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Date:         July 23, 2001
Contact:   Adam Radinsky, Deputy City Attorney
                  Consumer Protection Unit, 458-8336


The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office today filed a civil lawsuit against local developer Craig Jones, accusing Jones of using lies and intimidation to coerce tenants into moving out of their rent-controlled apartments. The case was filed in Santa Monica Superior Court.

The lawsuit alleges the following: Between January and July 2000, Jones spoke with numerous tenants of a 27-unit apartment building he owned at 2110 Fourth Street in Santa Monica. Jones made false threats to the tenants, including that he was going to "Ellis" the building—meaning it would be taken off the rental market and they would have to move out. Jones then offered to pay the tenants cash to move out. However, Jones never intended to "Ellis" the building, and he used the threats to help drive tenants out and thereby increase the resale value of the building.

Jones sold the building in July 2000, less than two years after buying it, at a profit of more than $500,000.00. By that time, about half of the 27 units had been vacated.

The city filed the lawsuit under Santa Monica’s Tenant Harassment Ordinance, enacted in 1995 to protect rent-controlled tenants from harassment by owners seeking to drive out tenants to take advantage of new vacancy-decontrol laws. (As of January 1, 1999, apartment owners in Santa Monica can charge market rates on all vacant apartments.)

"This is a case of a landlord who just couldn’t help himself," said Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky. "There is nothing automatically illegal about landlords paying tenants to leave, but if it is done in the context of false threats and intimidation, that’s against the law."

The lawsuit seeks to recover monetary damages and penalties; punitive damages; a permanent injunction against future violations; and attorneys’ fees.



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