San Francisco Sues Slumlord Over Unsafe Living Quarters

The City of San Francisco has filed suit against the owner and master tenant of a commercial building who illegally sub-leased basement living space to more than 20 vulnerable residents in a way that “jeopardized the welfare of their tenants, the neighbors, first responders, and all San Francisco residents.”

City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed the suit today against Lexamark Building, LLC, Melissa Mendoza, Ernesto Paredes, and 50 unnamed co-defendants. According to the complaint, Mendoza is the sole owner of Lexamark and Paredes is the master tenant who in turn rented the basement space to the actual tenants.

Paredes allegedly charged the sub-tenants between $300 and $900 per month for living space in the basement of a building housing a commercial laundromat. All the tenants were Hispanic and many were non-English speaking. The building had numerous fire and building code violations. The complaint alleges:

  • [Only] one of the three bathrooms… had a functioning shower, there was no garbage collection
  • had infestation of vermin, including rats, mice, and cockroaches
  • the ceilings and pipes… leaked
  • [Tenants] were forced to use a portable generator to light their homes and provide electricity for their daily needs
  • During the day, the generator would be outside the entrance … visible from the public right-of-way.
  • At night, tenants would bring the generator inside so it would not get stolen, creating a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The 31-page complaint (127 pages with attachments) was filed in San Francisco County Superior Court today. The city is seeking recovery of fines, penalties, costs and fees as well as injunctive relieve to require the defendants to correct the “public nuisance” they created.

Here is a copy of the complaint: SF v Lexamark COMPLAINT

 

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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