A local landlord will pay the City of Santa Monica $65,000 to settle accusations of tenant harassment and illegal eviction in a rent-controlled apartment.
The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office Public Rights Division announced a stipulated judgment and injunction against defendants Ross Vaisburd, Empresa Real Alta California LLC, 848 18th Street LLC, Rolana Serebryanaya, and Rolana Serebryanaya’s Trust requiring payment of $65,000 to the City for tenants’ restitution and costs, two years of required property management training, reporting all evictions and lawsuits in Santa Monica to the City Attorney’s office for the next year and providing City-approved disclosures meeting state law requirements to all tenants in Santa Monica properties.
The City filed a lawsuit against the defendants in April of last year alleging that the landlord used fraudulent and coercive tactics to attempt to force a family to leave their home after the tenants asked for repairs and maintenance work. According to a statement provided by the City, only after the tenants vacated did the landlord make the requested repairs and remodel the apartment, subsequently listing the unit for a much higher rent.
The lawsuit alleged that the landlord’s misconduct included:
Using delay tactics in responding to tenants’ repeated requests for repairs to address lack of hot water, black wastewater in the bathroom, broken outside lighting, and a fly infestation.
When tenants sought to correct a rent payment issue, the property manager told them to wait to pay and refused to answer questions about how to pay. The landlord then brought an eviction lawsuit without providing the legally required eviction notice.
Refusing to provide their contact information, as required by law, so the tenants could not reach them when the property manager told them to wait to pay their rent and did not answer their questions about how and whom to pay.
In agreeing to the stipulated judgment, the defendants did not admit to any wrongdoing.
“Protecting tenants’ rights is a fundamental part of what we do,” said City Attorney Douglas Sloan. “We expect both landlords and tenants to play by the rules, and when landlords abuse their position, the City’s Tenant Harassment Ordinance ensures accountability.”
The City’s Tenant Harassment Ordinance prohibits a landlord from trying to influence tenants to vacate through fraud, intimidation, or coercion, and from attempting evictions that are untenable under the law and facts of the case. Any questions or complaints should be directed to the Public Rights Division at (310) 458-8336.