The owner of a Hollister Avenue apartment building accused of trying to force a longtime tenant into vacating her rent-controlled unit was ordered to pay $12,000 and to attend fair housing training, city prosecutors announced Thursday.
Under a Dec. 26 Los Angeles Superior Court injunction and judgement, the landlord, George Bassiry, and his manager, Gilbert Rodriguez, were also ordered to end all contact with the tenant, Cordula Ohman.
City prosecutors said in the past year Ohman was given three eviction notices that allegedly violated Santa Monica's tenant harassment ordinance. Two of the notices said she wasn't keep her unit clean and a third said the owner wanted to owner-occupy her unit, according to Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades.
Bassiry and Rodriguez also threatened her with lawsuits, the prosecutors said, but Ohman—who has lived at the property for 32 years—obtained help from the Legal Aid Foundation and pro bono services from a major law firm to fight the evictions.
"The city alleged [the eviction] notices violated the Tenant Harassment ordinance because the tenant was able to get each lawsuit dismissed and because there was no evidence to support the eviction notices’ claims," Rhoades told Patch.
Bassiry, through his company Ocean Yard LLC, owns the 18-unit building at 143 Hollister Ave. He was the target of a similar suit by the city in August of 1997, just a few months after he purchased the property.
The 1997 suit alleged Bassiry was trying to coerce nine of his tenants into vacating so he could raise rents, according to the Los Angeles Times.
At that time, Bassiry told the Times he had "been making good-faith efforts to repair the building but has been hampered by tenants who purposely damaged their apartments."
Under the December judgment in the recent case, Bassiry is to pay $6,000 to the city for attorneys fees and $5,000 in damages to Ohman. Additionally, her rent is to be reduced by $150 each month in 2013.
"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," Rhoades said in a statement. "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."
Bassiry and Rodriguez agreed to the judgment the same day the city filed a tenant harassment lawsuit against them.