The Slumlords of Marin

topic posted Fri, December 2, 2005 - 1:14 PM by  Camille
I live in an illegal unit (the bottom floor of a house) in Marin (I didn't know that it was illegal before I moved here from Vegas). I've been here for three months and it's been the worst living situation of my life. The biggest problem that I have is the noise from the neighbors upstairs. The landlord tells them to be quieter, but it's not the neighbors that are the real problem, it's the landlord and the fact that she knowingly rented this illegal and unihabitable unit. I live everyday completely enraged since I haven't had a decent night's sleep since I've been here. This has had a seriously negative impact on my studies.
I've decided that I'm no longer paying rent here and that I will stay here until I find a better place. Unfortunately, there are so few places to choose from out here in Marin.
My landlord lives in Mexico in a place without a phone, and my only way to communticate with her is by email.
I'm seething mad about this place and I don't know what to do.
Any suggestions?
I'm thinking that I would like to take her to court to try to get compensation for the damage to my life this place has caused me, but I wonder if that would do anything. I definitely want to make sure that she never rents this place again.
I should also note that the place came with a $2000+ worth of art. I wonder if I should just keep that as payment for damages!
posted by:
SF Bay Area
  • Re: The Slumlords of Marin

    Fri, December 2, 2005 - 1:31 PM
    I forgot to add that when I first rented the unit, there was one single older woman living upstairs. That appealed to me and I wouldn't have rented the place if there were more people up there. After I moved in, the woman upstairs had people moving in and out every week. It's possible that she was renting a room on the side of the house. There was a Uhaul in front of the house every other week and the noise of furniture going in and out. One person who moved in spent most of her time sitting on the chair that is directly outside of my door and doing whatever else she could to invade my space.
    The original tenant recently moved out (she only lived there three months) and now there's a 22-year old couple living there. All day and night there is loud exclaimations like "OH MY GOD!!!" and "WOOOO HOOOO!"
    I daydream of having a shotgun and shooting it through my ceiling.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    • Re: The Slumlords of Marin

      Fri, December 2, 2005 - 5:04 PM
      I had a similar situation in Oakland, but it was my landlord who lived upstairs and made life entirely miserable. In Oakland, there's an ordinance that protects tenants in case they are forced out of an illegal or poorly maintained unit - the landlord has to pay moving expenses. I would check and see if there is a similar ordinance in Marin. The Rent Board or equivalent organization, if there is one, would be the best place to find out. I got most of my info in Oakland from Sentinel Fair Housing. I would also recommend looking up some information on Constructive Eviction (note that I don't know anyone who's pulled one of these off, but it sure sounds good!). is some info on my situation. In the end, there was a barrage of nasty letters back and forth, but I finally told him I wouldn't move out until I had the money in hand. Because he, not I, would be held liable by the city if I wasn't out of the apartment by the date set by the city, he finally wrote me a check. Grudgingly, of course.
      • Re: The Slumlords of Marin

        Sat, December 3, 2005 - 8:59 PM
        I'm happy that you got your check!
        Your illegal unit situation sounds exactly like mine and of course is happening right when I have final exams as well.
        I don't think that there are any tenant rights groups here in Marin. There really needs to be one out here since so many of these so-called rich people in Marin are abusing others by renting out illegal apartments in an attempt to make up for the fact that they're living beyond their means.
        Thank you for the other research recommendations. I'll need all of that information when I try to sue my landlord for damages.
        Meanwhile, I'm going to try to concoct a stinky smell (butyric acid?) for the upstairs neighbors in an attempt to smoke them out.
        • Re: The Slumlords of Marin

          Sat, December 3, 2005 - 9:10 PM
          Unless the place is obviously covered in toxic mold or worse, or your property has been damaged as a result of your landlord's negligence, I'd bet suing for damages will earn you nothing but a headache. You've only been there 3 months. No lawyer or judge would take it seriously. I already learned that trying to get actual cash out of a landlord is more trouble than it's worth, and in my case, I'd been living there over 2 years and it was raining in my bedroom. I'm not saying you don't deserve it; I'm saying the fight is almost always more trouble than it could possibly be worth.

          Focus on what's really important. Find a decent place you can afford, get through finals, and get moved out without any penalties for breaking your lease. And do it in an order than will best help you maintain your sanity. In my case, that meant getting out ASAP, regardless of how painful moving can be.

          PS - if you're plotting evil revenge on your neighbors, for pete's sake, don't post it on the web! :-)
  • Re: The Slumlords of Marin

    Wed, December 7, 2005 - 12:29 AM
    An Update:
    The Housing Department (or something official like that) came by and officially declared my apartment to be "illegal" and they are giving me the documents so that I may take the landlord to court to sue for all of the rent I have paid. They told me that since it was illegal for the landlord to collect money for this dwelling, I am entitled to have my rent money returned. They also gave me the number of the Tenants Rights Mediation Center of Marin: 415-499-7454.
    It was amazing how helpful they were.
    There is hope!
    • Re: The Slumlords of Marin

      Wed, December 7, 2005 - 1:02 PM
      Sounds like a big step in the right direction. Since you've only been there a few months, whatever suing needs to take place should be able to be done in small claims court where you don't do lawyers and spend even more money. Sometimes just the threat of taking someone to court, along with a letter from a government agency informing them that what they did was illegal, will convince them to write you a check without going through all the hassle. Just remember to keep your focus on getting through finals and getting a decent new place to live, not on punishing your landlady. Your time is worth something; be willing to take a bit less cash if it gets you out of a longer fight. Don't let this thing take over your life! (I speak from experience.)

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