A City of Santa Monica Superior Court judge has ordered a local landlord to pay $47,500 in fines and barred him from having direct contact with seven tenants at his Santa Monica apartment buildings.
The Santa Monica city attorney’s office sued landlord Isaac Gabriel under the California Unfair Competition Law, which prohibits illegal, unfair and fraudulent business practices.
The case marks the first time that the city has used the Unfair Competition Law against a landlord of a rent-controlled building, city attorney officials said.
Gabriel is the owner of apartment buildings at 1007 16th Street (four units) and 1035 Fifth Street (ten units) in Santa Monica.
A three-day trial was held before Judge Patricia Collins earlier this year and Collins issued a tentative decision Thursday, February 2nd.
The judgment became official Tuesday, March 7th.
The court ruled that Gabriel committed 17 illegal acts against tenants at his two Santa Monica apartment buildings. These acts include;
n stealing a TV satellite dish from the roof of a senior citizen tenant’s apartment;
n assaulting a tenant in his kitchen and robbing the tenant of his camera;
n invading the privacy of a tenant by vandalizing her property while she was away;
n illegally taking away laundry and cable TV services from tenants;
n repeatedly serving tenants with fraudulent notices; and
n illegally entering tenants’ apartments.
The court imposed on Gabriel the maximum fines allowed by law for the 17 violations, in part due to the chronic and serious nature of the violations and the long period over which they occurred, city attorney officials said.
The court judgment provides that:
n Gabriel must pay $47,500 in fines and penalties (half of the amount goes to Santa Monica’s Consumer Protection fund and half goes to Los Angeles County);
n Gabriel is permanently prohibited from coming within 30 feet of the seven tenants who testified, entering any of those tenants’ apartments and preventing those tenants from having laundry or cable TV services; and
n Gabriel must pay the city’s attorneys’ fees and court costs.
“Building owners need to know that repeated harassment of their tenants will not be tolerated in Santa Monica,” deputy city attorney Adam Radinsky said.
City attorney officials said Gabriel’s legal problems with the city go back many years.
In 1998 he was convicted of illegally locking out a Santa Monica tenant and taking the tenant’s personal property. He was sentenced to 30 days of house arrest and ordered to perform 480 hours of community service.
The city attorney’s office filed new charges in 1999 against Gabriel for harassment of a second tenant. The case was settled after a judge ordered Gabriel to perform repairs in the tenant’s apartment, forbade him from having further contact with the tenant and added one year to Gabriel’s probation from the first case.
City attorney’s office officials said that in the past several years they had received formal complaints from half a dozen additional tenants claiming misconduct by Gabriel, which led to the filing of the most recent lawsuit.