The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office has reached a settlement with former local landlord Sean Gharib. Under the terms of the deal, Gharib will pay the City $30,000 to settle the City’s pending harassment lawsuit against him.
Gharib previously owned a single condominium unit in a complex on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. The condo was being rented out, for more than 30 years, to a longtime tenant named Nina Edwards.
The City sued Gharib in Santa Monica Superior Court in 2015, alleging violations of the local Tenant Harassment Law. The City claimed that, shortly after he bought the property in 2014, Gharib tricked Edwards into not paying rent for the first month after the purchase; and then immediately filed eviction papers in court to get her out – for non-payment of rent.
At the time, Edwards’s controlled rent was $850. Had she vacated the condo, its market rent value was at least $2,000 per month.
The City alleged that just after Gharib bought the condo, Edwards asked him to whom she should pay her rent; and that he led her to believe she could hold off on paying until he got back to her later. The very next day, Gharib filed an Unlawful Detainer lawsuit in court, seeking to evict Edwards and her son.
Santa Monica’s Tenant Harassment Law prohibits landlords from pursuing evictions based on knowingly false facts; and from inducing tenants to vacate their homes through “fraud, intimidation or coercion.”
After the City filed the lawsuit, the parties engaged in civil discovery, depositions, and contested motions in Superior Court. This included a legal challenge to the city’s harassment law, which the City successfully defended.
The case was finally resolved at a settlement conference before a Superior Court judge. The proceeds of the settlement will go to reimburse Edwards’s damages and the City’s attorneys’ fees.
The case was scheduled to go to trial in August 2017.
Gharib had since sold the property and no longer owns rental property in Santa Monica.
“This is a cautionary tale for those landlords who would consider using deception or intimidation to get their tenants to leave,” said Deputy City Attorney Eda Suh. “Tenants like Ms. Edwards pay their rent on time, comply with their leases, and just want enjoy living in their homes. We will use all the legal tools available to vigorously protect tenants from being illegally forced out of Santa Monica.”
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