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San Francisco’s ‘cruelest landlord’ loses buildings, adds to $7 million in fines

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“Defendants appear to view the relatively minor fees they have incurred as an acceptable cost of doing their business illegally”

A judge’s gavel, made of wood, at rest. Photo via Shutterstock

It’s another bad week for Anne Kihagi, the San Francisco property owner whose years of scandal, legal troubles, and convictions for abusing her tenants earned her the reputation as the city’s “cruelest landlord.”

Now the landlord has earned yet another round of court-ordered penalties, as the city yanked Kihagi’s buildings out of her hands this week. While she still owns the eight properties in neighborhoods like the Mission and Dolores Heights, she is no longer allowed to manage them.

A court order issued this week “enjoins the defendant from having any management role at any of the properties for a full 60 months,” instead placing a court-ordered receiver in charge.

Judge Charles F. Haines ruled Monday that Kihagi has repeatedly violated previous court orders and injunctions over the past two years. The judge called in a receiver because, in short, nothing else seems to have worked.

The ruling cites a “persistent pattern of bad faith harassment, retaliation, and fraud against multiple tenants; repeated failure to comply with notices of violations, stop work orders, and abatement orders; repeated efforts to deny Plaintiff City the right to inspect the properties; repeatedly covering up work done without the required permit or exceeding the scope; constantly entering tenants’ units with unreasonable notice or no notice at all; history of flagrantly violating court orders; [...] and complete lack of understanding of the unlawfulness of their conduct.”

Haines also added another $470,000 in penalties to the running tab of what Kihagi owes, which, according to Mission Local, now sits somewhere in the neighborhood of $7 million.

The judge noted that, since May of 2017, Kihagi has been dinged for over 40 violations of court injunctions, continuing harassing tactics like stationing video cameras at tenants’ doors 24 hours a day, which she was ordered to stop.

The City Attorney’s Office, which has jousted with Kihagi for years over the violations, says that despite having record-breaking penalties leveled at her, Kihagi has actually paid relatively little.

“Defendants appear to view the relatively minor fees they have incurred as an acceptable cost of doing their business illegally,” the City Attorneys Office said in their filing requesting the receiver takeover.

It’s been a rough couple years for Kihagi. In March, the California Supreme Court rejected her appeal of the 2017 ruling that leveled a record-breaking $2.4 million in penalties against her, a number that has since swelled.

In 2018, the city auctioned off several of her buildings in an attempt to recoup some of what she owes. This was shortly before the city told her tenants to start paying rent to City Hall instead of Kihagi.

Kihagi has denied the charge that she’s an abusive landlord, instead arguing that her legal troubles stem from grudges on the part of her tenants. Nevertheless, the courts have consistently sided with the tenants and city, convicting Kihagi in 2017 of harassment and fraud.

At one point Kihagi owned more than 50 rent-controlled units in the city, a portfolio worth roughly $24 million.