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June 29, 2004
 Adam Radinsky, Deputy City Attorney, (310) 458-88327

The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office has filed a civil lawsuit against landlord Isaac Gabriel The suit alleges that Gabriel, who owns two apartment buildings in Santa Monica, has engaged in a pattern of illegal behavior against his tenants. 

The case was brought under the state Unfair Competition Law (Business & Professions Code Section 17200) which is designed to address illegal, unfair and fraudulent business practices. This case marks the first time that the City has used the law against a landlord. 

Gabriel owns apartment buildings at 1007 16th Street (four units) and 1035 Fifth Street (ten units). The lawsuit claims that during the past four years he has committed the following acts: 

  • Using bodily force against tenants;

  • Stealing a tenant’s TV satellite dish;

  • Trying to defraud and coerce tenants into paying him extra money;

  • Entering tenants’ apartments without their knowledge and without justification;

  • Charging illegally high rent amounts;

  • Illegally taking away tenants’ laundry facilities and cable TV; and

  • Violating tenants’ right to privacy

Gabriel’s legal problems with the city go back many years. In 1998 he was convicted of illegally locking out a tenant and taking the tenant’s personal property, both misdemeanors. He was sentenced to 30 days’ house arrest and ordered to perform 480 hours community service.

In 1999 the City Attorney’s Office filed new charges against Gabriel for battery and harassment of a female tenant. The case was settled after a judge ordered Gabriel to perform repairs in the woman’s apartment, forbade him from having further contact with her, and added one year to his probation.

In the past four years, the City Attorney’s Office had received formal complaints from half a dozen tenants claiming the variety of misconduct described above.

Under the Unfair Competition Law, Gabriel could be assessed civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each illegal act, $5,000 for acts involving a senior citizen. (At least one of the tenants is a senior citizen.) The exact number of violations remains to be investigated in the lawsuit.

The city also seeks a permanent injunction to prevent Gabriel from violating the law again.

“Mr. Gabriel has consistently thumbed his nose at City Hall, the courts, and the law itself,” said Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky. “He's the rare landlord for whom the unfair competition law is the best remedy.”

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