The building has a total of six units, three on each side. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

The lawyer for tenants who allege that their property manager made off with $40,000 in rent says her clients have proof of payment and are unlikely to be evicted.

Although the lawyer is only focusing on the evictions, tenants also say that the property manager, German Maldonado, illegally entered their units and, in one case, failed to pay the water bill. After numerous attempts, Maldonado could not be reached for comment.

“It’s our belief that our clients are being wrongfully evicted from their units because they have been living in these units and paying the rent on time to Mr. Maldonando, the reported property manager,”  said Jenny Jin a lawyer who works for  the Hooshmand Law Group and is particularly experienced with tenants seeking to recover damages. “Whether Maldonando forwarded that rent to the property owner is a separate manner.”

Jin said that so far they are representing eight clients but that other tenants come in “from day to day” and will be joining the three separate cases against landlord Thomas Aquilina.  There will be one case for each unit being evicted. Some 16 people live in the three units at 3150, 3152, and 3154 26th St.

Two weeks ago, 50 protesters came out to march against the evictions alleging that the property manager Maldonado had collected some $40,000 in rent over four months that he failed to deliver to their landlord Aquilina. They said they found out from another property manager who also lives in the building, Douglas Erazo, that while Maldonado would be allowed to stay, the rest of them were being evicted.

Jin said her firm is not becoming involved in the legal proceedings between Maldonado and Aquilina.

Court proceedings confirm a lawsuit between Maldonado and Aquilina for unlawful detainer, with a ruling for the vacation of the premises by September 2, full restitution of the property to Aquilina, and cancellation of any previous rental agreements. An additional settlement between Maldonado and Aquilina also exists, but thus far neither Maldonado, Aquilina, nor Aquilina’s counsel Brenda Cruz Keith have responded for comment regarding its contents.  Repeated visits to the premises failed to turn up either Maldonado or Erazo.

The tenants have filed for a stay of eviction, asserting that since they paid Maldonado in full, the property owner has no basis with which to evict them.

Though the original documents show an eviction date of September 2, all residents were still in their units after that date, with signs of “Stop the Eviction!” adorning their windows.

Other Allegations

But the collusion and possible theft are not the only problems tenants at the building have faced. Maria Machetes, who has since moved out of the building because of the undesirable atmosphere, said that Maldonado illegally entered her apartment on a number of occasions and had a flippant attitude.

“Sometimes I was just cooking in my kitchen and he came in asking questions like ‘Why’s the apartment not clean?,’” Machetes said.

The San Francisco Rent Board requires landlords to give 24-hour notice before entering a unit, except in emergency cases, and this rule is presumed to hold for a property manager’s relationship with his subtenants as well, operators at the Rent Board said.

“Everyone was having similar problems with him, and no one was saying anything,” she said. Machetes said that she gave copies of the tenants’ rights to others in the building, who sent them to Maldonado or posted them outside their doors.

Others at the building confirmed that Maldonado was a “bad neighbor,” saying that he would often berate tenants who were relaxing on their doorsteps, kicking over their soda cans and yelling “What are you doing here, pendejo!?”

Additionally, Machetes said that water was shut off at her apartment for about a week, and that when she contacted Maldonado about this, he said it was “not his problem.” (Water has since been restored at the unit.) Mission Local received documentation that confirms that Maldonado had $414 due in unpaid water bills for the month of August.

Despite being out of reach for comments, tenants say Maldonado is still in his unit, where he is frequently visited by friends and hosts loud parties. Last week, one of his get-togethers was interrupted by the earthquake at 3:20 a.m. What was being celebrated is unclear.

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20 Comments

  1. Your headline should say that the rent is “ALLEGEDLY stolen”, else you might find yourself with a libel lawsuit on your hands.

    I like that the property manager is accused of having “a flippant attitude”. I’m not aware that the rent ordinance disallows that but then again it is so invasive that perhaps it does.

    1. the guy is clearly preoccupied with his social life, and given the dry and droll end to the article I think the author is aware that other issues he is aware of mean the publication has nothing to fear. A flippant attitude isn’t the problem, it is the flippant attitude he had to the laws he was breaking. The landlord should be afraid for having left this mediocrity in charge of his building. As the landlord’s agent the landlord is legally liable, as with any employee or contractor, for their actions like this. Including drunk driving consequences for instance.

  2. Sam, the property manager’s “flippant attitude” involved entering tenants’ property, which he wasn’t allowed to do. The article backs up that pejorative quite nicely, I’d say.

    1. Then just say that and stick to the facts, rather than trying to categorize and spin the allegations.

      Oh, and just so you know, there are various circumstances in which a property owner or building manager can enter a tenant’s unit without notice. In fact, more so with a building manager who is also a fellow tenant and neighbor.

      At this point these are just claims of a group of tenants who are looking to try and get out of an eviction. The truth has not yet been discovered so ML should not be assuming that their allegations are correct.

      1. The truth hasn’t been found yet, so the default is that these people are merely trying to get out of an eviction. Your bias is showing.

        1. Bub, as SFrentier explained below, the owner has not received any rent and therefore the tenants should make the owner whole by paying the rent that is due. They should then in turn go after the manager for the return of what they claim he stole from them.

          The over-riding factor is that the owner provided housing services and has not been paid for that, therefore he must recover possession.

          Amy, my guess is that some of these tenants have not paid their rent to anyone, and are using the allegation by others that the manager “stole” their rent as cover for all their own failures. I’m not buying the story that every single last tenant all coincidentally had their rent checks vanish without trace.

          The tenants should have cancelled checks for all the missing rent if they are telling the truth, and the judge will ask them for that. Those checks will also show exactly who cashed the checks. All we really know here is that the owner hasn’t received the rent he is due and therefore is entitled to evict. The tenants can then counter-sue the manager, if indeed their claims are valid, which at this point is just an allegation.

          1. what planet do you live on? If the landlord hires and uses an agent the landlord has to deal with any problems arising out of that agent’s behaviour. You really are a nut, Sam. I find your attitude to renter’s rights quite flippant….

          2. Sam, if the tenants can’t prove they paid their rent, either by cancel check or receipt for cash payment, then they will have a hard time proving they are not in arrears. However, for those that can prove they paid and are up to date, then they are in no way responsible to the owner for making good on the missing funds. The manager is the owners representative. I am sure he is compensated for is managerial duties, such as collecting rents and turning them over to the owner, for his effort. Thus making him an employee of the owner. How can you suggest that the tenants who have had their rents “allegedly stolen”, are owning to the owner? If you went into your local coffee shop and paid for a cup of coffee, and the manager pocketed your payment, would you feel obligated to pay the owner of the shop again the price of that coffee that his manager pocketed. Your argument that the tenants, who can prove payment, should compensate the owner for his managers “alleged theft” does not make any sense.

          3. Right. My point, again, is that you’re not waiting for all of the facts, but you’re defaulting to the tenants claim being false. I just don’t like claims of “waiting for all of the facts” when that’s clearly not the case. We all have our biases, let’s not skirt around them. Discussions are more honest and explicit that way.

            To your first paragraph, I’m not a lawyer, but if the property manager is the acting agent of the owner and failed to fulfill his duties, and the tenants did indeed pay the owner’s agent, isn’t their end of the bargain legally fulfilled?

          4. No, what you are missing is that the owner has not been paid and he has no way of knowing that these tenants really paid or not. Nor do any of the rest of us.

            I could maybe believe that one rent check went missing in the mail. But 16 all went missing? That’s quite a coincidence.

            The tenants are taking a risk that the judge will believe them. Otherwise it is a straight eviction. They would be far better off paying the missing rent directly to the owner, even if that means some of them paid twice. And then file their own action against this manager.

            But relying on this for an excuse, they may find themselves out of a home when it could have been fixed another way. Surely the cancelled checks (if they exist) point to whose bank account the money went to. So why are the tenants being so shy about claiming they have that information?

          5. No, I’m not missing that. Let’s not let this devolve into some intellectual dick wagging. The property owner does not have the money, that is easy to grasp and was not contradicted, implicitly or otherwise in anything I said.

            Their acting agent was the one to collect said money–failing that, I don’t know if the liability really falls on the tenants. This is what I was asking for clarification on. Sure, it could be expedient for them to pay the property owner–but are they legally obligated to pay twice when the owner’s agent has supposedly already collected? Let’s assume here, for simplicity’s sake, at least on this one detail, that the tenants did pay the manager.

          6. Bob, I think it depends what the owner’s motives are here. If his only problem is that he didn’t get any rent, and the tenants now pay him, then he has been made whole and, assuming he is otherwise happy with his tenants, then he could accept the money, which also has the effect of canceling the evictions.

            If however the owner wants these tenants out anyway, then he would probably refuse to accept rent checks from them at this point, because he is under no obligation to accept rent checks after a 3-day notice for non-payment of rent has expired.

            So offering to pay the rent now would determine the owner’s true motive out of the two cases above. And if he accepts the checks, the eviction is dead anyway. If he does not, there is some risk the tenants will lose the case even if this manager did abscond with their checks. Their strategy here is not without risk. A tenant who lets a 3-day notice for non-payment of rent expire is taking a chance.

            Judges like to rule as narrowly as possible, and he may not care that the rent checks were stolen. The tenants would still have been given a 3-day notice to make good, and they presumably failed to act in time.

            Interesting case.

  3. Something is rotten… And this ain’t Denmark!

    The odds of all 16 tenants falling behind in their rent? What this does sound like is, “games landlords play.” The manager allegedly harassed tenants, didn’t pay the water bill, threw parties that in any other situation, would get him evicted. Therefore, it sounds like the landlord is behind this in an effort to clear the building.

  4. Have tenants pay rent to some manager, who then steals the money. Hence owner is not paid, hence he tries or evict. Missing money is stolen from tenants, so they have to collect form the prop manager. In meantime tenant is on the hook to actually pay the owner. If not, at fault eviction coming up. Brilliant. Fucking brilliant!

  5. Sam-Try going to law school before doling out advice. The manager was acting as the owners agent and appointed by the owner to do so. If the agent ( the manager) does not do his job and turn over rent to owner in accordance with their agreement, that is between the agent and the owner, not the tenants who in ‘good faith’ paid to the authorized agent according to their instructions on their leas. That’s how it works. It is not the tenants who should be evicted. The owner and the agent could have cooked this whole scam up to clear the building of tenants for all we know. That’s why good faith is important in law. Get it, got it? Good.

  6. If the tenants can prove they paid in good faith to the authorized agent they cannot be evicted as far as I can tell from the details of the case laid out here.

  7. IF property owner Aquilina previously notified the tenants IN WRITING that German Maldonado is the property manager and further instructed the tenants IN WRITING to pay their rent to German Maldonado, and IF the tenants can prove either by rent receipts or by cancelled rent checks, then Aquilina cannot evict the tenants for nonpayment of rent. This is a relatively simple matter which I am sure that the Court will clear up in short order.

  8. Sam! Sweet pea! There you are not evening bothering to hide your identity. I seriously think you need a vacation, you adorable troll!

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