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Tech Workers Evict Teacher from Mission District Home for “Using Appliances”

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Uh oh

As if you needed another reason to grouse at the Mission District in 2016, San Francisco Magazine’s Lamar Anderson (former Curbed SF editor) penned a riveting piece today about Michelle Malliett, a single mother and kindergarten teacher, who was evicted from her Mission District apartment in stealth, newfangled fashion by her building’s new owners.

Malliett lived in an illegal unit (common in San Francisco, so much so that the city has made it illegal to evict people from units simply because they are illegal) since 2007 with her daughter, paying $1,700 for a ground-floor flat.

After the building was sold in March of this year, she received an eviction notice on her door. The cause—using her gas and electrical appliances.

Lamar has the story:

Though S.F. has proven to be an inhospitable place for renters the last several years, the circumstances surrounding this eviction are particularly startling. It seems that Malliett’s new landlords—Mathieu Verbeeck, a VP of product development at Mubi, and Catherine Crevels, a marketing manager at Intuit—are testing out a novel strategy for ejecting tenants. They contend that Malliett and her daughter are causing a "nuisance" by living in a unit that lacks the proper permits. The Board of Supervisors has already blocked landlords from evicting tenants of illegal units simply because they are illegal, but here the owners are taking a different approach—one that tenants' rights advocates are concerned will create a worrying precedent.

"This is the first time we’ve seen a tenant accused of nuisance for living in an illegal unit," says tenant rights attorney Joseph Tobener, whose firm is representing Malliett. And what, pray tell, is the nuisance cited in the legal notice? "Defendant’s usage of gas or electrical appliances is dangerous." That’s right: Only in San Francisco do you stand to lose your rent-controlled apartment for boiling water.

For their part, the current landlords, Verbeeck and Crevels, claim that they simply didn’t want to be responsible for the residential snafus that could affect Malliett from living in an illegal unit—or so says their attorney. But according to the Property Information Map, the unit in question has no reported issues (save for the fact that it, like every other Victorian, is old and shows signs of wear and tear).

The two parties are currently battling it out in court. Understandably. Anyone who falls within the working class tax bracket couldn’t possibly afford to live in the city these days as easily as they once did.

Most distressingly, as Lamar goes on to report, "Verbeeck’s and Crevels’ legal strategy could still have a chilling effect on tenants’ rights. Even when eviction attempts are unfounded, they can displace tenants simply by being expensive to fight."

The entire piece, which goes into excellent and much-needed detail, is well worth your time.