A Kenyan landlord has been ordered by the San Francisco Superior Court Judge to pay the city nearly $2.4 million (Sh240 million) in penalties for violations of state housing law.
The court found that Anne Kihagi and her associates had “purposefully destroyed their tenants’ quiet enjoyment.”
Kihagi and her associates were found to have denied their tenants “any sense of sanctuary through their long, continued and unrelenting campaign of harassment, reductions in services, and unlawful and fraudulent evictions.”
“Their reprehensible conduct had a terrible effect on the lives of multiple San Francisco citizens,” Judge Angela Bradstreet stated.
The tentative ruling by the court voided pending evictions that were being pursued where Kihagi was in the process of evicting several senior citizens.
Kihagi was barred from having contact with past, present or future tenants and must hire a city approved independent contractor.
The court ordered that she reimburses the city for all legal and investigation fees related to the case, which will top $2 million.
“I’ve gone after a lot of lawless landlords in my time, but Anne Kihagi has a special place reserved for her in San Francisco’s abusive landlord hall of fame,” said City Attorney Dennis Herrera, whose office sued Kihagi in June 2015. “You can’t come to this city and lie, cheat and steal your way to massive wealth on the backs of residents. We’re not going to allow it.”
Kihagi who is a former investment banker started buying properties in June 2013 in Noe Valley, the Castro, the Mission and North Beach.
She was previously invested in multifamily properties in West Hollywood, where she also faced another suit for violating rent-control regulations.
In April, she was ordered jailed by a judge in West Hollywood for five days for violating state housing law, a decision she is appealing.
Kihagi’s business model has always leaned towards buying buildings with longtime, rent-controlled tenants who have been paying below-market rents and then would pursue other methods both legal and illegal to get rid of them.
According to the city lawsuit, she normally would make an offer to buy out clients and they do not agree to the buyout she threatens an “owner move-in” or a “relative move-in” eviction, both of which are allowed under state rent-control laws. If that fails, she resorts to threats and harassment.
Kihagi and her family members have invested $24 million (Sh2.4billion) in San Francisco real estate amassing a residential portfolio with 50 units.
An expert witness for the city who testified in court said that by Kihagi evicting low rent-controlled tenants and replacing them with tenants paying much higher rents, she was able to add about $8.8million (Sh880 million) to the value of the property.
The Department of Building inspection also found widespread violations at Kihagi’s properties, while the court unearthed another 1,251 violations of the state’s unfair competition law.