The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office sent the following press release this afternoon:

The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Consumer Protection Division has filed a lawsuit against two local landlords, alleging violations of a local law that protects tenants against harassment.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Santa Monica Superior Court, names as defendants landlords Ante Trinidad and the Adel Luzuriaga Trust doing business as SanMo17 Property. It alleges that the defendants bought a nine-unit Santa Monica apartment building in July 2016 and immediately targeted three long-term, below-market-rent tenants with harassment tactics in a manner designed to make the tenants vacate so that the landlords could obtain higher rents from new tenants.

The lawsuit alleges that the landlords’ misconduct included:

Using fraudulent and coercive tactics to force tenants’ existing roommates to vacate

Improperly refusing to allow the tenants to get other roommates, and

Conducting bogus and intrusive “inspections” of tenants’ units

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants have already coerced one tenant into believing that his longtime roommate and partner (who had been living there for many years with permission of the previous owner) would have to vacate, along with their three children. Rather than break up the family, the tenant had to leave Santa Monica to find housing in Inglewood. He not only gave up his longtime home but also a great commute—the apartment building is walking distance from the place where he has worked for over thirty years.

Another tenant’s roommate was allegedly coerced into leaving even though he had been living there long before the defendants took control of the building. When that tenant tried to find another roommate to help with the rent of the two-bedroom apartment, the defendants allegedly coerced either the tenant or the tenant’s next three roommate candidates from completing the roommate approval process.

The City’s Tenant Harassment Ordinance prohibits a landlord from trying to influence tenants to vacate through fraud, intimidation or coercion.  Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades said that the law is tailor-made to address these kinds of allegations: “Long-term tenants paying below-market rents sometimes face harassment tactics when the landlord can’t find good cause to evict them. But those tenants have protection under Santa Monica law. “