The former landlord of a Santa Monica rental property will pay a total of $120,000 to a former tenant and the city of Santa Monica under a recent settlement agreement.
Tenant Edward Vincent and the city had each filed a lawsuit against Cheryl Kautzky, who previously owned the four-unit property, and her daughter, Deborah Kautzky, alleging they violated various laws in their ejection of Vincent from the property. The joint trial of the two lawsuits had already begun in October, when the parties reached the settlement during the jury selection phase, according to the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office.
Cheryl Kautzky purchased the property in 2000, when three of the four units were occupied by tenants paying controlled rents far below market price. In 2001, Kautzky sought to evict the tenants under the Ellis Act, which allows landlords to leave the rental business, and they were ultimately evicted in 2002.
According to the lawsuits, the Kautzkys allegedly unlawfully re-rented the controlled apartments at the property soon thereafter, at market rates. A city attorney spokesman noted that under local law, such new tenancies are also subject to rent control and any rent charged over that amount is illegal.
The lawsuits alleged that in 2008, the Kautzkys told Vincent, one of the new tenants, to vacate his unit. In his complaint, Vincent claimed he learned that he was subject to rent control, had eviction rights, and had been paying far above the legal limit for his apartment.
The tenant alleged that the landlords then forced him out of the apartment – with the help of others – by removing all of his belongings while he was gone one day, and threatening him with bodily harm when he returned.
The property was sold in 2009.
The city of Santa Monica filed a civil lawsuit against the Kautzkys alleging that their actions violated the city’s Tenant Harassment Ordinance, the city attorney spokesman said. Vincent’s separate lawsuit was filed for excess rent, wrongful eviction, and other claims.
“This case shows that breaking the rental laws does not pay,” alleged Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky.
“When landlords go out of the rental business, they need to follow the law. And tenants should know that they have legal rights and can’t simply be thrown out on the street.”