This is not a general story about homelessness, it’s a particular story about one particular formerly homeless person, and what happened to the property owner who tried to be kind to him and provide him with housing. Because facts and truth are important here, real names, real dates, real photos and real facts are used in this article.
This story should not be used to generalize to all the homeless, but at the same time, it should not be considered a rare outlier. For there have been many other stories like this. Hence this story is very important in that it is an example of a serious problem which cannot be ignored, when attempting to help or house the chronically homeless.
The story demonstrates the risk and sometimes the foolishness and naivete, of those who try to be “compassionate” and “help the homeless” in what may turn out to be the wrong way. For to help people blindly, without appreciating what they really need, and to give them things that they will only destroy, is not really helping — it is enabling, and this is a distinction that’s very important to make. Particularly in an atmosphere like we have in the politically progressive Bay Area, there are facile calls to “be compassionate” to the homeless and the poor,, which apparently mean to spend money without the likelihood of a good outcome. Foolish and blind approaches to “help the homeless” would, at best, spend money without accomplishing anything and, at worst, would enable and even reward/incentivize nuisance and waste as well as destructive, criminal, or other antisocial or problematic behavior.
This story demonstrates some shortcomings of the “Housing First” approach to housing the homeless, indicating that simply giving people housing without treating their underlying problems such as mental illness or substance abuse, can in some cases potentially lead to serious problems — such as those detailed here. And these problems effected not only this one property owner, but at least 7 others — collectively resulting in many tens of thousands of dollars of damage and loss — as we will see as this story unfolds.
The story begins with a property owner named Suzanne Masuret, who owns several apartment buildings, both in Oakland and Berkeley. She has no trouble renting these units, particularly in recent years as demand for housing has increased in the Bay Area. But she has a generous side, and from time to time will rent to someone on Section 8. In 2013, she had someone apply for one of her units, who was sponsored by the City of Berkeley’s Shelter Plus Care program, which helps those “who are chronically homeless in Berkeley”. This person was John Kaipaka. She offered him the apartment, a studio apartment in the Glen View district of Oakland, and he accepted and moved into the apartment in October 16 2013. Someone I know personally, had observed this apartment before it was rented to John, and saw that it was all in good order, nothing broken or damaged.
Soon after he moved in, John Kaipaka began to do things that caused concern to other tenants of that building. He was heard yelling and screaming a lot, sometimes at late hours of the night. This continued through winter of 2013 and spring of 2014. Eventually around June-July of 2014 he called Suzanne saying that some things in his apartment were broken, most notably, that he had a leak in the kitchen. When Suzanne and her maintenance people and plumber came to check, they found the apartment in tatters. It was clear that John had done an enormous amount of damage to the apartment.
The following damages were noted by her attorney, maintenance crew and plumber in July and August of 2014:
(1) Holes had been knocked out in the sheetrock walls, and some of the sheetrock had been removed in the bathroom . (2) Ceiling tiles had been removed from the ceiling.
(3) Insulation had been removed from walls and ceiling.
(4) Ceiling tile supports were bent and damaged
(5) Food had been splattered on the ceiling, and blood and/or food had been splattered on the walls. This presented a biohazard situation.
(6) Light fixtures had been removed from the ceiling, and/or replaced with different light fixtures.
(7) Cabinet doors had been removed from the cabinets, and cabinets had been broken.
(8) The original bathroom door had been removed by John and replaced with an inferior door with holes in it, which could no longer close properly.
(9) The linoleum flooring had been removed from the entire bathroom, leaving the bare concrete slab exposed.
(10) The original toilet had been removed by John and replaced by John with an inferior toilet which leaked from the tank, and installed improperly so it leaked from the base.
(11) John had removed the original sink and vanity cabinet in the bathroom, and replaced it with a broken sink, which leaked through a crack in the porcelain, causing water to puddle on the floor.
(12) When replacing the toilet or as an additional act of intentional sabotage, John had put foreign objects down the sewer line, causing a large clog, which took a plumber quite a while to extract.
(13) John removed original faucet parts from the shower and replaced them with parts which did not fit correctly, causing a leak and resulting in mold in the bathroom.
(14) John had disconnected some of the plumbing, so that water was leaking onto the floor of the unit. Hence there had been extensive leaking for some time, such that the entire subfloor in the kitchen area was moldy and had to be replaced. (15) John had removed all the carpeting from the apartment, exposing the concrete slab. His filthy bed sat next to water puddles on the concrete slab when the owner regained access on March 12 2015 after the Sheriff evicted John that day.
(16) John had apparently done some electrical work himself, the result of which, was that some 110Volt outlets had been changed to 220 Volt outlets, causing a dangerous situation and one which would destroy any appliances plugged into those outlets. (17) Blinds had been torn off the windows (18) JOhn had removed a built-in screen from the front door and replaced it with one that did not fit correctly (19) John had two dogs, (violating the rental agreement which stated only one dog was allowed) which peed on the carpet and floor in the apartment, damaging the floor. (20) The kitchen sink drain had been disconnected, resulting in leaks and a clog. (21) Wood trim had been torn off some of the windows and doors. (22) One of the windows was half missing, the lower sash having been removed.
(23) One of the window panes had been smashed, and the broken window covered with a board.
(24) One or more plumbing leaks caused by John’s tampering with the plumbing fixtures had flooded not only the kitchen but the entire apartment. Not only was the entire kitchen floor covered in a half inch of water, but and puddles of water were observed in the bathroom, and on the floor near his bed.
(25) All appliances (microwave, stove, refrigerator) were in absolutely filthy condition with broken parts, and all had to be disposed of and replaced.
In August of 2014, Suzanne hired an attorney and moved to evict John Kaipaka from the apartment, filing an eviction lawsuit, citing his extensive vandalism and destruction of her property as cause to evict. (In Oakland, as in Berkeley, just cause is required to evict tenants — destruction of the premises is a just cause).
Because John was a low-income tenant receiving a housing subsidy, he qualified for free legal aid, and obtained free legal aid from Laura Lane at the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley. (At one point he was also apparently obtaining assistance from the Eviction Defense Center in Oakland. ) What did this mean? It meant that these free legal aid organizations (which provide free aid to tenants, but never to property owners) did the same that they apparently do for all the tenants they represent — they “demanded” of Suzanne a jury trial (which would cost her $40-50k) or offered a “settlement demand.” The settlement was that John would be able to continue to live in her apartment, wherein he was engaged in serial destruction, for another 6 months, rent-free.
Thus Suzanne — as is doubtless the case with many other property owners — was essentially put in the same position as many who are trying to evict low income tenants who obtain free legal aid. Due to the legal aid provided to John by the attorneys Laura Lane and Philip Hernandez representing John at the East Bay Community Law Center — she was forced either to allow John to continue to live in her apartment for another 6 months rent-free (he personally paid no rent, but Shelter Plus did pay their portion of his housing subsidy during this time), or to pay $40-50k for a “jury trial” for the eviction suit. One can easily see that neither of these choices are fair and that the property owner ends up essentially extorted by the justice system.
And unfortunately as too many property owners discover, to their horror, too late — this is what tenant protection and the existence of legal aid agencies like the East Bay Community Law Center and Eviction Defense Center means in Oakland and Berkeley — it means property owners can face egregiously unjust and truly horrible situations where “justice” apparently means the right of tenants to steal from the landlord and be allowed to stay for months without paying rent, or even possibly, be permitted to stay and continue extensively destroying and vandalizing the property.
A meeting was held in August 2014 at the apartment, attended by John Kaipaka, Suzanne’s plumber/maintenance crew, Suzanne’s attorney, a representative from Shelter Plus, and John’s attorney. It was a very odd meeting, because as everyone could clearly see, there was massive damage to the apartment — including water that was pouring out of a plumbing pipe while everyone watched — and yet there was John Kaipaka standing there saying that “the apartment was like this when I got it. ” His representatives who supported him were, by supporting him, essentially indicating that they agreed with this ludicrous statement — as if anyone would offer to rent out an apartment in such a state of destruction.
Hence Suzanne had no choice but to allow John to remain for another 6 months in this apartment which he was tearing apart piece by piece and selling these pieces. His daily “work” was that of a recycling/trash scavenger, and he was observed in other places around the city, raiding trash and recycling cans to find things to sell. A couple other tenants in the building on Excelsior Blvd in Oakland, when interviewed, hypothesized that John’s bizarre, destructive and at times aggressive behavior might be explained by drug use. It would be consistent with substance abuse, to see someone do as John did and tear apart their apartment, selling it piece by piece, to fuel a substance addiction. After John was evicted, drug paraphernalia was found in the apartment.
At one point during this time, actually immediately prior to the date when an inpsection of his apartment was scheduled to be attended by Suzanne and her attorney and John’s attorney, three marijuana plants were found on the roof of the studio John was renting, though he denied they were his. However, a search of criminal cases in Alameda Superior Court records shows that John Kaipaka had previously been charged with cultivating and selling marijuana.
John had 2 other criminal charges — one for vandalism and one for unauthorized entry of a dwelling house, or trespassing.
Although Suzanne served John with a 3 day notice on Aug 23 2014 and filed an unlawful detainer suit on August 28 2014, it took her nearly 7 months to get him out of her property.
Because of the “tenant protection” offered by the legal organizations which provide free legal aid to tenants (but never to property owners — when I inquired at the East Bay Community Law Center whether they offered help to low income landlords, the person I asked replied with a smirk, “sorry, we don’t help landlords“) , it was not until March 12 2015 when she was actually able to legally evict John Kaipaka from the studio apartment on Excelsior Blvd, which he had spent the last many months continually destroying.
John’s attorneys filed an answer to the unlawful detainer, which ridiculously accused the landlord of causing the damage that John had done, stating that property owner Suzanne had “breached the warranty of habitability.” John’s East Bay Community Law Center attorney Philip Hernandez accused Suzanne of “retaliating” against John when he asked for repairs to his unit, repairs necessitated by his own massive vandalizing of the unit.
Note here that the East Bay Community Law Center is providing free assistance to those engaging in activities which can result in a great deal of additional cost to property owners who are being victimized, often, as in this case, by someone who has a great deal of experience in abusing the court system. Tenants who are criminals and vandals can find plenty of help from the East Bay Community Law Center. But property owners find none. It would be a very interesting study to research what was the total cost to property owners, in damages to property, lost rental income, court and attorney fees, caused by the free legal aid given by the East Bay Community Law Center to those who violate rental agreements or don’t pay rent, and yet demand to stay on the property owners’ property. Keep in mind, they are funded by the city and by federal government block grants.
John Kaipaka had “agreed” to leave the apartment as of January 15th, 2015, and this was the date he was to deliver the keys to his attorney at the East Bay Community Law Center. Not surprisingly, he failed to meet the terms of this agreement, and it was another 2 months until Suzanne was able to get him out of her property.
That is the date when the sheriff came and physically removed John from the premises, Even though he’d been given notice of the date of his eviction, he did not leave and left most of his belongings in the apartment when the sheriffs removed him on March 12th.
During the few days before he was physically removed from the premises, John had placed a large amount of broken furniture and unwanted items on the sidewalk in front of her property, which he never removed. Suzanne had to pay to dispose of this garbage, as well as pay to dispose of all the rest of his belongings which he abandoned inside the unit.
As Suzanne’s maintenance people first entered the apartment in order to remove belongings and trash, they discovered that they had to wear gas masks in order to do this work, as the stench was unbearable. A mountain of trash and broken furniture was removed, and during this process, John came by and demanded to be permitted into the apartment to collect his belongings. It was discovered that he had stored many of his belongings in the laundry room of the building, which he came to retreive after his eviction, in spite of the fact that he was prohibited from trespassing on the property after his eviction.
It was also discovered, to the dismay and disturbance of other tenants in the building, that after his eviction, John had returned to the property and trespassed on the property and was sleeping in the laundry room of the building. Maintenance workers had to change the lock of the laundry room to prevent him from continually sleeping there.
John demanded that maintenance workers let him back into his apartment to retrieve his belongings which he had failed to remove prior to being physically removed from the premises by the sheriff. When the maintenance workers did not let him in, he came back later and, according to some tenants in the building, was seen stealing the lawn furniture that had been in the courtyard of the apartment. Although he had been given plenty of notice of the date when sheriffs would arrive to remove him, John had left his computer in the apartment, along with many other belongings.
A couple of the maintenance workers also saw him loitering in the area for several days afterward, and when one of them threatened to call the police, he yelled obscenities at them and then was observed walking toward the apartment mailboxes, after which, he was observed walking away with a large pile of mail in his arms. Just thereafter, some of the mail was found to be missing, so it seems he apparently stole mail from the apartment mailbox. A police report was filed.
The apartment was a complete loss and had to be rebuilt from the wood studs. All the cabinets, all the flooring, all the sheetrock had to be replaced. The bathroom had to be completely rebuilt with new shower fixtures, new cabinet and toilet and floor. The kitchen had to be completely rebuilt with new floor, cabinets, sink, faucet. Light fixtures had to be replaced. The total cost for all the repair work on the apartment, exceeded $10,000, which was not all paid by the Shelter Plus agency. As well, Suzanne had legal fees for all the work done by her attorney in the Eviction suit, which totalled over $5000. The property owner Suzanne would have come out ahead financially if she had simply left the apartment vacant for an entire year.
Let this be a warning story, to those who too blindly and naively hope to “help the homeless.” One of the warnings is that property owners should do their due diligence when renting out their property. A search of Alameda County Superior Court records shows numerous legal actions filed against John Kaipaka, which Suzanne could have discovered prior to renting to him. There were already 13 court actions filed against John Kaipaka when she rented her apartment to him in 2014. Her unlawful detainer suit was the 14th.
The previous court actions involved 2 lawsuits for harassment, and no less than 7 previous unlawful detainer lawsuits, indicating John Kaipaka had been evicted at least 7 times previously (sometimes with a roommate), and in each one of those cases had failed to leave on the date required, thus necessitating an unlawful detainer suit. In all of the cases I looked at, John Kaipaka’s legal and court fees were waived by the court, while he in one instance demanded a jury trial, while the property owners’ fees were not waived in any of these cases.
These unlawful detainer cases took months to resolve, as follows:
- Hextrum v. Kaipaka in 2002 took 3 months to remove John from premises after filing Unlawful Detainer suit
- Pritchard v. Frio and Kaipaka took 4 months to remove John after filing UD
- Vassiliades v. Kaipaka in 2006 took 6 months to remove John after filing UD
- Zahler v. Kaipaka in 2006 took 3 months to remove John after filing UD
- Ferrari v. Jones and Kaipaka in 2007 took 4 months to remove John after filing UD
- Valiquette v. Kaipaka in 2010 took 8 months to remove John after filing UD
- Tracy v. Kaipaka in 2011 took 6 months and jury trial to remove John after filing UD
- Masuret v. Kaipaka in 2014 took 7 months to remove John after filing UD
If we add up all the months involved in all these unlawful detainer actions, it becomes clear that John Kaipaka effectively stole 41 months, or approximately 3.5 years of rent/accomodations, from 8 different property owners. If we estimate rent at $1000 a month, (which is low for the Bay Area) this would amount to a total of $41,000 in stolen rent/accomodations. Each property owner was also required to spend at least $1000 each on court and legal fees, quite possibly much more. He was assisted in this effective theft of accomodations in the latter instance by “advocacy” provided by the East Bay Community Law Center, and it’s likely that this or another legal aid agency’s “advocacy” also assisted him in stealing the total 3. 5 years of accomodations that he received but never paid for, throughout the 8 unlawful detainer suits.
This is presented to show the enormous costs to property owners that can be involved in trying to provide housing for troubled individuals, particularly when the agencies helping them are not run responsibly, and fail to assess their clients’ history, needs, and capacity for living responsibly in their own apartment. It’s my opinion too that Shelter Plus is irresponsible to be sponsoring someone who has so many unlawful detainer suits on his record. This is not a person who deserves to be given a housing subsidy. He needs to live in a managed care facility, where he’s not able to continually damage the premises or fail to pay rent, with impunity.
It is illuminating and pertinent that as of 2014, the city of Berkeley no longer owns any public housing units.
An observer of this situation in Berkeley has theorized that the reason Berkeley no longer owns any public housing units, is that they were being damaged by their occupants and trashed, and turned out to be too expensive to keep. So the hypocrisy involved here is that the city of Berkeley wants to transfer damages and losses from itself to private property owners. The city of Berkeley doesn’t want to pay for the damages that these people do — they want someone else to pay for it. Someone like you and me. The city wants to protect itself from having to pay for continual damages to housing caused by those who are not responsible enough to deserve to live there, while at the same time it pressures private property owners to take these individuals and bear the burden of the costs of these damages.
Progressive politicians concerned about housing the poor and the homeless will often bemoan the fact that not very many private property owners are willing to take tenants with Section 8 housing vouchers. Some in government even want to start forcing private property owners to accept those with Section 8 vouchers! What they fail to look at, is why property owners do not want Section 8 tenants. There are many reasons why owners take a much greater risk in housing such individuals, than with standard tenants who can pay their own way. This story serves as one example, there are many, many more.
As well, while government housing units are exempt from rent and eviction control, privately owned housing units are not. Hence it is much more risky and dangerous to place troubled individuals in privately owned housing, because as we have seen in the 8 unlawful detainer cases shared here, private property owners end up extorted by legal aid groups and forced to allow deadbeats and vandals to stay in their premises rent-free for several months after they were legally required to vacate, as part of unlawful detainer “settlement demands” presented by these legal aid groups.
The proper place for troubled individuals such as the chronically homeless who have mental illnesses, substance abuse issues, and/or criminal records, therefore cannot be in private property subject to eviction controls, which can make it onerous and expensive to remove these individuals. Property owners who agree to take on the risk of housing any of these troubled individuals, should be specifically exempted from such eviction controls, as well as exempted from the standard court process to remove those unlawfully detaining the premises, which as we see can be exploited by those who obtain assistancce from legal aid agencies which allows them to steal months of accomodations. Those willing to take the risk of housing troubled individuals should be permitted to physically remove these individuals (self-help eviction) at the point of expiration of a standard 3 day notice, without filing an unlawful detainer suit, and without the tenant having any right to a court eviction process, much less a jury trial. This would give such property owners far greater rights to protect their property than is generally the case, but since stories like the one I’m sharing here are likely to be all too common with troubled individuals, it stands to reason that the government should do a much better job protecting such property owners.
As well, and it should be mandatory that the government and/or sponsoring agency will fully reimburse them for all damages and legal fees that result from housing such individuals. If this cannot be done to protect private property owners, then the government, not private property owners, should bear the entire burden of housing troubled individuals, for the government alone can create laws and systems and fund agencies to serve troubled individuals such as the chronically homeless, which would minimize damage to premises and expsense to the public.
It may well turn out that there are a great many individuals, who just cannot be given standard housing, because they will destroy it. Much more work and exploration is needed to look for ways to house the most troubled, as well as the most destructive, anti-social and irresponsible members of society. And because these people in particular cause so much crime and grief and nuisance for the rest of us, committing resources and energy to this cause will be a challenge.