The San Francisco Tenants Union joined some 50 others to protest the eviction of 20 tenants by landlord Thomas Aquilina and his property manager German Maldonado. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

Some 50 people marched on Wednesday afternoon to protest the apparent eviction of some 16 tenants from their home at 3150-3154 26th St. in a case in which tenants say the property manager stole their rent instead of giving it to the landlord.

Around 20 people originally lived in the three units at the corner of 26th and Lucky as subtenants of property manager German Maldonado, the only tenant who has a rental agreement with landlord Thomas Aquilina. The subtenants paid their rent to Maldonado, who then failed to pay the landlord, according to the tenants. Many have cancelled checks to prove payment.

Regardless, tenants said, they are being evicted for failure to pay. Maldonado, on the other hand, will be allowed to stay in his unit after reaching a settlement with the landlord, according to the tenants and the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. Maldonado and Aquilina could not be reached for comment.

Not once has there been direct contact between the landlord and the tenants. Instead, tenants found out from Douglaz Erazo, a property manager for Aquilina’s two units at 3156 and 3160 26th Street, that they would have until September 2 to move out. Others found out from Maldonado, but not in person.

“I got an eviction notice through a text message,” said Esther Brecha, another tenant in the building. “I’ve never actually seen anything in writing, so I don’t know, I don’t know anything. All I know is we’re being evicted.”

“Nothing has been served to us,” said Tom Anderson, a tenant who spoke at the rally. “If there was a notice put on your door, he [Maldonado] took it off before we could see it.”

Maria Machetes, another tenant, said that she saw eviction notices posted on the premise in early May because she works in the morning, but was assured by Maldonado that it would all be handled. “He told us that everything would be okay, that he was taking care of it,” she said.

The tenants believe that Aquilina and Maldonado colluded to remove them, saying that a settlement between the two allows Maldonado to remain. Tenants claim Erazo, Aquilina’s other property manager, confirmed to them that Maldonado would be allowed to stay in his unit while the others would have to go. Four of the original 20 tenants have already left, possibly for fear of deportation, according to one tenant who asked to remain anonymous. Maldonado, he said, is known for having called ICE on a previous tenant who was then deported.

Tenants said there have been other longstanding problems.

“There are cockroaches, mice, rats. Nothing’s been repaired,” said the anonymous tenant, a charge supported by the press release from the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. “They’ve even rented out the back egress, preventing us from using the fire escape.”

But for all these serious (and possibly criminal) charges, the evictees have “had a hard time” finding legal representation, according to Anderson.  They have taken their case to Causa Justa/Just Cause, the Housing Rights Clinic, and the Eviction Defense Collaborative, among others. “We need somebody to help us legally,” he added.

In the meantime, direct action will have to do. The protest today began at noon outside the tenants’ building, hearing testimonies from tenants, organizers, and some politicians.

“We’re talking about real scumbags,” said Supervisor John Avalos who was at the protest. “I can’t even imagine that there is anything legal about this.”

“It is shameful what Maldonado is doing,” said Edwin Lindo, an intern for Supervisor David Campos. “Someone found a loophole, and now people are facing eviction. We need to come out here and we need to fight.”

When the protesters returned to the 26th Street building, Anderson read out a letter sent by the tenants to landlord Aquilina, asking him to get in contact with them regarding the missing (for them, stolen) rent, in hopes of setting the record straight.

“We want our money back, but more importantly we want our dignity back and we want our homes back,” said Machetes.

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Senior Editor. Joe was born in Sweden and spent his early childhood in Chile, before moving to Oakland when he was eight. He attended Stanford University for political science and worked at Mission Local as a reporter after graduating, before spending time as a partner for the strategic communications firm The Worker Agency. He rejoined Mission Local as an editor in 2023.

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  1. During the Covid stay home order our Manager (living in the building) refused to take our rent (on demanded money order), because the government was going to pay. In an argument I personally threaten the Manager with calling the authorities, if he did not take the money order right now. I also stated he could never guarantee the Government would pay – IT WOULD BE A FIRST IN THE HISTORY OF MAN.
    We have lived her for 22 years in a rent secured apartment and the Landlord want us out to double the rent. Right now are hundreds evicted in Los Angeles, because the Government did not pay more than a couple of $100s. And the Landlords are getting rid of the poor and vulnerable tenants – who obeyed their Managers. We did not even get a received slip for the payment.
    Rent securing is a joke. Before marriage and emigration I lived in Denmark, where rent are the same for all renters in the same size apartments no matter how long the tenants have lived in the building. Here in Los Angeles people moving in to our dirty run down building have to pay two and half time more for a new painted apartment (with leaking old pipes, no possibility of seeing the sky unless you live on 3rd floor, no insulation for noise (walking upstairs, talk by neighbors can be heard), no green areas for the kids, and rarely cleaning of hallways – we have a fungi growth in the ground floor hallway). YET DUE TO HOMELESS PROBLEMS IN LOS ANGELES A 1 BEDROOM APARTMENT IN OUR BUILDING COST $2500 A MONTH FOR THE LATEST MOVE IN. We do have empty apartments for rent – and the building have had empty apartments for rent since Mayor Villagoza’s MODERNIZTION OF THE HOUSING FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING. Billions have been given to Landlords, so they can build affordable housing, from HUD, California State, Los Angeles City, and Los Angeles County. Plus rent increase rights without any limits.
    In the 2010 Census Los Angeles have 160.000 vacant apartment and un-mentioned apartment turned into B and G. The FOR RENT signs street up and down every Street have increased with 2-3 times, since THE MODERNIZATION OF LOS ANGELES STARTED.
    Mayor Garcetti, found another solution in the same line of Villagoza. The rent secured housing with an automatic rent increase of 3% a year (I worked 19 year at the Gap – due to wage ceiling the last 12 years- I had only 35 cent wage increase over 12 years – reason economical hardship for business owners), now shall we pay 4% yearly. We old people living on Social Security have to be show solidarity with tenants living in non-rent secured buildings. Private Landlords now get more money from the poor tenants – in run-down slum housing. Do my landlord share these thousand of dollars with other landlords????
    I have looked for a real tenant organization here in Los Angeles – The Scandinavian nations have strong tenants organizations – Los Angeles City have none (I mean not one real functioning tenant organization – the ones we have belong to Los Angeles City). I have tried everyone (over the last 15 years, including the Police for harassments) because the Landlord want us out; to 1. raise the rent and 2. get Hispanic tenants in (every African American have experience some harassment from Managers). We won the case in The California Department against Discrimination in Employment and Housing. But it is only on paper nothing came out of the winning except “we are untouchable” for the Landlord.

  2. What the hell, why not…
    What’s my tax dollar for, anyway?

    Attorney General’s Office
    California Department of Justice
    Attn: Public Inquiry Unit
    P.O. Box 944255
    Sacramento, CA 94244-2550

    If a multiple unit property owner conspires with another person to defraud tenants of their rent paid, and fraudulently evict them from their residence, does this meet the requirements to prosecute owner & manager under PENAL CODE SECTION 186-186.8 ?
    (the landlord rented all units to his property manager, who sub-leased to tenants, then manager withheld rents from owner so that owner could evict tenants for non-payment of rent)
    Please see…/tenants-of-san…/ for details on this (possible) criminal act.
    Who do I contact to request that this be investigated by your office?

  3. My question is out of all these tenants, surely isn’t there at least one tenant who wrote out a rent check? All they have to do is to get a copy of the cashed check from their bank. If they have a copy of the check cashed from either the owner or building manager then Their rent has been paid. When ever I pay my bills with a check I’ll stay on top of it to make sure the check was cashed. If it hasn’t in a timely manner then I begin to follow up on it.

    1. No, you don’t get it. They are subtenants. Proving that their checks were cashed by the Master Tenant won’t help much. All the subtenants can do now is sue the Master Tenants to return their money + interest + penalty.

      When they signed on to be sub-tenants, that’s the rights they sign on for, by that I mean they barely have any rights at all.

      1. 100% incorrect. You obviously no nothing about legal rights of tenants, which in SF are substantial, master or otherwise. If they were writing checks to the master tenant that have been cashed and he has not been paying the total rent to the landlord then why is he being allowed to stay???? That obviously makes no sense. If this story is true, the master tenants is very clearly guilty of felony grand larceny and faces very stiff penalties. I’m sure the DA will investigate after all of this media attention.

        Secondly, even if the tenant makes the payment and master tenant does not, they have a right to stay. They have completed their legal requirements and cannot be evicted via no-fault eviction process.

        The bottom line is the tenants should stay until/if the sheriff comes and evicts them. Since the landlord clearly has not followed the proper legal and documentary requirements, this will not happen.

  4. I find it pretty interesting that without exception, the comments here concern themselves with imagined unfairness to the landlord/master tenant and supposed shabby journalism/clickbaiting, but not one expresses any concern for the families being displaced by force. Welcome to the new Mission, by the greedy, for the greedy.

  5. Something doesn’t sound right about this story: There must be some reason that no one, not even local neighborhood tenants’ rights organizations will touch this case with a ten foot pole. If they can’t get legal representation, something else is going on here. Why didn’t Mission Local get a comment from Causa Justa, the Housing Rights Clinic, or the Eviction Defense Collaborative?

    I’m not saying that this story doesn’t have any truth to it, I’m just saying there isn’t enough information in this article to explain some of the big holes in this story.

    1. Yes, something doesn’t add up here.

      These tenants are effectively sub-tenants with no agreement with the owner. Like being a roommate whom the landlord knows nothing about.

      As such they won’t enjoy the same rights as the master tenant who, it appears, is being allowed to stay.

      It’s not a great situation for any of the folks concerned. The owner has no control over who lives in his building and the sub-tenants have no real security as unauthorized sub-tenants.

      Also, non-payment of rent is a very fast and easy form of eviction. No need to file at the rent board, and most judges will simply ask the tenants to prove they paid the rent. If they cannot, they are out.

      The real lesson here is that if your name is not on the lease and you are not known by the owner, then you are a second-class tenant. If you choose to live there anyway, you accept the additional risks.

      1. some landlords think they are clever and try to work around the law. I once lived in a flat where each bedroom had a separate lease. LL thought he was being smart because anytime someone moved out, he could raise the rent on the bedroom.

        You can’t rent out an entire building to one party and have him sublet the other units. I wouldn’t be so quick to blame the tenants here. If they are undocumented, they for sure don’t have credit and because of that have very limited options on where they can live. Debates on the right of LL’s to Ellis act, rent control, etc the LL/property manager in this case are taking advantage of a vulnerable group of people and that’s deplorable.

        1. “You can’t rent out an entire building to one party and have him sublet the other units.”

          What? Of course you can! Even the CA state government does it.

  6. I get that these types of headlines get you guys a lot of clickthroughs but without any evidence this is just click baiting and fanning the (hate) flames. C’mon guys.

    Why not wait 24 hours to here from the middle man? Especially after putting their names out there.

    1. Yes, we would love to talk with both the property manager and the owner and we have tried to do so. We will continue to try, but in the meantime, the tenants and the organizations working with them had sufficient proof to support the article. But yes, we will follow up again.

      1. Parties to litigation are invariably advised not to talk to third parties about the case. The issue is sub judice.

        The problem here is that you are listening to the side that you obviously support and then concluding, or at least inferring, that they are justified.

        I think you need to be asking yourself some very serious questions here about whether you are really performing journalism or advocacy at ML. This article smells like a hit piece based on selective facts from partisan sources. And as ThatGuy notes, that can look like playing the comfort card to garner eyeballs rather than engaging in incisive, dispassionate research and reporting.