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City Claims Apartment Owners Harassed Tenants to Empty Building
By Lookout Staff
February 5, 2021 -- The City last week sued the owners of a 30-unit rent-controlled building North of Montana claiming they “engaged in a campaign to empty out the building of long-term tenants.”
The lawsuit claims the owners of the apartment building near the beach violated Santa Monica's Tenant Harassment Ordinance and eviction moratorium when they tried to evict the tenants in five of the remaining seven occupied units.
The defendants "engaged in unlawful behavior" that included "fraud, intimidation and attempted evictions without justification," the City Attorney's office alleges.
According to the lawsuit, last August defendants Youseph Golshirazian, Hanokh Golshirazian and SoCal Investment Company asked the tenants to sign a temporary "move out" agreement while the building at 153 San Vicente Boulevard underwent major repairs.
City officials say the owners lied when they told the tenants the City had approved the plans and "assured them that they could move back into their units once the work was done."
The five tenants refused to temporarily relocate "for fear that the landlord may not allow them to move back in after the work is completed, and due to COVID-19 public health concerns," officials said.
In November the owners filed eviction notices based on the tenants' refusal to temporarily relocate "for work that had not been permitted," City officials said.
Helped by legal aid attorneys, the tenants fought the evictions and the defendants dropped the actions, then served the tenants with a new Three-Day Notice, officials said.
When the lawsuit was filed last week, "the City had not approved the proposed construction work at the building, and at least two of the vacant units were listed on Airbnb.com as vacation rentals."
The lawsuit also contends that the property "was advertised for sale on Loopnet.com, where it stated that “[o]nly five units are currently occupied and Seller is in the process of completing the buy-outs.”
The tenants in the five units -- who have lived in their rent-controlled apartments for between four and 15 years -- pay rent "significantly less" than the maximum allowable rents in the other units, officials said.
“It is always illegal for landlords to harass or otherwise threaten tenants’ housing security with false or misleading statements," Interim City Attorney George Cardona said in a statement.
"It is even worse when that happens during the middle of a public health and economic crisis,” Cardona said.
The defendants could not be reached for comment.
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