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Santa Monica Landlords Pay City $20,000, Agree to Injunction in Harassment Case


Date:         May 29, 2001
Contact:   Adam Radinsky, Deputy City Attorney
                  Consumer Protection Unit, 458-8336


Ross Vaisburd and Daniel Smith, owners of several apartment buildings in Santa Monica, agreed last week to settle a Tenant Harassment lawsuit filed against them by the City of Santa Monica. The suit alleged that Vaisburd and Smith had repeatedly harassed a rent-control tenant in their Sixth Street building in an effort to force him out so that they could capitalize on the new statewide "vacancy decontrol" law. That tenant pays the lowest rent in the building ($598), less than one-fourth the rent amount of some market-rate units in the same building.

Among other things, the landlords were alleged to have done the following to the tenant:

refusing to accept his rent payment, then trying to evict him for non-payment of rent
trying to evict him under a false charge of subletting
personally confronting him in a hostile and menacing manner

Under the terms of the settlement, Vaisburd and Smith agreed to pay the City $20,000.00. They also agreed to a permanent court order prohibiting similar acts of harassment in the future. Any violation of that order could result in jail time.

The city filed the lawsuit in June 1999. During the nearly two years the case was in court, the landlords tried three separate times to have the Tenant Harassment Ordinance declared invalid on constitutional grounds. Each time, the city prevailed and the Ordinance was upheld by the court.

"Most landlords in Santa Monica know that they have to play fair with their tenants, despite the looming profits of vacancy decontrol," said Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky. "Unfortunately, there are a few landlords who still choose to bully their tenants and ignore the law. It is for them that the harassment law was intended."



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