A landlord who topped a 2006 Department of Building Inspection list of delinquent property owners will have to pay more than $400,000 in fines and court costs and was placed under a court order to bring her properties up to code last week.
On Friday, The City won a Superior Court judgment against Gloria Argueta, who owns properties at 2713-2717 Folsom St. and 757-767 Treat Ave. Argueta has been the subject of two previous city lawsuits, according to Assistant City Attorney Michael Weiss, but this latest imposes the largest penalty against her.
Argueta topped the 2006 list of property owners who had liens put against their buildings for lack of code compliance and payment of fees. When the list was made public last July,she owed $3,700.
The judgment came just a week before the DBI intends to release the 2007 list of liens. Chief Housing Inspector Rosemary Bosque said Argueta was initially included on that list, but may be removed from the final version because the recent judgment supersedes her penalties.
Under last week’s judgment, which followed a two-year court battle, Argueta will have to pay $125,000 in fines, as well as $277,000 in court costs and attorney fees. An injunction orders Argueta to bring her properties up to code within 120 days of the judgment.
Argueta told The Examiner on Wednesday that the lawsuit and subsequent trial was unfair. She said a tenant who owed a year’s rent had been purposefully breaking things at the property in order to keep the case open and withhold rent.
According to Department of Building Inspection documents, repairs that still need to be completed include fixing rotted exterior stairways at both properties, broken windows at both properties, egress obstructions at both properties and installing locks, handrails and heat at the Folsom Street property.
Bosque said Argueta did not show up to a scheduled inspection July 11, but has claimed the repairs have been completed.
Argueta, who lives at the Folsom Street property, said she did not receive the letter scheduling the inspection. She said some of the repairs have been completed, but that others at the property where she lives should not be enforced because it is not a rental property.
Weiss said he hopes the settlement will have the effect of forcing Argueta to sell her Treat Avenue property to pay the fees, as well as forcing her to bring her Folsom Street property into compliance.
“We now have a judgment that’s worth over $400,000 in combined penalties and attorney’s fees,” Weiss said. “She will now be forced to sell the Treat Avenue property in order to pay the judgment, which, when all things are considered, is the best option for the tenants of that property.”
DBI preps delinquent owner list
The Department of Building Inspection is putting the finishing touches on this year’s list of delinquent San Francisco property owners.
The City uses liens as a last-ditch enforcement effort before going into litigation. If a property owner fails to come into compliance with building codes in a timely fashion, The City can seek payment — figured as an hourly rate — for the worker-hours it dedicates to enforcing the outstanding violations. If the payment remains outstanding, The City seeks a lien, or legal claim, on the property.
The department is initially seeking 129 liens for the 2006-07 fiscal year, but some properties may have several liens against them and some landlords may own several properties with liens. Chief Housing Inspector Rosemary Bosque said some of the property owners may have recently paid their fees or may still pay at the last minute, so the published list, due to be released Friday, may be smaller.
Bosque said the liens sought range from $543 up to $1,360. Property owners have two chances to contest the liens prior to an Aug. 7 hearing before the Board of Supervisors. If the property owner does not pay by the time the lien comes before the board, The City can place the lien.
“This is a very effective tool used by The City to coerce property owners to be timely in responding to these notices of violation,” Bosque said.
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