Calling defendant ‘among the most abusive and lawless landlords I’ve encountered,’ City Attorney cites ‘breathtaking cruelty’ for targeting elderly, disabled renters
SAN FRANCISCO (June 5, 2015) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera has sued San Francisco landlord Anne Kihagi for an egregious pattern of unlawful business practices that includes waging “a war of harassment, intimidation, and retaliation” against tenants to force them from their rent-controlled homes. Once vacated, according to Herrera’s complaint, Kihagi offers the apartments to new tenants at substantially higher rents.
But the full scope of related violations and appalling tactics employed by Kihagi, her business associates and companies under their control — as detailed in the 38-page complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court late yesterday — distinguishes their predatory business model as one of the most ruthless in recent memory. Herrera’s office continues to investigate possible wrongdoing among the more than 50 rent-controlled apartments Kihagi has acquired in San Francisco since 2013. But the investigation has already established compelling and actionable evidence of illegal tactics to bully tenants into surrendering their rent-controlled apartments. At least six elderly and disabled renters were among those targeted for harassment by Kihagi or her agents, according to the complaint, including a 65-year-old Army veteran battling cancer, a 71-year-old retired school crossing guard, and a bedridden 91-year-old great grandmother.
Herrera’s civil suit alleges that Kihagi or her agents: interrupted gas, electric, water, and cable service; disrupted mail service; failed to cash rent checks, only to later claim them as untimely rent payments; backdated correspondence and notices; violated tenants’ privacy by entering their apartments without required notice; refused to timely abate unsafe and substandard habitability conditions; and even retaliated against tenants who cooperated with city inspectors by installing video surveillance cameras aimed at the residents’ front doors. Well-known among tenants for her harassing text messages and shrieking, expletive-ridden personal interactions, Kihagi is even reported to have made an apparent threat against a tenant’s cat, urging the resident to be careful “because someone might let her out.”
“Anne Kihagi is among the most abusive and lawless landlords I’ve encountered in my tenure as City Attorney — and I’ve gone after a lot of lawlessness by landlords,” said Herrera. “It takes breathtaking cruelty to so aggressively bully and displace even elderly and disabled tenants from their rent-controlled homes, especially in the midst of our severe housing crisis. But Ms. Kihagi’s apparent contempt for her tenants seems rivaled only by her contempt for the law. She defies city enforcement orders, deceives city agencies and even the Superior Court, and flouts statutes intended to protect law-abiding businesses from having to compete against scofflaws and cheats. With our litigation today, we’re moving forcefully to halt this egregious conduct, to punish it severely, and to assure renters and the vast majority of law-abiding landlords that there is no place for this kind of lawlessness in San Francisco. I want to express particular appreciation to Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose district includes all but one of Ms. Kihagi’s nine San Francisco properties. His active engagement with Ms. Kihagi’s tenants helped enable us to develop a strong case quickly, and it will be key to helping end this egregious injustice.”
“I commend City Attorney Dennis Herrera for taking this step today to say ‘no more’ to this out-of-control landlord,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener. “Ms. Kahagi has been engaging in the worse kind of behavior — tormenting and intimidating her tenants, violating city codes, and engaging in other egregious behavior. This illegal behavior needs to stop, and today’s lawsuit will help us end it. We are experiencing a housing crisis in San Francisco, and housing costs are out of control. Now more than ever, job one is to keep people stable in their housing and their community. There is no place in San Francisco for landlords who harass and intimidate tenants to drive them out of their homes. Enough.”
Additional legal violations alleged in Herrera’s complaint include: renovating units without requisite permits; refusing access for legally required inspections; defying multiple notices of violation; failing to register businesses for tax purposes; and repeatedly providing false information — often under penalty of perjury — to San Francisco’s Rent Board, Assessor/Recorder’s Office and Superior Court. Kihagi and her known associates have spent more than $24 million acquiring at least nine multi-unit residential rental properties in San Francisco, according to Herrera’s complaint. Properties at issue in the case so far include: 3947 18th Street; 650 Church Street; 195 Eureka Street; 1000-1022 Filbert Street; 1135-1139 Guerrero Street; and 69-75 Hill Street.
The case is: City and County of San Francisco and People of the State of California v. Anne Kihagi et al., San Francisco Superior Court No. 15-546152, filed June 4, 2015. Additional information on the San Francisco City Attorney’s office is available at: https://www.sfcityattorney.org/.
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