A longtime Santa Monica resident filed a complaint last month that alleges his landlords unlawfully evicted him from his rent-controlled apartment so they could raise the rent.
Frank Strick moved into his apartment at 1836 10th St. in 1989 and lived there with his son until January 2018, when the owners of the property, Assaf and Natalie Tarnopolsky, evicted him so Natalie Tarnopolsky’s sister, Denise Poon, could move in. Strick said the Tarnopolskys tried to evict him five times in the year prior and finally succeeded by using one of the few ways the city of Santa Monica’s rent control laws allow a landlord to evict a tenant in good standing — if they or an immediate family member wish to occupy the tenant’s unit.
But Strick alleges that Poon never moved into the apartment and that the Tarnopolskys quickly started remodeling it. Strick’s attorney, Nicholas Tepper, said the couple then rented the apartment for about four times what Strick was paying for it.
“(Strick) has to dislocate his life and pull his son out from his home and his school,” Tepper said. “Almost immediately after (he) vacated the apartment, they started a wall-t0-wall remodel without a permit.”
Under Santa Monica’s rent control laws, if the landlord or their relative does not move into the unit within 30 days of the tenant leaving it, the tenant may return to their apartment and pay the same rent. The law also allows a tenant to return to their apartment following a remodel.
Tepper said the city of Santa Monica has sent letters to the Tarnopolskys informing them that Strick has the right to re-occupy the apartment.
Strick also alleges that the Tarnopolskys’ property manager, Guy Barré of Westside Property Management, harassed him while trying to evict him five times, including by repeatedly entering his apartment and asking when he was going to move out.
The complaint accuses the Tarnopolskys and Barré of fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, wrongful use of civil proceedings and breach of contract. It seeks a court trial and more than $6,000,000 in damages, as well as a judgment that would allow Strick to return to his apartment.
The Tarnopolskys and Barré could not be reached for comment.
Tepper said Strick’s experience is far from uncommon in Santa Monica and Los Angeles.
“Property values rise as the rental market in Los Angeles becomes tighter and tighter, and fraud like this is becoming more rampant,” Tepper said. “We’re going to find every single rent-controlled property that (Westside Property Management) manages, and I’m thinking we’ll find many cases of the exact same thing.”