Landlord accused of harassing, forcing tenants to leave faces $2.7 million damages

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To give way to higher-paying tenants, a landlord in San Francisco was suspected of frightening former tenants to make them leave but ended up charged with $2.7 million damages as decided by a three-judge court of appeals panel.

The landlord, a limited liability corporation managed by Anne Kihagi, was sued by Dale Duncan and Marta Munoz Mendoza for harassment and illegal eviction after they were pushed to vacate their apartment..

The damages were initially pegged by a jury, in favor of the respondents, at $3, 528, 000, but were later lowered to $2.7 million through the trial court. An appeal was filed by the landlords to which the respondents cross-appealed to contest the cut down judgment.

In early 1994, Duncan moved into a unit with two bedrooms in the said apartment located on Hill Street. In 2010, his wife joined him in the space where they raised their child. Their rent payment is always on time.

Court documents said the apartment was sold to Zoriall LLC operated by Anne Kihagi and Christina Mwangi, among others, in May 2014.

After the ownership change, the tenants said their lives were made unhappy as the apartment operators took away recycling cans, shut off power because of unpaid bills, prevented entry to a laundry room, and turned down requests to fix damaged water heaters, court decision states.

The court said that the landlords “ignored or delayed responding to maintenance and upkeep issues, were uncommunicative and uncooperative, and became increasingly hostile.”

The respondents were ousted and were left with no choice but to move into a more expensive space.

An “owner move-in” eviction was filed by the landlord in April 2015. They said that Mwangi will be living in the building.

In May of the same year, Duncan and Mendoze brought up a lawsuit.

The landlord was found guilty of harassing and defying the owner move-in law of the state.

The said legislation permits a property owner to oust rent-controlled tenants given that the landlord uses the space “as his or her principal residence for a period of at least 36 continuous months,” San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“The jury in this case came to the same conclusion that the judge did in our case: that Ms. Kihagi and her accomplices unlawfully harassed and evicted tenants. We’re pleased that the Court of Appeal has now affirmed both of these cases. The people of San Francisco have had enough of Ms. Kihagi’s lies, predatory practices, and legal trickery,” City Attorney spokesman John Cote said.