able to use force to have them move out, in these situations.

    But ofcourse most of our laws don’t protect citizens in everyday life situations and if they do it costs them $1000’s in lawyer fees and you are just better to be out $500.

  11. Anonymous says:

    @: Great comment. You added so much to the discussion.

  12. @: So, this could never happen in any other big city?

  13. That was to ebounding.

  14. Mr.SithNinja says:

    @AirIntake: So your solution to someone working the leagaly (albeit immorally) is to flat out break the law. Nice. Your scheme would actualy help a guy like this because since you have no paper trail you get into a “my word vs. his word” battle. He would be protected from eviction for a certain period of time to allow him to search for new residentcy, because you allowed him to say there in the first place.

  15. EBounding says:

    @AbsoluteIrrelevance: Probably not as likely:

    “In San Francisco, which has some of the most progressive rental policies in the state, there are numerous free services and programs for tenants.”

  16. Judge_Smails says:

    “retreated to a nearby crepe restaurant…”

    Now that’s a phrase I never get tired of seeing.

  17. something’s wrong with the comment code today…

  18. @EBounding – Oh, so you “Ah, makes sense” comment was the the availability of programs for tenants, not to serial evictees. Got it.

  19. bigduke says:

    “In fact, what we see more of is serial evictors, landlords who continually come up with ruses for one eviction after another,”

    Did anyone else read this and think about Voting Fraud? I am sure people will use this one in a million idiot as reasoning to erode rights for all renters.

  20. sketchy says:

    I find it funny to think that if the Holy Grail was called ‘Applebee’s Holy Grail’ this discussion would likely attract a thousand comments with the bulk of them blaming the big, bad corporation for abusing the little guy, possibly even being apologetic for the ‘poor customer’ punching the corporate agent (the bartender in this case) in the eye because they are ‘standing up for their rights’ against ‘the man’ and blaming to police for having to restrain the fool afterwards.

    Thankfully it’s a mom-and-pop operation.

  21. PinkBox says:

    “…but some attorneys who specialize in representing landlords estimate there are between 20 and 100.”

    Wow, that’s a pretty broad gap.

  22. nicemarmot617 says:

    I don’t know how things work in SF but here in New York if you get on a landlord’s bad side no one will ever rent to you again. Ever. Even years and years later. Isn’t it the landlord’s responsibility to research his potential tenants? Or is this some sort of quasi-government housing BS? Or perhaps SF has passed so many tenant-favorable laws that no one with a brain or a heart wants to be a landlord, only scumbags and idiots.

  23. The most progressive rental policy in San Francisco is the cost. Rentals in San Francisco makes Manhattan look affordable.

  24. muckpond says:

    @BloggyMcBlogBlog: amen! that caught my funny bone too.

  25. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    I was recently house shopping in an association and struck up a chat with the association president who would have just so happened to live next to me had I bought.

    She stated 60% of the homes were investor owned. 80% of those are rented. 50% of renters were not paying their rents (that she was aware of, possibly more) and 60% of properties rented were in default for association payments.


  26. MercuryPDX says:

    @ nicemarmot617: My dad got burned by “He/She looked like a nice person” four times.

    They all look nice, until they stop paying rent in two months.

  27. crashfrog says:

    It’s theft, agreed; but a year of jail for stealing bread? What is this, Les Miserables?

  28. BuddhaLite says:

    I wish I could get away without paying my mortgage for a year without consequence.

  29. m4ximusprim3 says:

    @: I just have this awesome mental image of the police trying to haul him out and him diving over the counter and crepes flying everywhere. Or him standing behind the counter throwing jam bottles at the officers as they try to clamber over the register to get at him.

    “Take that, coppers!” *crash!*

  30. RandomHookup says:

    @nicemarmot617: True, no one will rent to these folks, but you have to be able to figure out it’s them. There’s not an easy way to find out they are the ones doing it. Fake names, friends acting as landlord references, stolen ID’s, preying on small landlords who have trouble getting tenants.

    In Mass., it takes 6 months to evict if they contest (I know from experience) — scheduling court hearings is what takes time. The “smarter” ones break everything then call the health department on you to stretch things out.

  31. jayde_drag0n says:

    i like how the numbers work here.. in a city of 776,733 people out of that number we get between 20 and 100 scammers on the renter side. on the Landlord scams there are between 17-20,000 .. yet the only thing that is important are the few people that are scamming the landlords? Where is the outcry for the innocent people that are being scammed every day by landlords? I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be mad at those guys.. but why is there no newspaper articles on the landords.. are they above reprisal?

  32. SkokieGuy says:

    In the 1940’s landlords used to offer rent concessions, one or two months free as an inducement to rent. Tenants would sometimes move in the middle of the night at the end of the two months to avoid paying rent. I know someone who wwent to 28 different schools because of the constant moving. Serial evictees are nothing new.

    We now have strong tentant protection laws in most cities. A landlord is often a corporation and often owns multiple buildings. They have more money for court battles, they have access to your credit, they have access to your home.

    This is not an equal balance of power between the two parties, so laws are enacted to protect the party with less power. As with all laws, protection also can invite abuse. Abuse doesn’t mean the laws are bad – it means the abusers are bad.

  33. bohemian says:

    Someone who does this has to be a total sociopath. To put that much effort into screwing people indicates they have something wrong with them.

    You would think they would get charged with ID theft or fraud for pretending to be someone else in order to rent.

  34. bohemian says:

    @: There was a 19 year old kid in the city I am at that is doing 5-7 years for stealing diapers from a convenience store. They were broke young and stupid and their kids needed diapers.
    Locking this kid up that long is about as stupid as doing a year for a loaf of bread.

  35. xsmasher says:

    [quoting orignal article] “In fact, what we see more of is serial evictors, landlords who continually come up with ruses for one eviction after another,”

    That rings my BS bell. Why would a landlord do that? Vacancies cost money! The only way for “serial evictors” to benefit is if they’re taking security deposits and not returning them / accounting for them properly (already illegal) or pulling some other scam. Why would a landlord rent-em and then boot-em?

  36. BlondeGrlz says:

    I’ve heard the idea of having rental histories show up on credit reports, which I don’t believe they do currently. If you rent for 10 years, and are never so much as a minute late, you get exactly the same amount of credit as someone like the guy in the article. It would also help landlords avoid people like this with just a quick credit check and may cut down on abuse in the eviction system.

  37. Norcross says:

    Wow. Squatters have really upped their craft. As long as you don’t own too much, this would probably be pretty easy to do, given the amount of people stuck with properties that are praying that someone will give them anything, be it a purchase or rent.

  38. Inglix_the_Mad says:


    Had someone pull that sh*t on me in one of my upper/lowers. Bad mistake. The person in the upper liked me (but never saw the other renter before due to differing schedules) and was cutting the grass, blowing the snow, weeding, et al, for 20 bucks off the rent (I also keep the lawnmower / snowblower tuned and gas there). One night she heard a lot of smashing and called the cops and then me. She thought someone was in a fight or robbing the place.

    I got there about 10 minutes after the cops and he’s like “this place is a sh*t-hole, just go look inside, nobody should be allowed to live here,” et al. He caused (by estimate) just shy of 10k dollars in damage to the apartment and nearly started the place on fire! I had to shut off the lower’s water and electric and told the cops that I was pressing charges.

    been six years and still haven’t gotten all the money, but I check that the order’s still in place. The idiot did try to sue me for loss of items, with gall, but the judge tossed that because he caused the damage that led to his items being damaged.

    All of this over not getting the garage…

  39. MayorBee says:

    @PinkBox: But when you consider how many renters there are in SF, is even the high estimate, at 100, a significant problem? Yes, it’s unfair to the landlords, I agree. Yeah, it’s immoral, too.

    From the demographics provided in the 2000 census, aggregated at this site, there are 214,309 renter occupied housing units. Even if there were 500 serial evictees, that would be less than 1/4 of a percent.

    Laws binding landlords are there for a reason. Landlords are much more likely to abuse or take advantage of tenants rather than vice-versa. A change of the laws governing landlord/tenant relationships to relieve tenants of power would be foolhardy because 1) there is not a prevalent problem of tenants abusing landlords and 2) there is still a problem of landlords abusing tenants, in spite of the laws, as evidenced by “In fact, what we see more of is serial evictors, landlords who continually come up with ruses for one eviction after another.”

  40. SkokieGuy says:

    @: Reasons for a landlord trying to get rid of a tenant:

    Drug dealing / prostitution / Two many people in apartment / noise / smoking / unsavory visitors / damaging common areas / vandalism, etc. etc.

    While many of these can be ‘legit’ reasons for evictions, you may know a tenant is dealing drugs, but to get the police involved, get an arrest, wait for a trial, wait for a conviction, then pursue eviction can take many years. Often it is more expedient to make up an excuse to get rid of a bad tenant.

  41. synergy says:

    How “Serial Evictees” Game A System Meant To Protect Renters From Abuse

    I see you’ve met my former neighbors. All of them. I know how to game the system just from watching all of them.

  42. As a land lord myself it is really hard to find GOOD tenants. I rent out the top of my two family house. When good tenants leave it can take months to find other good ones. Background, credit and employment checks are a must. Last year I rented the apartment above me. About 1/2 of the people that came to see the place wanted to pay me in cash now, and move in today. YEAH RIGHT.

    The tenants before them tore holes in the wall, broke doors and stained the flooring. I know what you are thinking? Security deposit? Well turns out we gave them their security deposit back just to GTFO when they went two months behind on their rent. In reality this was cheeper then trying to have them evicted. So we basically lost two months rent($800 x 2) and the secuirty deposit (another $800) and spent $2000 in repairs and went rentless for three months ($800 x 3) trying to find good tenants. $6000 because our tenants were scum bags. Luckily I learned the hard way the first time. I’m selling the two family and getting out of the rental buisness, not pretty.

    I guess we could of sued them but what purpose? They have no money and would just file for bankruptcy.

  43. AI says:

    Alright, then how about: “I have never seen this man before in my life, and I have no idea why he thinks he’s allowed to stay at my residence.” He would have to spend money to take me to court to prove otherwise. And since this person is trying to live for free, it’s safe to assume that money isn’t something that he has. Also, he’ll have no paperwork.

  44. MsClear says:

    It’s sad that people are dishonest and game the system, but as a renter, I’m glad I have some rights. It sucks enough being a renter in the US, where the end-all-be-all of public policy is homeownership. That’s not easy for someone of modest means and a brain smart enough to understand a mortgage (before the bubble).

    That said, we’ve rented our apartment for over five years. One minor snafu with the rent, but otherwise, a perfect record.

  45. madanthony says:

    There are lots of tenants who have gotten themselves into a tight spot for one reason or another – they’re elderly, they have medical conditions, lost jobs – things that are beyond their control. I see it every day, and it’s very, very sad.”

    It’s great to help those people, but at the same time is it fair that their landlords should have to go months without getting payment for renting to them because something bad happened to them? Sure, some landlords are slumlords or big companies, but some are normal people renting out a second property or the other side of a duplex. Why should the government make them rent for free?

  46. jamesdenver says:

    There was some really cheesy 80s movie where this happened. Almost Lifetime quality. Loved it but forgot all details…

  47. Gopher bond says:

    That’s why I only rent to illegal immigrants.

  48. Paladin_11 says:

    @SkokieGuy (and xsmasher)

    You missed one. Rent control. I believe San Francisco has it. If you want to make more money from your property you need to get rid of your existing tenants in order to raise the rent.

    I’m not saying that happens often but it’s definitely an incentive to evict people.

  49. ShortBus says:

    @: “A landlord is often a corporation and often owns multiple buildings.”

    My father owns two, small apartment buildings. He formed an LLC (type of corporation) to protect himself in case someone injures themselves on the property and sues. Does that make him one of those evil corporations? What if he hired a handyman or two, or maybe a bookkeeper? How many employees does a corporation need before we can despise it?

    The sarcasm isn’t specifically directed at you, but I just tire of hearing people lament about corporations like they’re some species of monster. Its simply an amoral legal entity.

  50. HIV 2 Elway says:

    I’m a landlord and I take the extra time to review possible tenants thoroughly. Luckily I live near a university and try to target graduate or international students who seem to have more respect for the property than their American undergrad counterparts.

    Also, can’t a lot of this be avoided if landlords in SF required significant security deposits?

  51. Anonymous says:

    This does not have to happen. This is what credit checks and references are for and landlords who don’t do their due diligence on tenants are lazy. Also, get first and last month’s and security deposit from every tenant and use your local magistrate as soon as you see problems. It should not take more than 40 days to evict and that is why you get the last month’s rent in advance. The problems described are just as much deadbeat landlords as deadbeat tenants. People think they can buy property and go into the rental business and get rich, but it is a lot of work and diligence. It is a job, not a hobby.

  52. bigduke says:

    @madanthony: “but some are normal people renting out a second property or the other side of a duplex. “

    And a lot are normal people who thouht they could become a milionaire by watching some guy on late night TV tell them that Real Estate is an easy qucik money business.

    Being a landlord is a fulltime job, and not for those looking for a fast buck. This website is about protecting consumers, not finding ways to eliminate hard fought for consumer protections because of a very very few bad apples.

  53. HIV 2 Elway says:

    @: They are so evil when they employ people and provide returns for investors. How dare they make people money.

  54. HIV 2 Elway says:

    @HIV 2 Elway Resurrected: @ShortBus

  55. kingmanic says:

    I live in Canada so the laws are different. A friend had a rental property and it took 1 year and 3 months, 3 court appearances, reams of paper work, and a couple thousand in lawyer fees to fully evict a renter who stopped paying rent.

    Word to the wise is to be very conservative when renting out a property, do background checks and don’t think that “clean-cut” looking people are actually anything of the sort.

  56. As a landlord, I know these folks well. A LOT of due diligence can help you spot these folks before you fall victim.

  57. rho says:

    Where’s the profit in being a serial evictor? The motivation comes
    down to manipulation of the rent control laws in a given jurisdiction.
    For example, as a landlord, it might be the case that I’m not allowed
    to increase the rent on a unit unless I make some capital improvement
    to it. If I can evict the current tenant, I can make superficial
    changes to the unit under the claim of improving it, and then rent it
    out at a higher rate. If I don’t evict the tenant first, they will
    likely fight the rent increase with the argument that I didn’t actually
    make any improvements, and since my claims will not stand close
    scrutiny, I’ll lose.

    Another example might be that I buy an apartment building that has
    several tenants living there under longstanding, unprofitable, lease
    arrangments. In some jurisdictions, I may not be allowed to raise their
    rent beyond a small amount yearly, but if I can get rid of them, I can
    start a fresh lease to somebody new with a substantial rent increase.
    The “serial” part of this is not that I do it to tenants of the same
    unit or building over and over, but that I continue to buy up
    properties and do it to a fresh set of victims over and over.

  58. Anonymous says:

    One trick I heard about, from someone trying to evict his tenant: the tenant went to court every few days to legally change their name. This caused the refiling of all the eviction paperwork with the new name. Repeat.

    You’d think the cost of a name change would be prohibitive after a while, but it worked for almost a year.

  59. Jevia says:

    Its not easy for honest landlords or honest tenants. The best thing one can do is document, document, document. Confirm everything in writing, take pictures, keep copies of everything. Even if you think your tenant or landlord is a good person, when it comes to money, people get greedy.

    I had a landlord keep my security deposit after I left a condo I rented, claiming damage to the place. I always thought he was a decent guy, but I had to take him to small claims court just to get some of it back.

  60. Anonymous says:


    Completely agree. S.F…….figures.

  61. cakesandsteaks says:

    My cousin is a landlord and he has a really simple solution to get rid of deadbeats: remove the front door. To my knowledge no rental agreement or state law says a landlord must provide a front door. This leaves the tenant with 2 options, move out or stay in the apartment 24 hours a day to make sure nothing gets stolen.

  62. khiltd says:

    Anyone who’s ever dealt with your average SF landlord will likely have a great deal of difficulty mustering up any sympathy here. Mine has recently taken to revving the engine of his license plate free Dodge Challenger in the garage directly below my completely uninsulated unit, which needless to say rattles the entire building and fills my $2,500/mo apartment up with car exhaust. When I told him to knock it off he told me to get used to it and then threatened to “choke [me] the fuck out right here.”

    Having lived here for nearly 10 years I’ve grown accustomed to keeping my lawyer’s cell number on speed dial and a restraining order in my pocket. What these people are doing is clearly wrong, but odds are better than average that the victims deserve far, far worse.

  63. Carso says:

    I swear that is not a Macy’s bag he is carrying.

  64. Jetgirly says:

    I am still waiting to get back my security deposit from the apartment I left at the end of June. Of course, that was in Mexico… but still… If I don’t hear from them by September 1st I’ll be contacting the Departamento de Conciliacion a Residentes en el Extranjero!

  65. @khiltd – Exactly. My uncle is a hands off landlord that rarely has tenant problems with his people in Berkeley. That’s because he does his due diligence. Whereas when I look for a new apt, I have to check every complex on yelp, and 8 out of 10 have horrible reviews. So I get to put several “minus” terms into craigslist every time I look, starting with -citiapartments. Too bad yelp isn’t as good for searching small management groups or landlord’s names.

  66. MercuryPDX says:

    @AirIntake: That may work if you’re an absentee landlord…. not so much if you’re sharing a property with them.

    You are 100% right… if you’re a “softie”, do yourself a favor and stick to the stock market. Our “deadbeat” was a single mother with a history of drug and spousal abuse. The apartment my dad rented her would market for $800/mo., and she “worked him” with her incredible tale of woe to let it go for half that. She paid first, last, and security in one shot without batting an eye. Two months later my dad was hospitalized for three weeks. This poor, downtrodden, soul took this as her cue to stop paying rent altogether.

    40 days would have been a dream….. it took seven months to finally get her out. Part of the delay was thanks to the judge who felt that it was more important for deadbeat’s daughter to finish out the school year then to switch schools in the third quarter.

    I get why the cards are stacked in the renter’s favor, but it’s slimeballs like this that make me wish a judge could see through the BS just once and do what’s right.

    P.S. This was the final straw for my dad. We sold the house, dad is retired and relaxing comfortably in Florida with ZERO interest in ever being a landlord again.

  67. jswilson64 says:

    @PinkBox: It’s less than one order of magnitude – perfectly acceptable.

  68. katworthy says:

    Why would a landlord evict?

    Easy, rent control. The housing bust has led to a rental boom where I’m from, meaning that the rent prices have increased by 30% at least. This means if you can get an old tenant out, you’ll make up the loss of one month’s rent in less than three months.

    I’m not saying that either side has it easy. Unfortunately there are crappy deadbeats on both side, and the problem adds in aggregate. If a landlord is guaranteed to take your whole security deposit, even for an apartment that has no damage, then why the hell would you try to keep it in pristine condition?

  69. A-Consumer-Advocate says:


    “My cousin is a landlord and he has a really simple solution to get rid of deadbeats: remove the front door. To my knowledge no rental agreement or state law says a landlord must provide a front door. This leaves the tenant with 2 options, move out or stay in the apartment 24 hours a day to make sure nothing gets stolen”.

    You’re kidding right? I hope so, because if you are, its pretty funny. If not, I feel inclined to tell you the many ways in which you and your cousin are wrong.

    I’m hoping its the former.

  70. Mr.SithNinja says:

    @AirIntake: It’s not hard for someone to prove that they live somewhere. Especialy if they have a key and get mail there. YOU are the one who would have to call the cops/file suit to get him out. If he can provide ANYTHING to contradict your ever so brilliant “never seen him before” defence, then you are totaly screwed. You would have zero credability from then on and he could sue your ass. People like this guy aren’t dumb. They know the system better than you ever could. Just let it go. You are starting to sound ignorant.

  71. Crazytree says:

    I was in the UD courtroom downtown once… and this 300lb white bitch was on her TENTH eviction.

    she moved into a place and convinced the homeowner not to give her a lease. subsequently she claimed that as there was no lease… she owed the landlord NOTHING.

    this whale of a predator simply looked for unsuspecting people… and moved into their homes. then she would play games with the discovery and delay her eviction for six months or more.

    I couldn’t help but think, “if I had a rubber hose right now…”

  72. xsmasher says:

    @jamesdenver: Are you thinking of “Pacific Heights?” [])

  73. Anonymous says:

    @cakesandsteaks: Bravo

  74. RandomHookup says:

    @cakesandsteaks: I’d like to see you get away with that in Mass. You’d be cited for a health code violation as the place would be unlivable. I’ve seen “holes in window screens” listed as a code violation. I’ve also seen landlords hauled to jail for failing to provide a livable unit (not common, but it happened to the guy I was evicting…the guy who sold me the house to start with).

  75. SadSam says:

    @: In Florida, such a move -taking the front door off, would leave the landlord liable for not providing a habitable and secure rental unit.

  76. ShortBus says:

    @Crazytree: If you had written “300lb black bitch” instead, you would have ignited a flamewar and likely be banned.

    Jus’ say’n…

  77. reznicek111 says:

    @cakesandsteaks: Actually, removing the door or lock to force a tenant to quit the premises is probably illegal. A couple of examples –
    [] (see bottom of page)

  78. Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

    @: Don’t stir up trouble.

  79. Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

    Well. For some reasons the links aren’t working right. That was aimed at ShortBus.

  80. @ShortBus: The race doesn’t matter – it’s just insulting that they referred to her as a “300lb … Bitch”. I’d imagine that if she were skinny, her size wouldn’t have been mentioned at all.

    I’ll just leave it at that….

  81. @ShortBus: Feeling oppressed today, aren’t we? Your name is apropos.

  82. @bohemian: Is his name Jean ValJean? That’s tragically stupid.

  83. dantsea says:

    @AirIntake: There isn’t a judge in San Francisco who would take you at your word for that; it’s the oldest trick in the book. There are about a dozen other ways to prove tenancy.

    @xsmasher: A great deal of rental stock in San Francisco are older subdivided Victorians or small apartment buildings with less than fifteen units. In recent years it’s become fashionable to turn those properties into condos or TICs (tenancy in common), but you have to pry the rent-controlled tenant out before you can refurbish the place and bring it up to sellable standards. There are very strict laws regarding how this is to take place, but some landlords have been less than ethical.

    @cakesandsteaks: There is probably no specific law that says a front door must be provided. But I can safely say that any halfway decent tenancy advocate or attorney could find a dozen other regulations that would end up costing your cousin a few thousand dollars in fines and judgments. He should probably consult an attorney.

  84. katiat325 says:

    it’s people like that that make SF more expensive as landlords decide to turn their properties into Condos and so decrease the number of rentable apartments — therefore raising rent for a studio to $1500.

  85. dantsea says:

    @cakesandsteaks: My shoulder-surfing friend hopes you’ll pass this along to your cousin:

    We had a landlord in Dublin, CA who removed our front and back doors — he was trying to get us out so he could rent the house to someone for $800 a month more than what we were paying. My husband went to Home Depot that night, bought two new doors, along with two new locks. The sleazy landlord thought he was being clever, we locked him out of the property. Sometimes people are too clever for their own good, sugar.

  86. bohemian says:

    Landlords try to evict tenants for their own gain and means all the time. We had one rent us a house he was moving out of because their McCastle was just about done. He never bothered to check with the city first, they inspect all rental properties annually and they must be up to city standards. Well the house had a couple of things that needed fixing, one being a rather expensive repair to the garage roof and sunroom. Suddenly the landlord doesn’t want to rent the house anymore even though we have a lease. So he puts it up for sale and says we have to move out cause he’s selling it. I found out through the grapevine that his wife lost her job and he got fired from the company he worked for, for doing something dishonest and now they could not afford the payments on their McCastle.
    This guy farks up his life and we get kicked out? Stuff happens. This is why they have tenant laws.

  87. AI says:

    Sorry, I don’t live in the US. Where I live in Canada, what I suggested would work just fine, I’ve seen it. At most, I’d receive a small fine for not being a legal renter (these never happen anyways though), and, since the deal wasn’t legal and nothing was signed, he’d have no recourse under the local tenancy act. It would be no different from me kicking out a relative that had overstayed their welcome. Also, no need to resort to personal insults. I am not ignorant, and there are active moderators here now.

  88. My parents were landlords, very nice ones actually. They hated renting to, ummm, people of bad backgrounds because the minute they’d get into the rental property, they’d apply for state aid and I guess, legally, they can’t evict them. So they’d have to deal with these people right next DOOR for months on end, no rent, ruining the property…

    People sometimes SUCK.

  89. Mr.SithNinja says:

    @AirIntake: Cautioning someone that they are begining to sound ignorant is a far cry from a personal insult. Someone advocating illegal solutions to a potential problem is also a far cry from elightened behaviour and an inteligent mind.

  90. khiltd says:


    Yelp deletes too many reviews to be genuinely useful, but for future reference, unless you like dealing with bipolar psychos whose cell phones magically break at the exact same time as your water pipes, stay far, far away from anything in the city being let by Nazar Properties.

  91. Marshfield says:

    The landlords most at risk are the ones with crappy units that take anyone. Landlords who care about their places run background checks and DON’T RENT to deadbeats.

    So.. not to blame the OP as it were, but I’m blaming the OP.

    I’ve had my share of rental units in sketchy areas, and for the most part, you get the tenants you deserve. Kinda like Karma.

  92. endless says:

    i bet he posts on slickdeals.

  93. Julia789 says:

    @rekoil: We have someone who does the same thing in our condos – the bankruptcy game. And she got herself elected as PRESIDENT of the condo board! When she nominated herself, and a couple of us that knew about the past due common charges complained, she had an attorney send us certified letters threatening us with a lawsuit for violation of condo board privacy laws – we’re not allowed to mention anyone’s past due common charges?

    She went on to become president of our condo board, elected by smooth talking and games, and promptly dismissed the condo boards’ filing of foreclosure against her for past due common charges. Talk about conflict of interest! She owes $15,000 in common charges. And we can’t say a word, she’s threatened to sue us. When we looked the woman up online, she’s got 8, that’s right, 8 lawsuits currently active involving her – she really does sue people, so we have reason to be frightened. Since lawsuits are public records available online, we’re thinking of just printing out info on her cases and posting them all over the building. It’s the only way people will find out and vote her out.

  94. veronykah says:

    @AirIntake: Sounds like a great idea, that’s how my parents in small town MN liked to do all their renting of a garage apartment. Then they had a tenant who decided to quit paying rent or answering his phone etc. They ended up having to get the sheriff to come to get this kid out and lost a bunch of money that they never recovered in the process.
    I was completely astounded when my mother told me they rent without a lease all the time. I think after the last few undesirables they just quit renting it and my father uses it as storage for wood or something.

  95. JoseRZ says:


    I was thinking the same thing. The movie is called Pacific Heights released in 1990. Starring Melanie Griffith, Matthew Modine, and Michael Keaton. An yes it does have a lifetime feel to it.

  96. Scummy serial evictee tenents are much more than described. The 20-100 number is most likely the “professional” serial evictee tenents, the absolute top of the food chain so to speak. The much larger group could number well into the 1000’s in any large city. The semi-professional serial evictee tenents just don’t have the motivation, experience or skill set to become professional serial evictee tenents. The semi-pro’s will stay around until the situation becomes a bit unbearable and then leave in the dark of night, while the pros stay until Uncle Leo is at their door with barking canines with an arrest warrant and even then the eviction process is difficult.

    One major difference between the pros and semi-pros is the fast that pros don’t want to go to jail and causing widespread “intentional” damage to the property could result in jail time, while semi-pros have no fear of jail and will cause great deal of “intentional” damage.

    Yes, the pros will damage the property, but it is along the lines of “normal tenent wear and tear”, like dragging a wheelbarrow of concrete over the hardwood floors with a nail protruding from the tire. Oops, an accident…. normal tenent wear and tear. The semi-pro will just simply rip up the hardwood floors. The results to landlord are the same …. must replace the hardwood floors, but the cause demonstrates the pros greater sensitivity to preventing jail time and their experience in aggravating a landlord while “doing no wrong”.

  97. smirkette says:

    I agree with all the comments about credit checks & references. I’ve needed at least two landlord references and a recent credit report before any landlord in SF would show me a lease.

    Now if the landlords in SF would get it through their heads that the housing boom is over…oh wait. That just inreased their renting pool. ‘Doh! Guess I still can’t afford to move out of my rent-controlled unit. ::sigh::

  98. mythago says:

    I am actually an attorney who works with the VLSP program in San Francisco mentioned above. (That is, I am not one of their ten staff attorneys; I am a volunteer and take cases pro bono when I am able to.)

    San Francisco has an extremely complex setup for landlord/tenant laws, and there are also laws dictating things like how a landlord can take a rental property off the market for good and how a landlord can evict a tenant to move in, or move a family member in.

    Rent control means that landlords are limited in how much they can increase rent (the annual rate is set by the Rent Board); and on top of that a landlord can ‘bank’ the increase, deduct for capital improvements, etc. It also means that because they can raise rent as much as they like BETWEEN tenants, there is an incentive to evict people – hence the complex laws.

    Without going into minute detail, I can say that most landlords and tenants are not ‘serial’ anything. But whenever somebody finds a loophole to try and abuse tenants, more rules get made – and landlords who are not diligent will get hung up in them.

  99. consumerman says:

    never, I repeat never be a landlord in california. a tenant can break the rules of their lease by moving in 4 extra people, stop paying rent, destroy the property and there is nothing you can do about it!

  100. u1itn0w2day says:

    This ticks me off bigtime.This type of individual is why renting even with good credit is getting like hunting for a job Bull Crap-you got money,credit and a deposit you should have a place but no because of “evictees” you must go through the equivilant of a job interview for a flea bag apartment or a place TO LIVE.

    This also why you have Stalinist Home Owners Associations.Unless you commit a crime finding a place to live shouldn’t be a contest.Who the heck is a “landord” or a “home owners association” to judge me.If you want to check my credit that’s one thing but to be put on trial…

    But,must admit thare as many dung heap renters as there are landlords-you can’t pay that’s one thing but NOT pay because-that’s breech of contract if not fraud.

    Were talking a place to live here,not a commodity or mark for scammers but that’s what real estate in general has turned into to.

  101. rekoil says:

    @Julia789: Eek! My sympathies. While she’s unfortunately correct that you can’t talk about delinquencies yourself, any court filings are a matter of public record – if the board filed a lien or a suit, there’s no way she can quash that.

  102. mythago says:

    @consumerman: I know some very good California landlord attorneys who would be rather insulted to learn there is “nothing” that they are doing for their clients.

  103. Jhonka says:


    Correction. Never be a landlord in San Francisco County.

    You can get away with a lot more in other counties in the bay area, but not in the city.

    There really is nothing you can do but wait and send warning notices…. in San Francisco.

  104. forgottenpassword says:

    Just remember… in the poorer states (mostly southern)… the majority of the rental housing laws are in favour of the landlords. Like in my state… there is no law when the landlord can come & go into your apartment without any notice. Legally… he could walk in at any time & never even need a reason! Good thing I lock my doors with my own portable locks.

    Being a good renter…. I have had more bad experiences with landlords than good. The biggest problem is that the landlord wants to accept the rent checks, but not spend any money on the place. When I first moved into my current place…. the landlord refused to replace the locks/keys , but said I could do it if I wanted to pay for it. The miserable SOB!

  105. SigmundTheSeaMonster says:

    I got this idea to pick up a row home in an “up and coming” area. Since it was a bank-foreclosure, I could get it on the cheap, maybe even two units. Then I was going to fix it up to rent. (one unit would cover both mortgages). A friend tells me to rent Pacific Heights. I gave up on the idea…

  106. Erwos says:

    I rented for a good eight years (college, plus a few years after). I was always careful to show my landlords respect and consideration, and it annoys me when others do the same.

    Shout-out to Southern Management Corp – my wife and I have stayed in several of their properties, and it’s been a great experience each time.

  107. mythago says:

    @Jhonka: if you really think all a SF landlord can do is “wait and send warning notices”, then you don’t know what you’re talking about. In EVERY county in California, the procedure for eviction is the same: you send a notice, if your tenant doesn’t comply you file an unlawful detainer action. SF is not the only city or county with rent-control laws, either. The problem is that because the rules are extremely complex, it’s easy for a landlord to screw up.

    Believe me, I really wish it were as simple as “there’s nothing the landlord can do” – I could represent dozens of pro bono clients a year if that were the case. Generally my job is easy only when the landlord has behaved very badly or is an idiot. There is no magical way to prevent an eviction just because the tenant wants to stay.

    (My favorite in the idiot category was a guy who lost a Rent Board action because over several years, he violated rent-control laws and overcharged one tenant $10K. The rent board gave him the choice of pay her a lump sum, or simply apply it towards her monthly rent until it was all gone. He chose the latter. First month, she sent him a letter asking him to deduct the rent from the amount he owed her – so he tried to evict her for nonpayment of rent. TWICE.)

  108. Wormfather is Wormfather says:

    @Mr.SithNinja: BOOYA! Well done.

    @AirIntake: You are wrong, once he produces keys, mail or other proof that he/she has lived in your house, you’re going to have to go before a tribunal and then you get to folow Canada’s version of the eviction process, ehy.

  109. nogas2speed says:

    I don’t comment a lot but I gotta jump in on this one… as a part-time landlord, I truly do not understand the implication by the lawyer, that it is wrong to evict those … “tenants who have gotten themselves into a tight spot for one reason or another – they’re elderly, they have medical conditions, lost jobs – things that are beyond their control.”

    When did it become socially acceptable to force a property owner into a charitable contribution by forceing him to pay his mortgage with no off-setting income (rent.) I’m a very charible guy, but I don’t like the government telling me I HAVE to. Over a 17 year span, I’ve given lots of tenents breaks and with only one except (a guy that goes to my church), it has come back to bit me in the butt. (No good deed goes unpunished.) As my mentor told me once “Give them an inch and they think they are F$%^*ing ruler.” The electric company can stop service for non-payment, so can the phone, water, cable, and everyone else…just not landlord??? WTH??? The bank does not accept any of those hardship reasons for non-payment for me, yet I am expected to accept them from my tenants or I am a bad guy. Can someone explain this to me???

    Thanks for letting me vent.

  110. nogas2speed says:

    @forgottenpassword: Just out of curiosity, if fresh locks were an expectation on your part, why was it not agreed upon in writing via the lease? If it was then, shame on the landlord, if not, then why are you expecting it post lease signing?

  111. Amiga_500 says:

    @nogas2speed: All good points. I’ve tried to be nice to tenants years ago when i had a rental property. You always get screwed in the end.

    I had one idiotic renter who placed a window unit A/C on the coffee table and used it for weeks! I ended up having to replace half the floor in the living room. Or the renters who didn’t assemble the water bed correctly and it busted. Or the renters who kept flushing the toilet once it was clogged. Had to replace the floor in the bathroom.

    I wanted to start renting again, but reading this will probably change my mind.

  112. tcs says:

    reminds me of my first adventure as a landlord. This guy is just like my former tenant in the fact that he’s obviously a sociopath. The constant lies and deceit are a hallmark of the sociopath. The pleasure derived from ‘fooling’ those around you must be addictive. This tenant spray painted appliances, made body-sized holes in the sheetrock, broke the ceiling fans, literally tried to make it unrentable. This was after a 3-month process to evict. Luckily, our insurance company covered everything but a $500 deductible, and went after this person with their much-better-paid legal team. I never followed up, but I can only hope Karma is real.

  113. nogas2speed says:

    @Amiga_500: I’m not surprised. It is always something. It is a crazy business when 90% of your clients are morons. Makes for a very tough business. If you are brave enough to jump back in, this is the time to do it. Good Luck.

  114. mythago says:

    @nogas2speed: of course you have the right to kick people out for not paying their rent. Problem that I see from the tenant’s end is when the landlord uses that as an excuse to evict a tenant so they can jack up rent on the next one – I’ve seen landlords suddenly refuse to accept rent except in person during business hours (knowing that the tenant works those hours), for example.

    No argument that there are plenty of assjack tenants who take advantage – however I also tell people who are renters to put everything in writing and not ‘cut some slack’ to their landlords, because that will bite them in the ass in the end as well.

  115. Breach says:

    These assholes fall into the same category that people on welfare use when they have more kids just to up the state check.

    They all deserve to burn

  116. e.varden says:


    Here in Toronto when a tenant moves out (or is evicted for whatever legal but bogus reason) the LL can raise the rent as high as the market will carry.

    I have just recently fought off an eviction notice served me (and another long-time renter in this small apt.bldg – 6 units). Two other tenants had left voluntarily this year; the LL subsequently – and legally – rented out the flats at a 100% increase over the previous tenant’s rent. NO WONDER the LL tried to boot the two of us out (“need the premises for family members”). It was a nightmare, but I managed to prevail.


  117. RandomHookup says:

    @e.varden: I have to play devil’s advocate…at what point is it okay for the landlord to take advantage of the marketplace? Assuming it’s not a rent control situation, why can’t the LL ask you to leave at the end of your lease? I realize people establish places as their homes, but you are renting after all. Free market and all that…because it’s a time limited resource, any business wants to maximize its profits.

  118. TACP says:

    My father and uncle own rental property and know this type all too well. They get a few months behind on rent, but the landlord gives them extra time. Soon, they just disappear in the dead of night. We then have to clean out the piles of trash they left, fix the damage they caused, and start the cycle again.

  119. louveciennes says:

    And when you finally do kick them out, they steal all your light fixtures.

    Oh wait, that was “Pacific Heights”.

  120. u1itn0w2day says:

    There are some whore landlords out there though.

    I think many landlords take renting personally but don’t realize terms like ‘normal wear and tear’ or understand that if the law says the old apartment must be cleaned including carpets you have the right to bill that as damage.

    I’ve heard or seen alot though.Knew one person who lost her entire deposit simply because they wanted to repaint the APARTMENT-a couple months rent to have an apartment painted by hourly staff???

    I’ve also seen where landlords and real estate lobbys wanted to be able to collect more for alleged damages other than with-holding the deposit.I mean no court or nothing,make up the bill and if the renter doesn’t pay report them to the credit bureaus and collection agencies.

    I think it was Florida that proposed one of these bills that had a retroactive clause in there so even though you left that place many years ago the landlord would’ve been allowed to go after even though they got your deposit ALREADY.

    Some landlords don’t realize that being a landlord has responsibilities other than collecting rent.They thought it would be just a monthly check.

  121. chartrule says:

    here – if someone wanted to rent your place your could do background checks with the police as well as reference and credit checks – unfortunately that’s not allowed anymore

  122. bbb111 says:

    @RandomHookup: “In Mass., it takes 6 months to evict if they contest (I know from experience) — scheduling court hearings is what takes time. The “smarter” ones break everything then call the health department on you to stretch things out.”

    This happened to a friend in Sacramento. It took nine months to get the deadbeat out. Every hearing had some new evidence that needed verification. Not just the Health Department, but a couple of civil rights groups were brought in (they all rejected the complaints, but not until the judge postponed the hearing to get a copy of the investigation). And a health problem.

    Plus a trick that most landlords fall for once (this was California)- a small payment shows up between the filing and the court date. If the landlord cashes the check, then the numbers in the filing are incorrect and the case has to be refiled. There is a procedure to inform the court of the change and put the money in escrow until he hearing.

    After the judge finally ordered the tenant to vacate, my friend overheard the tenant’s lawyer telling his client, “No, you will vacate…. “(then something about what will happen next.) And the tenant was out the next day.

  123. zyodei says:

    One of my best friend’s dads owns a few properties on the south side of Chicago. This was a big problem. I mean, a huge problem. People would rent in September, pay one month’s rent, and then take advantage of the fact that you can’t evict during winter to not pay again for six months and then leave him stuck with a multi thousand dollar gas bill. He’s not some rich slum lord, but a hard working Indian immigrant. It was enough to force him into bankruptcy.

    One lady even claimed that she would call the police to say that he beat her unless he paid her $5K to leave. It was disgusting.

  124. BytheSea says:

    Yah, these people are called drug addicts and mentally ill people who don’t stay on their meds.

  125. BytheSea says:

    @scarletvirtue (Sadie, Sadie Married Lady): It’s insulting that he referred to her by race, too.

  126. mythago says:

    @bbb111: I’m guessing your friend did not have a lawyer.

  127. econobiker says:

    Having rented through college and then throughout the last 15 years I can weigh in on a few items.

    I have always tried to be a good renter and I even know how to fix some things. Some of the properties I rented were houses/duplexes owned by individuals (or their llcs).

    I was able to work with these folks easily by including the reciept for a repair part (say toilet flushing mechanism) that I repaired. These folks typically liked this arrangement since they either didn’t have to come out to fix it or pay someone to fix it. They then were willing to work with me on items such as cutting down a rotten tree that could have fallen on their house or getting more gravel dumped in the washed out driveway. By establishing my credibility to them, they were willing to help out when I needed something. I usually tried to fix up the exterior of the property by doing landscaping that was with free or almost free items such as free mulch or salvaged paving brickes/railroad ties.

    One of the most pain in the neck landlords was in the most expensive duplex my ex-wife and I rented. He was a property manager who sang the virtues of his maintenance crew when I mentioned that I could do small repairs myself. When some minor easily fixable stuff ( a 2nd bathroom toilet flusher and some other minor electrical item) broke, my ex and I called and left messages requesting repair three times a week for a solid month. When I finally got tired of it, I called and left him about a three minute message detailing all of the time/dates called, told him that I understood that since his crew was very busy, I would be calling electricians and plumbers the next day for quotes and I would use the lowest quoted contractor and deduct it from the next months rent. Funny thing that my ex got a call the next morning and maintenance was there by noon to fix said problems.

    Another good one was a house we rented in a mixed housing area – houses/ double wides / trailers- some owned some rented. The house had been moved from somewhere else and renovated just before we rented it. When we were moving out ( on good terms) the land lord had a For Rent sign posted by the mail box. I was finishing cleaning the carport out by hosing the floor and wall down, as a couple drove up in a POS hillbilly car. They asked if I was a cleaning contractor who knew about the rental home. When I replied that I was the exiting tenant who was cleaning, the man looked at me and the hose like I had just landed from Mars. I figured I ~pre~disqualified him for the land lord when I said that the land lord was very particular and like his place kept clean… The couple got back in the car and took off without stopping to copy down the sign phone number.

    Another funny thing about that same place was that my ex and I got our full deposit back but then got a phone message from the old landlord about 5 months later. I wondered if he was going to try and get some money out of me somehow after the fact. When I talked to him, he said he needed me to sign an affidavit that we had left the place in good condition as the next tenant in (or her dirtbag boyfriend) had caused about $5000 worth of damage to the place! Quite a difference from a tenants (us) who did landscaping, fixed a couple of leaking pipes in the crawlspace, insulated around the header in the crawlspace, insulated the hot water heater in the crawlspace, fixed the landlords old lawnmower to use it, etc, etc

    One thing that I have found in apartments is to remember the management and maintenance during the holdidays by getting them gift cards. This especially works in places where they are not appreciated – the higher and lower ends of the renting spectrum. A $25 gift card goes a long way in getting prompt service or them allowing a me to store a boat and trailer for a few weeks in a back parking lot.

  128. Haltingpoint says:

    You can tell a landlord who has been in the business a while from one who hasn’t or doesn’t do it full time. Our current landlord owns about 30 properties, all within close proximity to each other. He takes very good care of them all and has a very strict screening process–to the point where I wonder if it may be discriminatory. The only non-white people I’ve seen in there are a yuppy-looking asian guy and the indian girlfriend of a white guy. All are relatively young (20’s-30’s) yuppies (my gf and I are too of course).

    That said, he also is anal about the places. If I wanted to paint, it would have to be repainted professionally and he “has very high standards.” As we’re not sure if we’re going to live there more than a year, its definitely not worth it.

  129. bbb111 says:

    @mythago: “I’m guessing your friend did not have a lawyer.”

    After the first round of dirty tricks, my friend contacted his lawyer to handle the eviction. Even the lawyer couldn’t stop the surprises presented to the judge – Each new surprise had to be responded to (with a six week wait for another court date). As long as there was an open case with a government agency, the judge would not allow eviction – other landlords in the area had experienced the same thing.

  130. resonanteye says:

    ought to be illegal to own a dozen properties in which you don’t live and rent them to people who can barely afford it. I have mixed feelings on this because I despise most landlords so heartily. (“lords”? what is this, feudal times?)

  131. mb123 says:

    “Carolyn Gold directs the San Francisco Volunteer Legal Services Program, which manages a group of 10 volunteer attorneys who help tenants in the 30 or so eviction cases that come through Superior Court each week. She says she sees very few serial evictees like Getzow. “In fact, what we see more of is serial evictors, landlords who continually come up with ruses for one eviction after another,” she says. “

    This statement makes no sense at all. It costs thousands for a landlord to evict and prepare another apartment to rent, what motive would a landlord have? Even if they rent to someone who pays more rent, they still are losing money during the time it is vacant and to fix up the building, and if they are doing it to sell the building, then often it is because they can’t afford to maintain it anymore because tenants won’t pay