A Santa Monica landlord who allegedly attempted to force a senior tenant out of her rent-controlled apartment has been ordered by a court to pay the tenant and city $12,000.
Local landlord George Bassiry was required to make the payment, including $5,000 in statutory damages, under a court judgment and injunction obtained by the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office Consumer Protection Unit. The injunction was also made against Bassiry’s manager, Gilbert Rodriguez.
In addition to the payment, the injunction requires Bassiry and Rodriguez to attend fair housing training and to end direct contact with a longtime tenant who accused them of harassment throughout 2012, Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades said.
Bassiry and Rodriguez agreed to the judgment on the same day that the city filed a tenant harassment lawsuit against them in Santa Monica Superior Court, Rhoades said.
The lawsuit alleged that Bassiry and Rodriguez attempted to get the senior-citizen tenant to leave her longtime rent-controlled apartment at an 18-unit building on Hollister Avenue, through a series of baseless eviction notices, lawsuits and threats.
The 32-year tenant challenged the alleged harassment by seeking the assistance of the Legal Aid Foundation and the pro bono services of the law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. Rhoades said the tenant’s actions led to Bassiry dropping all three lawsuits.
Under Santa Monica law landlords are prohibited from inducing rent-controlled tenants to vacate their homes through fraud, intimidation or coercion, as well as through false evictions, according to the city attorney’s office.
“This case involved a landlord’s campaign of baseless eviction attempts aimed at the tenant. Each lawsuit was dismissed by the landlord as soon as it became clear that the tenant was not going to vacate but fight,” said Rhoades.
“While we appreciate the landlord’s cooperation in resolving the case, this is exactly the kind of misconduct the tenant harassment law was designed to prevent.”