“Herrera seeks injunction to halt discrimination over Section 8 vouchers
City Attorney calls vouchers ‘an essential tool for many San Franciscans to access affordable housing—especially in crisis like the one we are currently experiencing’
SAN FRANCISCO (April 20, 2016)—City Attorney Dennis Herrera is seeking a tough, enforceable court order to prevent a residential landlord and an affiliated real estate broker from continuing to flout the law by refusing to honor Section 8 vouchers. The motion for preliminary injunction filed in San Francisco Superior Court yesterday would require defendants Lem-Ray Properties, an affiliate of the once-high-flying Lembi real estate empire, and broker Chuck Post to immediately stop their unfair and illegal conduct and comply with the law.
“Housing vouchers are an essential tool for many San Franciscans to access affordable housing—especially in crisis like the one we are currently experiencing,” said Herrera. “Lem-Ray Properties and their real estate broker’s refusal to rent to tenants who rely on these vouchers discriminates against low-income communities. It’s a terrible injustice at a time when city leaders are struggling desperately to preserve San Francisco’s economic, social and cultural diversity.”
The requested injunction follows a March 22 ruling by Judge Ronald E. Quidachay that denied the defendants’ bid to dismiss Herrera’s suit. The ruling affirmed San Francisco’s local law that prohibits landlords from refusing to rent to tenants who intend to use federal housing vouchers.
Section 8 vouchers—so named for Section 8 of the Federal Housing Act, and also known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program—are administered locally by the San Francisco Housing Authority. The program allows low-income families to secure housing in the private rental market by requiring qualifying renters to pay thirty percent of their income toward rent, with Section 8 vouchers covering the remainder. The vouchers impose no additional costs on landlords, and landlords’ refusal to accept them violates local law.
Lem-Ray is among the entities associated with the Lembi family’s once expansive CitiApartments-Skyline Realty empire, which Herrera sued in 2006 for an array of lawless business and tenant harassment practices involving at least 30 properties. The defendant, which is still subject to the 2011 civil injunction Herrera secured in his five-year litigation battle, is among the landlords memorably dubbed “the Scumlords” in an award-winning 2006 exposé by investigative reporter G.W. Schulz. Schulz won first-place honors from the California Newspaper Publishers Association in 2007 for his San Francisco Bay Guardian series on tenant mistreatment by the Lembis, who at the time were among the largest residential property owners in the city. Chuck Post, also named in Herrera’s civil suit, is a real estate broker whose ApartmentsinSF.com website and other online rental postings brazenly flouted local law by advertising that Section 8 vouchers would not be accepted as payment for Lem-Ray’s residential apartments.
Under San Francisco law, property owners and real estate agents are prohibited from refusing to accept federal, state, or local housing subsidies as a form of rental payment, or to indicate in rental advertisements that housing subsidies will not be accepted as payment. Post and Lem-Ray are both alleged to have violated the local law, according to Herrera’s complaint, together with provisions of the California Unfair Competition Law that prohibit unfair and unlawful business practices.
If successful, Herrera’s lawsuit could secure civil penalties against Lem-Ray Properties of up to $6,000 for each violation of its 2011 court order, and civil penalties against both defendants of $2,500 for each violation of the state Unfair Competition Law. Both defendants could also be liable for three times the amount of a single month’s rent in which the landlords charged for any unit in violation of the Police Code provision. Herrera is also seeking a permanent injunction against both parties to bar them from business practices in violation of state or local law.
The case is: City and County of San Francisco and People of the State of California v. Chuck M. Post, Lem-Ray Properties I DE, LLC et al., San Francisco Superior Court Case No. 548551, filed Oct. 21, 2015.”