Jaxon Van Derbeken, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, April 24, 2008
(04-23) 19:04 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- A landlord couple have been charged in San Francisco with waging a campaign of terror against their renters in a South of Market building, including cutting out the floor supports at one apartment after the tenant went to court to keep from being evicted, authorities said Wednesday.
Software engineer Kip Macy, 33, and real estate agent Nicole Macy, 32, who have addresses in Sausalito and Incline Village, Nev., were arrested Tuesday and charged with felony stalking, felony residential burglary, conspiracy and other counts in the bizarre case of apparent landlord rage. They posted bail after their arrest and could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The charges stem from tactics the Macys allegedly used after they bought a six-unit, three-story apartment building on Clementina Street for $995,000 in 2005 and started eviction proceedings against the five tenants living there.
When one of the tenants, Scott Morrow, successfully fought eviction, the couple allegedly told workers in September 2006 to cut the beams that supported his apartment's floor. They also shut off Morrow's electricity, cut his phone line and had workers saw a hole in his living room floor from below, prosecutors said. Morrow has since sued the Macys.
The couple were also charged with terrorizing two other tenants in the building who began paying the Macys reduced rent after concluding that they were being overcharged under the city's rent control law.
Prosecutors said the Macys broke into the tenants' apartment last June and stole $2,000 in cash, a Gucci watch and a cell phone. The tenants, Erik Hernandez and Jason Lopez, later filed a lawsuit accusing the Macys of first changing the locks on the apartment, then illegally entering their unit and dismantling some of their furniture.
When Hernandez came home and confronted Kip Macy as the landlord was ransacking his apartment, Macy kicked him in the chest, the suit says. Threatening notes then started appearing at the tenants' door, and the water was shut off after the Macys stopped paying the bill, the suit says.
In October, Nicole Macy broke into the apartment and poured ammonia on clothes, bedding and home electronics, prosecutors said.
"I would say this is horrendous, a total abuse of tenants and human beings so they could have their way and totally ignore the law," said Steve Collier, the attorney for Hernandez and Lopez. "Lawless landlords is what I'd call them."
Kip Macy is accused of three felony conspiracy charges, three burglary charges, two stalking charges, two grand theft charges and one felony count of shutting off service, related to cutting Morrow's power. He also faces one misdemeanor vandalism charge.
Nicole Macy faces three conspiracy charges, three burglary charges, two stalking charges, two grand theft charges, one charge of cutting phone service and one count of misdemeanor vandalism.
Deputy City Attorney Jennifer Choi said that in February, the city sued the Macys and the now-defunct Nevada corporation that owned the building at 744-746 Clementina St., saying they were "managing their business in an unfair way."
Among other things, the Macys' attempted evictions under the state Ellis Act violated the law, the city says. The law allows landlords to quit the rental business, evict all tenants and move into the vacant units themselves or sell them to a group of individuals who would occupy them. But if any units are re-rented within five years, the rents have to be the same as those the evicted tenants were paying.
The Macys, said Choi, simply rented to new tenants at higher rates. But Morrow fought his eviction and won in the summer of 2006. That was when the trouble started.
A fire in the apartment below his had exposed the floor joists, and after he won his court case, the Macys had the joists cut, Choi said.
"That is one of the most egregious things I've seen, of cases of landlords really going to extremes," Choi said.
One day, Morrow noticed the blade of a saw come through his living room floor, his attorney said. He and a friend managed to bend the blade, which had cut a 2-by-4-foot hole in the floor.
Choi said building inspectors repeatedly visited the building and issued multiple citations, including one ordering that the cut joists be repaired immediately. In the end, the city did the work and sent the Macys a bill for $8,000, which the couple have not yet paid, Choi said.
"This is a very bizarre case," Choi said. "It seemed like these landlords went from zero to extremely angry very quickly."
Morrow declined to comment Wednesday.
"The poor guy," Choi said. "This has been very traumatic for him. He literally never leaves his apartment because he thinks the Macys will change the locks."
J. Scott Weaver, Morrow's attorney, said the Macys' attitude appears to be, " 'It's my property - I can do whatever I want.'
"From that, all the other stuff follows," Weaver said. "It's their property, they can cut holes in the floor, if they want to.
"It makes you question your own sanity," he said. "You think, why would a landlord do that? Why would a landlord cut open his floor? It was a big hole. ... After a few incidents like that, you come to the conclusion that anything can happen."
E-mail Jaxon Van Derbeken at firstname.lastname@example.org.