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San Francisco lays $2.4 million fine on abusive landlord

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Anne Kihagi, owner of 50 rent-controlled units, bullied tenants, many of them elderly

650 Church Street, which Anne Kihagi bought in 2015 for $6.6 million.
650 Church Street, which Anne Kihagi bought in 2015 for $6.6 million.
Screen grab via Google Street Views

A Superior Court Judge leveled a $2.4 million penalty on San Francisco landlord Anne Kihagi today, finding that Kihagi harassed, exploited, and wrongfully evicted tenants in the many rent-controlled buildings she owns.

The city sued Kihagi in 2015. Among many other charges, City Attorney Dennis Herrera said:

Kihagi or her agents interrupted gas, electric, water, and cable service; disrupted mail service; failed to cash rent checks only to later claim them as untimely; backdated correspondence and notices; violated tenants’ privacy by entering their apartments without required notice [...] and even retaliated against tenants who cooperated with city inspectors by installing video surveillance cameras aimed at the residents’ front doors.

Kihagi, who began buying up San Francisco properties in 2013, even threatened a tenant’s cat, according to the suit. Herrera noted that many of the tenants were elderly, including a “bedridden 91-year-old great grandmother.”

“I’ve gone after a lot of lawless landlords in my time, but Anne Kihagi has a special place reserved for her in San Francisco’s abusive landlord hall of fame,” Herrera told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Just last week, Kihagi received a five-day jail sentence in West Hollywood owing to a nearly decade-long legal fight. Kihagi’s attorney claimed the charges were a smear by tenants groups.

During the San Francisco case, Kihagi kept up a blog about being a San Francisco landlord, although it hasn’t updated since August 2016.

3947 18th Street, which Kihagi bought in 2013 for $2.79 million.
Apartments.com

She never wrote about the litigation, but often criticized rent control laws, rent control tenants, and the plight of landlords:

For those wondering what rent control is like around the country, let’s just say that when it comes to tenant bias, San Francisco is King of them all. [...] The San Francisco Rent Control system is broken. I believe it’s extremely prejudicial to Owners. However, part of the problem is that the owners as a group are not organized and often afraid to even speak up.

Herrera says Kihagi owns more than 50 rent-controlled apartments in the city.

Judge Angela Bradstreet’s decision cited Kihagi and her co-defendant’s “complete lack of understanding of the unlawfulness of their conduct” and “persistent pattern of bad faith harassment, retaliation, and fraud.”

On top of the fines, Kihagi must pay the city’s legal fees (several more million dollars) and hire a property manager to handle her buildings. Kihagi’s buildings altogether cost her $24 million.