Pays Record Settlement in Tenant Harassment Case
By Lookout Staff
July 9 -- In what is Santa Monica’s largest tenant
harassment settlement to date, a couple that owns a four-unit apartment
building has paid an elderly former tenant and the City a total
of $200,000, City officials said.
Stacey Valnes and his wife Megan were charged with inducing 82-year-old tenant
Winifred Goodman into vacating her longtime rent-controlled unit under false
premises, officials at the City Attorneys office said.
Goodman vacated her $529-a-month rent-controlled apartment and moved to Simi
Valley to allow the building owners to move into the unit on Colorado Avenue,
said Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky, who is in charge of consumer affairs.
But instead of moving into the unit, the couple rented it for $2,400 a month,
After moving out, Goodman “learned that she had been deceived,”
“This case is a cautionary tale for that small group of landlords who
would consider using deception or intimidation to get their tenants to leave,”
The City sued the Valneses in Santa Monica Superior Court in June 2007, charging
that the couple had violated Santa Monica’s tenant harassment law, which
prohibits landlords from inducing rent-controlled tenants to vacate their homes
through “fraud, intimidation or coercion.”
Goodman later retained an attorney and filed a separate lawsuit against the
Valneses, Radinsky said. The two cases were consolidated for trial, which was
scheduled to begin this month.
Under the settlement the couple paid Goodman $160,000 and the City $40,000,
which will go into its Consumer Protection fund to educate landlords
and tenants of their rights and responsibilities, Radinsky said.