San Francisco Landlord Charged $4K/Month In Rent For Rodent-Infested “Death Trap” Apartments

The building in San Francisco's Mission district is now being renovated, "presumably for wealthier tenants," notes the judge. [image via Google Maps]

The building in San Francisco’s Mission district is now being renovated, “presumably for wealthier tenants,” notes the judge. [image via Google Maps]

A San Francisco man who fancied himself a landlord and building manager — but who apparently failed to do more than just collect rent that he didn’t always pay up the ladder — has been ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to tenants who paid exorbitant sums to live in “squalid” conditions with phantom appliances, exposed wiring, and rodents run amok.

The beginnings of this case go back more than a decade. That’s when the owner of a rent-controlled building in San Francisco’s Mission district decided to lease three 6-bedroom apartments to a single tenant, for $2,050 each. This tenant then entered into an informal “management agreement” with the owner that he could sublease these apartments. He was also declared “general manager” of these units, according to postings in the building.

According to a recent San Francisco Superior Court ruling [PDF] against this de facto landlord, he would enter rooms “without notice or permission, scaring children, threatening physical violence or to report tenants to immigration authorities.” He also would use his tenants’ rooms to smoke pot in with his friends.

The conditions in these apartments, for which he charged as much as $800 for a single room, that the judge wrote “it is not hyperbolic to call the building a death trap.”

Among the many, many unpleasant allegations made in the complaint are exposed electrical outlets, an oven that turned itself on, another oven infested with mice, children being bitten by bedbugs, and locked fire exits. Because of the cost associated with the rent, tenants would often sleep upwards of four people in one room.

But at least all that rent money they paid protected the tenants from ending up on the street, right?


According to the court, even though the manager was bringing in nearly double the amount he agreed to pay the building’s owner, he sometimes didn’t pass any of that money on.

In 2006, he came up $24,400 short to the owner. Four years later, he failed to pay $16,400 in rent that was due. Then again in 2013, he went ten months without sharing any of the rent money he’d brought in. Yet he concealed this all from the tenants who paid him.

So in 2014, when the building owner decided to hire a proper management company to run the property, he had these tenants served with three-day eviction notices for failure to pay rent — even though they’d paid thousands to the defendant.

The landlord lied to the tenants that he had “put our rent in an escrow account,” that they would get it back, and that “everything was going to be fine, and we just needed to keep paying our rent.”

But there was no escrow account and that money never went back to the tenants, who were all evicted — except the landlord, who reached a deal with the owner to stay in his apartment.

The court has tentatively awarded damages to the nine plaintiffs, ranging from $67,000 to more than $110,000. In total, the defendant owes around $780,000 in damages.

Meanwhile, the building in question is being renovated, “presumably for wealthier tenants,” notes the judge, who described the case as a “tawdry tale from the seam side of San Francisco’s hyper-inflated housing market.”

[via MissionLocal]

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