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SF City Attorney Seeks Court Injunction Against 'Predatory' Landlord

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has filed a motion this week to stop a San Francisco landlord accused of evicting and harassing her tenants living in rent-controlled apartments, including seniors and those with disabilities.

Herrera said Friday that the preliminary injunction is a necessary next step since the landlord, Anne Kihagi, has allegedly not stopped her "egregious and predatory conduct."

Herrera said tenants have been dealing with Kihagi for years, but shortly after the City Attorney's Office caught wind of the allegations against her, his office filed a complaint in San Francisco Superior Court.

Kihagi's tenants have shared stories of misconduct and submitted declarations in support of Herrera's motion stating that their landlord has been violating tenants' rights, despite the complaint filed against her and her associates on June 4.

Kihagi, who goes by various spellings of her first and last names, apparently has practiced a predatory business model along with her business associates Julia Mwangi and Christine Mwangi, and the numerous companies under their control, according to the City Attorney's Office.

An injunction hearing is scheduled for December 23 before Judge Ronald E. Quidachay, although the City Attorney's Office has said Kihagi's attorney is trying to stall the hearing.

If the injunction is granted and Kihagi and her associates continue to engage in the alleged illegal behavior, they could face financial penalties as well as jail time, Herrera said.

"The conduct and tactics that she engaged in were often times directed ... at seniors and those that were disabled." according to Herrera.

The civil action pending in San Francisco Superior Court contends that Kihagi has been waging "a war of harassment, intimidation, and retaliation" against dozens of her tenants.

Fifteen of Kihagi's tenants have provided declarations describing her allegedly unlawful practices.

Many of the tenants, who reside in the Castro and Mission neighborhoods, said she was trying to force them from their rent-controlled homes.

The complaint filed on June 4 states that after Kihagi successfully evicted tenants, she would routinely order unpermitted construction to be done and then rent out the units to new tenants at much higher rents.

The City Attorney's Office maintains that her lawless business practices have persisted unabated for months even after Herrera first sued Kihagi.

The preliminary injunction aims to halt Kihagi's allegedly illegal evictions, as well as restrict her personal contact with tenants by requiring her to hire a third-party professional to manage the properties, according to the City Attorney's Office.

This injunction would also require the landlord to fix housing and safety code violations, as well as submit to building inspections.

"Anne Kihagi has been a ruthless predator -- targeting tenants in rent-controlled apartments for harassment and illegal evictions, and singling out seniors and people with disabilities for particularly despicable abuse," Herrera said in a statement released Friday.

Herrera's June complaint maintains that at least six elderly and disabled renters were among those residents targeted for harassment by Kihagi or her agents.

In June, Herrera said Kihagi was among the most abusive landlords he's come across.

Among the tenants allegedly targeted for harassment by Kihagi is a bedridden 91-year-old great-grandmother, according to the complaint.

The landlord allegedly violated tenants' privacy rights by entering their apartments without required notice, failed to abate building maintenance issues in a timely manner and allegedly retaliated against tenants who cooperated with city inspectors. The complaint also alleges that Kihagi and associates failed to cash rent checks and then later claimed them as untimely rent payments.

Allison Leshefsky, a longtime San Francisco resident of the Castro District and physical education teacher at Paul Revere Elementary School, said Friday that she was evicted from her home by Kihagi at the beginning of this month.

She said that ever since Kihagi purchased the building from her previous landlord, about two years ago, she has experienced relentless "harassment."

Leshefsky said she was forced to temporarily vacate her unit for capital improvements and that she technically should be offered the apartment again in three months, but said that Kihagi has figured out ways to not let former tenants back into the units.

She said she fears Kihagi could stop her from moving back to her home, where she has lived for roughly a decade.

Leshefsky said Kihagi has threatened her on the street, cut off her water, installed surveillance cameras on the property, and evicted her neighbors.

Leshefsky said she is living out of suitcases and renting a room in a house that she found on Craigslist.

"I've always paid my rent on time, I'm the ideal tenant," she said.

The City Attorney's Office alleges Kihagi and her associates have committed fraud and harassment, subjected tenants to threats and verbal abuse, interrupted services, refused to acknowledge receipt of tenants' rent payments, and tried to evict tenants through unlawful means.

Kihagi has also allegedly conducted illegal renovations, refused access for legally required inspections, failed to register businesses for tax purposes and repeatedly provided false information to San Francisco's Rent Board, Assessor/Recorder's Office and Superior Court, according to Herrera's office.

Since 2013, the defendants have acquired 50 rent-controlled units in nine multi-unit residential properties in San Francisco, according to Herrera's office.

Two evictions attempted by Kihagi in San Francisco were apparently defeated after jury trials and four units owned by Kihagi and her associates are in the midst of eviction proceedings, according to the City Attorney's Office.

Tenants in 13 of her units have already been evicted, according to the City Attorney's Office.

Litigation involving Kihagi's West Hollywood properties in Los Angeles County is also pending, according to court documents.

Kihagi and her associates could not be reached by phone Friday for comment on the allegations.

© Copyright 2015 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

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