Four San Jose families who lived in a multi-unit apartment complex filed a lawsuit Friday accusing their former landlord of harassment and wrongful eviction, saying that they were driven out in an attempt to replace them for new tenants paying a higher rent.
The apartment complex is located at 1558 Crucero Drive in East San Jose.
In May 2018, the landlord Kim Tran handed each of the Latino families a 60 day notice telling them to vacate the property because she planned on moving her family members into the building — a move permissible by the Tenant Protections Ordinance, a San Jose law that requires landlords to have an acceptable cause to evict renters in rent-controlled apartments.
Attempts to reach Tran on Friday were unsuccessful.
But the complaint alleges that Tran’s relatives had not moved into the apartment complex three months after the families were evicted and that instead new tenants were being charged “upwards of $1,000” and more.
“Our clients have suffered a lot. One of the families is renting a garage, while others are paying double in rent than what they were paying at this prior unit,” said Nadia Aziz, interim directing attorney at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley. “Communities of color are being displaced at really high rates. This is a flat out fraudulent way to take advantage.”
The complaint portrays the landlord as a persistent harasser, scaring the tenants’ children by banging on their doors, repeatedly demanding that tenants let her in and asking when they planned to leave.
According to the lawsuit, the tenants are requesting “no less than three times the amount of money damages,” restitution as well as enough to cover lawyer expenses and emotional distress.
The four families were long-term tenants, said Aziz, calling the East San Jose residence home for years — some as long as 15 years.
“That’s where my kids grew up, where we had so many special moments. It really affected us a lot. It was our home,” said former tenant Hermelinda Ruiz to San Jose Spotlight.
The emotional distress of having to find a new home in such little time, packing and ultimately moving disrupted her life, she said, and prevented her from continuing her college classes to become a nurse.
Her new apartment’s rent — almost double that of her former residence — has forced her to work two jobs in order to help pay for the costlier housing expenses.
“The eviction destabilized us,” added Alejandra Ruiz, another former tenant. “It’s my house, it was my community and the place where my daughters grew up. It was not fair. It was my home. Even if I rented, it was my home.”
An upcoming court date is pending as the tenants and their lawyers await a response from the former landlord.
Contact Nadia Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.