By Keith Burbank
Bay City News
OAKLAND — Two rental property owners and/or their companies will pay Oakland more than $3.9 million for violating the rights of tenants, Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker’s office has announced.
The city sued Baljit Singh Mann and Surinder Mann and two of their companies, Dodg Corporation and Sbmann2, LLC, according to court documents in the matter.
An Alameda County Superior Court decision on Sept. 1 following a trial forces the defendants to also provide relocation payments to tenants displaced unlawfully from six rental properties, which were at issue in the case brought by Oakland.
Parker’s office said the Manns subjected tenants at the six properties to serious health and safety risks. The defendants rented properties in substandard condition, including properties neither intended nor approved for housing, the city attorney’s office said.
The defendants rented the six properties to people who were predominantly low-income immigrants and some who did not speak English as their first language, according to Parker’s office.
But following a trial that started in April and the judge’s Sept. 1 decision, the Manns now must comply with health, safety and tenant protection laws regarding all their properties and pay the city and former tenants, Parker’s office said.
“Victory in this case means that tenants in Oakland do not have to choose between their fundamental rights and having a roof over their head at any cost,” Parker said in a statement.
“Tenants’ rights do matter — to the city, to the people and to the courts,” Parker said. “No longer will businesses like Dodg Corporation be able to run roughshod over the people relying on them for shelter, and no longer will landlords feel the same impunity to outright ignore their legal obligations under our local laws.”
The Manns for years owned and operated about 60 residential rental properties in Oakland and owned 70 or more other properties in the city, according to Parker’s office.
City attorneys said the model used by the Manns and at least two of their companies allowed them to profit through renting dilapidated and uninhabitable units to people who were desperate for affordable housing and would be unable to defend their rights as tenants.
The fire risk in some units was severe and imminent, according to the city attorney’s office.
Parker’s office said the Manns violated the law even further by failing to make relocation payments to tenants who were displaced because their units were unsafe to live in.
Judge Brad Seligman held in his decision that the Manns, and their companies named in the lawsuit, violated Oakland’s Tenant Protection Ordinance, did so in bad faith and created a public nuisance, according to Parker’s office.
Three attempts to reach Baljit Singh Mann were unsuccessful.