Herrera Sues Defiant Landlord for Breaching Contract After Evicting Disabled Tenant

City funding of $38,165 for lead abatement required landlord to continue to rent unit to low- or moderate-income tenants

SAN FRANCISCO (Apr. 20, 2009) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera today filed suit against a landlord whose successful suit to evict a low-income disabled tenant and her family in January violated the terms of a contract that provided City funds to pay for lead hazard reduction work at the property. Mark O’Flynn received $38,165 through the City’s Lead Hazard Reduction Program under a July 2005 agreement that he would continue to rent his property at 1672 Great Highway for at least five years to low- or moderate-income tenants, as defined by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines, or be required to refund to the City the entire grant amount.

According to the 12-page complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court this morning, O’Flynn completed the lead hazard reduction work in September 2005, but prevented the tenants who had lived at the property in the Outer Sunset for nearly 30 years from resuming their tenancy while he continued to make renovations. When he finally allowed family members to move back into the unit in Feb. 2006, his incomplete work rendered the shower inaccessible to his disabled tenant for several additional months.

Approximately a year after completing the lead hazard reduction work, O’Flynn and his wife initiated owner move-in eviction proceedings against the tenants, but were rebuffed by two separate trial court judgments. Then, in Aug. 2008, the O’Flynns filed suit under the Ellis Act—a state law that authorizes landlords to evict tenants by removing units from the rental market for at least two years—this time winning a court-ordered eviction on Jan. 7, 2009. Because O’Flynn’s eviction proceedings against his tenants violated the terms of his grant agreement, the City has twice demanded repayment of the lead abatement funds. But O’Flynn has not responded to those demands.

“State law may allow landlords to evict tenants by going out of the rental business—but it doesn’t authorize grant recipients to break their contracts with the City,” Herrera said. “The Mayor’s Office of Housing administers the Lead Hazard Reduction Program to protect public health at rental units for low- and moderate-income tenants with children. It’s not a giveaway program for greedy landlords, and Mr. O’Flynn certainly knew that when he contracted to receive City grant funding. This lawsuit intends to get the City’s money back, and hopefully send a message that San Francisco expects its grant recipients to live up to their obligations—especially when it comes to protecting affordable housing.”

Herrera’s civil suit includes breach of contract and unjust enrichment allegations and seeks full compensatory damages in the sum of $38,165 plus additional costs and expenses to be determined, including the temporary relocation of O’Flynn’s tenants while the lead hazard reduction work was being completed. The case is City and County of San Francisco v. Mark O’Flynn, San Francisco Superior Court, filed April 20, 2009.