Appellate court upholds $2.7 million judgment against notorious landlord Kihagi

Herrera calls decision a ‘victory for San Francisco tenants’

SAN FRANCISCO (Dec. 4, 2018) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued the following statement after a three-judge panel of the California First District Court of Appeal unanimously upheld on Monday a lower court’s $2.7 million judgment against notorious landlord Anne Kihagi and her accomplices:

“The Superior Court previously issued a thoughtful and thorough ruling in this case. I am pleased the Court of Appeal has upheld it in full and expedited its decision to ensure that justice delayed would not be justice denied. If there is one thing Anne Kihagi is consistent about, it’s violating the law. She has tried at every stage to thwart justice, but she has not gotten away with it. Once again, a court found that Ms. Kihagi’s predatory practices as a landlord subjected tenants to campaigns of harassment and unconscionable abuse. We caught her and put a stop to it. Now she has to face the consequences of her actions. This decision is a victory for San Francisco tenants and the rule of law, and it restores an even playing field for property owners who follow the law, unlike Ms. Kihagi.”

Background
Herrera filed a lawsuit against Kihagi and her associates in June 2015 for her widespread pattern of unlawful business practices that included waging “a war of harassment, intimidation, and retaliation” against her tenants. Once forced from their homes, Kihagi routinely ordered unpermitted construction work before re-renting the uninspected and potentially dangerous apartments to unsuspecting new tenants at vastly higher rents.
 
Kihagi started buying properties in June 2013 in Noe Valley, the Castro, the Mission and North Beach. She has amassed 11 buildings in those and other San Francisco neighborhoods. This was after a similar campaign of illegal evictions and harassment against rent-controlled tenants in West Hollywood, California.
 
The 152-page final decision issued on May 23, 2017 from San Francisco Superior Court Judge Angela Bradstreet ruled in favor of the San Francisco on every count, voiding all evictions pending as of Jan. 12, 2017 and awarding $2.7 million in penalties. Judge Bradstreet later ordered the defendants to pay an additional $2.7 million in attorney’s fees and costs, bringing the total to $5.4 million plus interest. Monday’s decision covers the first $2.7 million judgment in penalties. A second appeal on the additional $2.7 million in attorney’s fees and costs is pending.
 
Kihagi’s tactics included fraud; harassment; threats; intimidation; verbal abuse; interrupting gas, electric, water, and cable service; disrupting mail service; and failing to cash rent checks, only to later claim them as untimely rent payments. She and her agents also backdated correspondence and notices; violated tenants’ privacy by entering their apartments without required notice; refused to timely abate unsafe 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 expletive-ridden personal interactions, Kihagi even made a veiled threat against a tenant’s cats, saying “it would be a shame if they got out.”
 
In addition to the financial penalties, the court ordered a tough, enforceable, 5-year injunction against Kihagi and her accomplices — her sisters Julia Mwangi and Christine Mwangi and her closely held LLCs. Monday’s decision is a significant milestone for the injunction, which will go into full effect when the case returns to Superior Court in 2019.  Among other things, the injunction against Kihagi requires that an independent property manager be appointed for Kihagi’s 11 San Francisco properties. The independent property manager will be responsible for landlord-tenant relationships and for bringing the buildings into compliance with building and housing codes. The injunction applies to all 11 rental properties in San Francisco owned by Kihagi and her shell corporations. Three of those properties are already under a receivership imposed by one of Kihagi’s mortgage lenders.  
 
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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