‘Ruthless predator’ Kihagi faces injunction bid by Herrera to halt evictions, code violations

Notorious landlord and real estate investor’s harassment of rent-controlled tenants, refusal to obey housing laws force City Attorney to seek extraordinary relief
Anne Kihagi, a notoriously abusive landlord, prompted City Attorney Herrera to say, “I’ve seen nothing to equal the vicious conduct and complete contempt for the law that we continue to see from this defendant.”

SAN FRANCISCO (Dec. 4, 2015)—City Attorney Dennis Herrera is seeking a tough, enforceable court order to stop Anne Kihagi from continuing to engage in a shocking pattern of lawless business practices, which have persisted unabated even months after Herrera first sued the notoriously abusive landlord and real estate investor earlier this year.  The civil action pending in San Francisco Superior Court contends that Kihagi has been waging “a war of harassment, intimidation, and retaliation” against dozens of her tenants—targeting seniors and disabled renters for particularly vicious treatment—to force them from their rent-controlled homes.  Once vacated, according to the complaint originally filed on June 4, Kihagi routinely orders unpermitted construction work before re-renting the uninspected and potentially dangerous apartments to unsuspecting new tenants at vastly higher rents.

Herrera’s motion for preliminary injunction, filed earlier this week, seeks to immediately halt Kihagi’s illegal evictions, harassing practices and hostile interactions, restricting her personal contact with tenants, and requiring her to hire a third-party professional to manage the properties.  If granted, the injunction would also require Kihagi and her web of associated business entities to fix housing and safety code violations; obtain all requisite permits; and fully submit to city inspections to ensure the safety and health of residents and neighbors.  In California, penalties for violations of such injunctions can incur significant civil penalties and incarceration in county jail.  The hearing on Herrera’s motion is currently scheduled for the morning of Jan. 12, 2016 before Judge Richard B. Ulmer Jr.

“In nearly 15 years as City Attorney, I’ve seen nothing to equal the vicious conduct and complete contempt for the law that we continue to see from this defendant,” said Herrera.  “Anne Kihagi has been a ruthless predator—targeting tenants in rent-controlled apartments for harassment and illegal evictions, and singling out seniors and people with disabilities for particularly despicable abuse.  The problem with this kind of lawlessness isn’t just that it hurts renters.  It also hurts law-abiding real estate investors, who would be responsible landlords.  Honest businesses shouldn’t have to compete with cheaters—that’s a fundamental premise of California’s Unfair Competition Law—and yet that’s exactly what’s happening here.  Anne Kihagi is profiting from a lawless and unconscionable business model, and it enables her to outbid honest competitors.  It hurts tenants, it hurts the real estate market, and it is why a tough, enforceable injunction is so desperately needed here.  I’m grateful to Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose district includes most of Ms. Kihagi’s San Francisco properties, and who has worked tirelessly with tenants and our office to assist in this litigation.  I’m also very grateful to the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection, especially Deputy Director Daniel Lowrey, who has worked diligently to document the shocking disregard Anne Kihagi has demonstrated toward his department and to San Franciscans generally.”

Kihagi and her associated business entities own at least ten tenant-occupied, rent-controlled buildings in San Francisco, totaling more than 50 units.  Fully 15 current and former Kihagi tenants submitted declarations in support of Herrera’s motion for a preliminary injunction, all detailing a shocking pattern of abusive practices to oust rent-controlled tenants.  According to the sworn declarations, Kihagi’s tactics include fraud, harassment, threats, intimidation, verbal abuse, reduced and interrupted services, refusal to acknowledge receipt of tenants’ rent payments, and relentless attempts to evict tenants through unlawful means.

Additional legal violations alleged in Herrera’s original 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 city and state agencies.

Properties at issue in the litigation so far include: 3947 18th Street, 195 Eureka Street, and 1139 Guerrero Street, all in or near the Castro neighborhood; 69-75 Hill Street, in the Mission; 1000–1022 Filbert Street, in Russian Hill; and 650 Church Street, near Dolores Park.  Among 21 apartments that were tenant-occupied when Kihagi purchased her Castro, Mission and Russian Hill properties, 19 were directly subjected to illegal practices aimed at driving tenants from their rent-controlled homes.  Fully 13 of those apartments have so far been surrendered; an additional four units are in the midst of eviction proceedings currently; and another two have defeated evictions after jury trials.  Dozens of occupants have been displaced by the illegal conduct, according to Herrera’s pleadings, including roommates, partners, spouses, children, and families.

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.

Related Documents:

  • People v. Kihagi: Civil complaint filing presskit (with complaint): “Herrera sues landlord Kihagi for harassing, displacing tenants from rent-controlled homes; Calling defendant ‘among the most abusive and lawless landlords I’ve encountered,’ City Attorney cites ‘breathtaking cruelty’ for targeting elderly, disabled renters” (June 5, 2015)