WEHOville

WeHo Landlord Sentenced to Jail for Ellis Act Violation

Tue, Apr 25, 2017   By Staff    13 Comments

The City of West Hollywood has prevailed in court against West Hollywood landlord Anne Kihagi, who has been ordered to serve five days in Los Angeles County Jail and to pay the city’s attorney fees and costs.

Kihagi was held in contempt of court on Feb. 21 for violating a preliminary injunction that prohibited her from re-renting certain units at her property, an eight-unit building located at 1263 N. Crescent Heights Blvd.

Anna Kihagi, aka Ann Swain and Ana Swain

The preliminary injunction was obtained after the City of West Hollywood intervened in a case against Kihagi, filed by a former tenant, who contends he was wrongly evicted when Kihagi used the Ellis Act as a pretext to terminate all of the leases in the building. Kihagi violated the injunction by re-renting the former tenant’s unit.

The city has been engaged in a legal back and forth with Kihagi since 2008, when it filed a lawsuit alleging that Kihagi notified her tenants that she was evicting them  and then rented one of the already empty apartments to a new tenant. When that tenant told the city what Kihagi had done, Kihagi retaliated, the city alleged, by cutting off his electricity and hot water.

The city and Kihagi settled that lawsuit with Kihagi agreeing to extend for 90-days the tenancy of those she was planning to evict and agreeing not to rent any of the eight units until 2019. However, in 2012 Kihagi rented two apartments in the building in an apparent violation of her agreement with the city because she failed to notify the evicted tenants that they could return at rent-controlled rates. A judge found Kihagi guilty of violating her settlement agreement with the city. However, the state Court of Appeals in 2014 overturned that decision. It determined that two of the four units that Kihagi later rented already were vacant when she withdrew the property from the rental market.

Kihagi also goes by other names, including Ana Swain and Ann Swain, according to Anti Eviction Map, a website that tracks alleged illegal evictions.

The Ellis Act is a California State Law enacted in 1985 that allows property owners to evict tenants without cause if they intend to remove properties from the residential rental market. Displaced tenants and local governments may file a legal action against landlords if the property is returned to the rental market without following the Ellis Act’s restrictions.

Ellis Act reform is a priority for the City of West Hollywood. An an announcement of the Kihagi decision from City Hall says “the city has advocated at the state level for reform or repeal of the Ellis Act, and the city has a strong commitment to taking actions at the local level to increase tenant protections wherever possible. Shortly after the city was incorporated in 1984, the West Hollywood City Council adopted a landmark Rent Stabilization Ordinance, which was one of the strictest tenants’ rights laws in the nation.”

Kihagi also owns apartments in San Francisco, where she has been charged with illegally evicting tenants in what a city official said was the “most egregious” conduct by a landlord that he had seen in 13 years.

An article in 2015 in SFGate.com reported that San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed suit against Kihagi, alleging she “waged a war of harassment, intimidation and retaliation” to force tenants from rent-controlled apartments she owned in San Francisco so that she could raise the rents to market rates.

Herrera said Kihagi bought apartment buildings whose tenants were paying below-market rates and tried to force them out. Herrera said that Kihagi offered to pay tenants to move. If they declined her offer, Herrara said that Kihagi claimed that she or relatives were moving into the building. Under the state’s Ellis Act, a rental property can be removed from rent control quickly if it is to be occupied by its owner or his or her family. Otherwise the property must remain off the market for a specified period of time before it can be re-rented at market rates.

Herrera said Kihagi also tried to force tenants out by setting strict rules for their usage of storage rooms, laundry facilities and other things and was known to cut off utility services such as electricity and water.

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13 Comments

  1. Kimberly CopelandTue, May 02, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    Fortunately, most landlords obey the laws and don’t stoop to this kind of despicable behavior.

    It’s hard to muster any sympathy for people who buy rent-stabilized buildings with the idea that they can just circumvent laws they don’t like by harassing the tenants or using false owner-occupancy evictions to get them out.

    If they’re looking to make a quick profit, then they simply shouldn’t buy a building that is covered by rent stabilization laws. There are plenty of other markets to buy property in, and making a bad business decision doesn’t give them the right to torment and torture people in their homes. Unless you’ve experienced tenant harassment yourself, it’s hard to imagine just how debilitating it is.

    These unscrupulous landlords are very well aware of the laws, and they come up with elaborate schemes to try and evade them. The level of dishonesty and abusive behavior they are willing to stoop to is disgusting, and the punishment is far too weak.

    I’m glad that the City was able to prevail in this case, as this woman has been horribly abusive to tenants here and in San Francisco. And the worst thing about these shady landlords is that they most often pick on our most vulnerable citizens-the disabled and seniors. Shameful.

  2. Robert MunizSun, Apr 30, 2017 at 11:59 pm

    @weho Landlord: Answer this then, why is it that landlords in West Hollywood think they’re above the law. That, despite rent control and habitability ordinances a great number of landlords choose instead to flaunt the law and abuse their tenants? I assume it’s because of unrepentant greed but I sometimes also think it’s because you have a deep seeded need to bully, threaten and harass people when you think no one’s looking. Care to explain? I have yet to have a decent landlord while living in WeHo and LA for over 27 years. That says a lot about the character of the people who get into the rental business or should I say the lack of character. I won’t wait up for an honest answer. I’ve never gotten one of those either in 27 years…

  3. WeHo LandlordSat, Apr 29, 2017 at 5:52 pm

    WHY do you only allow anti Landlord comments?

  4. Ian DainSat, Apr 29, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.
    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. Martin Niemöller

    The lack of private property rights was linked to the Holocaust.
    I wonder if you will still be cheering when they jail you for smoking tobacco in your bedroom, or for buying a Big Gulp, or when they reverse Roe Vs Wade?
    Abortion rights in based on the right to privacy and without privacy rights; then Roe Vs Wade will become obsolete; and in many cities (Santa Monica being one) it is illegal to smoking tobacco in all apartments, prohibition returning? Nothing is beyond the power hungry politicians schemes.

    I can see how this LL got confused; the appeals court sided with the LL regarding renting out her other units. So the LL took that as permission by the appeals to rent out the other units as well.
    Imprisoning LL’s for making mistakes to the rent control laws is a sure way to get relief from the federal courts. And this would be a clear violation of the equal protection clause. The court allowed her to rent 2 units but somehow she cant rent the other 2 because of an unconstitutional policy?
    I agree that slumlords need to be prosecuted; but punishing landlords for simply wanting to get a fair return on their business is un-American. Price controls in any other business are called racketeering.

  5. Civil Equality Accreditation GroupSat, Apr 29, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.
    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. Martin Niemöller

    The lack of private property rights was linked to the Holocaust.
    I wonder if you will still be cheering when they jail you for smoking tobacco in your bedroom, or for buying a Big Gulp, or when they reverse Roe Vs Wade?
    Abortion rights in based on the right to privacy and without privacy rights; then Roe Vs Wade will become obsolete; and in many cities (Santa Monica being one) it is illegal to smoke tobacco in all apartments, prohibition returning? Nothing is beyond the power hungry politicians schemes.

    I can see how this LL got confused; the appeals court sided with the LL regarding renting out her other units. So the LL took that as permission by the appeals to rent out the other units as well.
    Imprisoning LL’s for making mistakes to the rent control laws is a sure way to get relief from the federal courts. And this would be a clear violation of the equal protection clause. The court allowed her to rent 2 units but somehow she cant rent the other 2 because of an unconstitutional policy?
    I agree that slumlords need to be prosecuted; but punishing landlords for simply wanting to get a fair return on their business is un-American. Price controls in any other business is called racketeering.

  6. Alvin AndersonThu, Apr 27, 2017 at 11:11 pm

    5 days is nothing. They have to give sentences that get the crooks attention and that are sentences that disrupt their criminal behavior. A one year minimum for those faker claiming relatives are moving in or in any way harassing tenants with punitive new rules.

  7. kevin kingThu, Apr 27, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    i was a tenent in the building named in the suit.being evicted in as flagrant a manner as i was, was devestating. ann kihagi deserves more than 5 days in jail and court costs…imo she’ll never pay up

  8. San Francisco tenant (@SFTenant)Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    A decision is pending in the City of San Francisco case where Kihagi and sisters, Julia and Christine Mwangi waged “a war of harassment, intimidation, and retaliation” against dozens of her tenants—targeting seniors and disabled renters for particularly vicious treatment—to force them from their rent-controlled homes. Maybe she’ll go to prison in San Francisco after LA?

  9. Joshua88Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    Score one for the good guys. Thank you, Rob Bergstein for clarifying for the people who do not know.

    I live in a building that is supposed to have a manager on the premises. Most of us know this, including the former manager. In order to report this, I have to go to City Hall. As I work all day, I never manage to get out of the apartment in time to file a complaint. And yes, I put all this in writing years ago.

  10. Rob BergsteinWed, Apr 26, 2017 at 11:29 am

    Just a point of clarification in your article. The Ellis Act is not used for the purpose of owner or owner family occupancy. The Ellis Act is to remove a building (not individual units) from the rental market. Any Ellised buildings may not be rented out for 5 years or if they are, I believe they have to be offered back to the tenants who were evicted, at their original rent plus any annual rent adjustments from The City over the period of time the unit was vacant. For an owner occupancy or family member (and only certain family members..no third cousins!), a tenant is evicted (with relocation fees laid out by The City) so that the owner or family member can move into the unit. If the family member ever moves out, the unit must first be offered back to the evicted tenant, again at their original rent plus any annual adjustments and if that original tenant declines to move back in, the unit must still be rented out at that original rent to the first tenant to occupy the unit after an owner/family member has moved out. That rule is in perpetuity…an owner can live in a unit for 25 years & when they move out, it must follow those rules.
    As always, if any City of West Hollywood residents (or landlords owning/managing) living in a rent stabilized building ever have any questions, The City’s Rent Stabilization Department is there to help with your questions.

  11. Chris SangerWed, Apr 26, 2017 at 9:38 am

    Likely will be sent home after showing up because of non-violent nature of crime and overcrowding, but still hopefully gets her and others’ attention

  12. Jimmy PalmieriTue, Apr 25, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    Evil, wretched creature.

  13. fine7760Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    What a “B***H” , sorry my little furry friends!!

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