Alameda County Superior Court Rendered Final Decision Decision statement and Permanent injunction after trial in Residents of the State of California and the City of Oakland v. Dodg Corporation, et al., a major victory for the city in a case against a local real estate empire for systemic violations of tenants’ rights.
The September 1 decision represents a significant triumph for the city in a case brought several years ago against the owners of a prominent local real estate empire for systematically violating the rights of tenants in buildings owned by their family businesses.
Not only are the defendants now required to comply with tenant protection and health and safety laws at all of their properties, but they owe the city and their former tenants significant repairs, including financial penalties to the city and compensation to tenants, for their years of illegal activity. .
According to city attorney Barbara Parker, “The victory in this case means Oakland tenants don’t have to choose between their basic rights and having a roof over their heads at all costs. Companies like Dodg Corporation will no longer be able to trample on the people who rely on them for housing, and homeowners will no longer feel the same impunity for outright ignoring their legal obligations under our local laws.
When the city attorney’s office brought up the Dodg Corp. in 2019, Oakland had long faced an unprecedented housing crisis. In 2019, the housing crisis had a disproportionate impact on low-income households, with almost half of Oakland rental households burdened with rents (i.e. the household spends more than 30% of its gross monthly income at rent).
Due to soaring rents, many low- and middle-income Oakland residents lived and still live under the threat of displacement.
Prior to filing the case, the city attorney’s office had previously worked with members of city council and the mayor’s office to pass various important laws focused on protecting Oakland residents, especially low-income and low-income residents. middle income.
The municipal attorney’s office worked closely with the council to pass the Tenant Protection Ordinance (TPO) in 2014, which was amended in 2020 to strengthen protections for the TPO. But for some abusive owners, neither the 2014 TPO nor its recent changes were enough to stop their illegal activities.
For years the defendants in Dodg Corp. owned and operated approximately 60 residential rental properties in the city of Oakland (and owned at least 70 other properties in the city). The lawsuit focused on their blatant disregard for the letter and spirit of the law in relation to six specific rental properties, where the defendants have subjected Oakland residents to serious health and safety risks.
Owners’ activities included leasing units under substandard conditions – including units never intended or approved for residential use – to tenants who were predominantly low-income immigrants, including tenants whose primary language is not English.
This predatory business model has allowed landlords to profit from renting out uninhabitable or dilapidated housing, including housing with serious and imminent fire risks, to tenants desperate to find affordable housing that often lacked sufficient resources. resources to take legal action to defend their rights.
When tenants were moved from their homes because their accommodations were so unsafe, landlords further broke the law by failing to make relocation payments required by local law, according to a press release from the attorney’s office. the city.
The case went to trial in early April this year. In its September 1 decision, the court found that corporate defendants and individual defendants Baljit Singh Mann and Surinder K. Mann had a pattern and practice of violating the Tenant Protection Ordinance, and had it done in bad faith, and created a nuisance.
The verdict demands that the defendants pay the City more than $ 3.9 million in civil fines for their gross violations of tenant rights. The defendants are also required to make long-overdue relocation payments to the dozens of tenants illegally displaced from the six properties at issue in this case.
In the future, the defendants also cannot operate any of their residential properties owned by Oakland in violation of local or state laws. This means that landlords must deal quickly and competently with existing and future violations that put the well-being of their tenants at risk.
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