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News, Santa Monica, Rent Control

Santa Monica Landlord To Repay Tenants More Than $18,000 In Overcharged Rent

Posted Feb. 6, 2014, 9:11 am

Brenton Garen / Editor-in-Chief

A Santa Monica couple with a small child will have their rent reduced from almost $3,000 per month to just over $1,200 per month, after a successful Santa Monica Rent Control Board civil enforcement action.

According to a statement from the Board, landlord Seyed Mehdi Bathaii was sued for illegally charging a market-rate rent at 1115 Euclid Street.

Santa Monica Rent Control Board General Counsel J. Stephen Lewis said the suit was settled this week, with Bathaii not admitting wrongdoing, but agreeing to lower the tenants’ rent by more than half as well as reimbursing the tenants for more than $18,000 in overcharged rent.

The suit alleged that Bathaii evicted a long-term tenant so that Bathaii’s mother could move into the tenant’s unit.

According to the Board’s complaint, Bahaii falsely claimed that his mother needed the tenant’s unit because she was disabled. Then, rather than move his mother into the unit, the suit alleged, Bathaii made improvements to the unit and rented it for more than double the controlled rent.

The settlement provides that the new tenants, a couple with a small child, will have their rent reduced from $2,950 per month to $1,254. The tenant who was displaced in 2011 chose not to participate in the Board’s settlement.

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Feb. 6, 2014, 10:11:27 am

John Doe said...

So let me get this straight- because this article is pretty backwards. Two adults, and a child, moved into a unit knowing that the unit cost $2,950 per month- they accepted that level of rent as being reasonable for their income level, and agreed to pay that amount per month. But then they found out, presumably from the last tenant, who may have come by for a piece of mail or to see the old neighbors, that the unit was previously rented for a much lower amount. Then they find out the story about the landlord, which is shady, but how do you know the mother didn't die or something? It sounds like he just kicked old mum out on the street to make a buck, what a villain, right? So then these poor folks who were "duped" into paying more for a unit that was upgraded, decide to use the laws in place that are designed to keep things fair, to force the landlord to agree to a sum much lower than a market rate, after having paid for the improvements to the apartment, and must refund any "overcharged" rent. The real victim, the person who was evicted, didn't even want to pursue this matter, possibly because none of the outcomes involved them living in their old apartment with the new improvements for a mere $1,254 per month, which is obscenely low for Santa Monica. However, we're paying an attorney a lot of money, so J. Stephen Lewis just went for it, having a "villainous landlord" to pursue and a "victimized family" to defend. The real question is, why are we paying Lewis a salary to go after people who are actually contributing to the economy? Really, none of the rent was actually "overcharged" because that is the rate the tenant agreed to! So now they're getting something for nothing. How is that fair?

Feb. 6, 2014, 12:02:18 pm

C Price said...

Agree with 'John Doe' whole heartedley. Perhaps the tenant should pay a fee to the DISPLACED tenant, but the new ones shouldn't get the discount. That makes no sense

Feb. 6, 2014, 12:03:07 pm

C Price said...

*Landlord should pay

Feb. 6, 2014, 12:09:38 pm

martin marteen said...

Amazing. It is a wonder any one builds or buys rental property in S.M. How does the board set the rents? Magical.

Feb. 6, 2014, 7:45:25 pm

Ross Gentry said...

Bad operators like this give good landlords a bad name.

Feb. 6, 2014, 8:39:57 pm

Scumbags said...

I'd say this is a case of scum bags. All of the involved. The scum bag landlord and the scumbag tenants who sought something for nothing. What a bunch of scumbags all of them are.

Oct. 21, 2014, 1:12:07 am

Brenda Barnes said...

I did not see this story when it happened. However, not that I have seen it and the comments below, I wanted to add a few things. One is that my experience--and it has been substantial--with the SMRCB under Mr. Lewis is they have not got the first clue what they are doing. None of the purposes of the Charter rent control amendment are even a glimmer in anyone's eye, much less a reality, at least since 2007. This particular case appears to be the old-style rent control, from back when people could not set rents at market when tenants moved voluntarily, so they had to use blatant and obvious tricks to try to make a living from being landlords. It is surprising this landlord could not do better. In any event, no purpose of rent control is served by letting people renting a refurbished apartment pay what an unrefurbished one cost.That is why the old tenant did not participate. Some people cannot do unfair things, just b/c they can get away with them. We shall hope Mr. Lewis grows into that kind of person with enough examples of others doing so.

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