The Los Angeles County Superior Court has denied a Constitutional challenge to Santa Monica’s Rent Control ordinance brought by an absentee landlord who allegedly overcharged his tenants nearly $100,000 in excess rent.
The hearing was conducted before the Honorable Allen Goodman in the West Los Angeles Superior Court.
At issue was whether the landlord’s local property manager could be held responsible for setting and collecting the illegal rent payments. Pursuant to the Santa Monica Rent Control law, a property manager is liable for charging excess rent.
The plaintiff tenants argued that the absentee landlord, who resides in China, hired the local property manager to do everything related to the property. In a deposition, the defendant landlord testified that he relied on the property manager to ensure that the operation of the building complied with the law.
Property manager Katie Lam, the defendant, claimed she was an “innocent agent” who should not be held responsible for collecting illegal rent payments for more than four years, adding that she merely “delivered” the rent payments to the landlord, Kenneth Liu.
Given the importance of the issues, the Santa Monica Rent Control Board filed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief in support of the plaintiff tenants. In its pleading, the Board argued that the Rent Control law was enacted, in relevant part, to prevent the abuse of an absentee landlord charging excessive rents and hiding behind a local agent who could not be sued.
It is expected that the case will go to trial in the fall.
Additional information concerning the case may be obtained by contacting plaintiff’s counsel, Robert Berke, at (310) 917-5599.
LAW OFFICES OF ROBERT BERKE
1717 Fourth Street, Suite 300
Santa Monica, California 90401
Tel: 310-917-5599Fax: 310-395-3884