Simi Officials Seek Charges Against 2 Landlords : Illegal Boardinghouse Operations Reported
The Simi Valley building department has recommended that criminal charges be filed against two landlords accused of running illegal boardinghouses, a department official said Monday.
One of the accused landlords, a prominent businessman and former bank chairman, reportedly owns more than 80 rental homes throughout the city, many of which house poor immigrant laborers who cannot afford to live elsewhere.
Jocelyn Reed, deputy director of Environmental Services and supervisor of the department’s code-enforcement unit, said the charges would involve violations of the city zoning code, and address allegations that as many as a dozen tenants were sharing rundown suburban homes meant for single families.
The proposed charges are misdemeanors carrying maximum penalties of 6 months in jail and a $500 fine, City Atty. John Torrance said.
Torrance said Monday that the recommended legal action is still under review by his office and that he has asked for more documentation before he decides whether to file charges.
Reed said her unit is seeking action against Robert C. Landegger of Simi Valley, a real estate broker and former chairman of Simi Valley Bank whose rental properties have generated 15 documented complaints since the beginning of the year--more than any other landlord. In all, Reed said, her office has received 30 complaints of overcrowding this year.
Most of the complaints against Landegger are still being investigated, Reed said, but the proposed legal action involves a single-family residence at 2077 Denny St. that allegedly houses 12 unrelated tenants. Under the city zoning code, a special-use permit is required for houses rented to six or more unrelated people.
Although such cases are difficult to prosecute because tenants are often reluctant to cooperate with investigators--particularly if they are immigrants of questionable legal status--a tenant of the Denny Street house has signed a written complaint against Landegger.
Landegger--who owns Capital Real Estate in Simi Valley and other companies--declined to comment Monday. He has said in the past that he was unaware of the overcrowded conditions at his properties and that he is a victim of unscrupulous tenants, who take in more boarders than he has approved.
The statement signed by the Denny Street tenant claims that Landegger knew that 12 unrelated people were renting the house, Reed said. She said Landegger recently issued an eviction notice to those tenants, but that her unit was recommending criminal action because the problem persisted despite earlier warnings.
Reed said her staff has so far documented 80 rental homes owned by Landegger, either under his name or that of companies he owns. Neighbors of several of the Landegger-owned houses said in interviews that they have complained for years about their rundown condition and the number of tenants they house.
The other landlord referred for prosecution is Kerry Lynch, who owns six rental properties in Simi Valley and an interior design firm there. Lynch could not be reached for comment; his business phone had been disconnected.
The Lynch-owned houses targeted by the city are at 1676 Cochran St. and 1425 Sycamore St., and were cited for overcrowding complaints as well as violations of the building and safety code.
Reed said tenants have signed complaints in those cases, too.