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.
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.