Rent Board Commissioner called a bad landlord, sued for $125,000 in damages


San Francisco renter Deborah Silverman has found herself in a kind of mousetrap. Silverman says she was driven out of her apartment of more than 10 years because of a mouse infestation caused by the unit below her, and she alleges that her landlord, Bart Murphy – who is also a Rent Board Commissioner – failed to address the problem after numerous complaints.

Silverman has filed suit against Murphy, charging that he purposefully let the infestation in her apartment run rampant in order to force her out. She’s seeking more than $125,000 in damages, according to her attorney Eric Lifschitz. That would cover the $700 difference between what she was paying for rent and what it was raised to (multiplied by the years she lived there) and property damages from the infestation, as well as emotional and punitive damages. Murphy is the president of a property management company that runs more than 500 buildings.

Silverman’s lawsuit caught the attention of Tenants Together, a statewide organization that advocates for renter’s rights. Dean Preston, founder and executive director that organization, sees the dispute between Murphy and Silverman as part of a broader trend in San Francisco.

“We see a lot of landlords that don’t make repairs in order to drive tenants out,” Preston told the Guardian. He said Murphy should resign if he is in fact forced to fork over the thousands of dollars for Silverman’s settlement.

“If these allegations are found to be true, Murphy should resign,” Preston said. “Bart Murphy has no business serving on a commission in this city, especially a commission that passes judgment on tenant claims against landlords.”

Murphy could not be reached to comment on the matter, but we will update this post if we hear from him.

Delene Wolf, executive director of the San Francisco Rent Board, told us the case does not warrant the possibility of Murphy resigning as a commissioner on the Rent Board. “He is a landlord and is entitled to have disputes with his tenant,” Wolf said. “He has not been found guilty of any crimes. Nobody is being found guilty of anything, this is a civil litigation.”

But Lifschitz echoed Preston’s stance, saying Murphy should either resign or be forced off of the Rent Board if the trial does not go in his favor. “The best case scenario is that my client is vindicated and is able to find a new home in San Francisco,” Lifschitz said. “The worst outcome is if the jury determines that what Murphy did was reasonable. Every time we learn something new about this case we’re shocked that this happened.”

According to Lifschitz, Murphy has since rented out the abandoned units for a higher price. The next court hearing on the case is scheduled for tomorrow (Thu/25), and the trial is set to begin once a courtroom becomes available.  





Let's lynch the landlord. Let's lynch the landlord, man.

You know. Because we can.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 8:22 pm

then you would know that the board consists of both landlord and tenant representatives, so that there is balance between the two sides and so that there is a broad understanding of the problems that both landlords and tenants can have.

I've never seen SFBG ask for a tenant representative to be removed from the Board for tenant bad behavior, so why a landlord?

Moreover, it is extremely difficult to get rid of mice and, in fact, when I suggested to one of my tenants that I put poisen down, she refused saying that she didn't want poisen in her unit.

Landlords just cannot win sometimes.

Almost any place else, a tenant would simply move anyway if they didnt like a place.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2013 @ 11:40 pm

I want to comment that Dean Preston with THC did a great job for me and many other tenants at 1030 Post Street. I am thankful for Dean Preston and THC.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2013 @ 10:41 am

The trial has concluded and found Bartholomew Murphy NOT GUILTY of any violations of any kind. The truth has prevailed.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 8:21 am

I'm surprised every landlord in San Francisco has not Ellis acted acted their property. The tenants in this town are hostile lunatics ....

Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 4:23 pm

You'll never get rich on the rents in Sf unless you are lucky enough to get good turnover (or have methods of achieving that).

But you can probably figure on making 10% a year on average in capital appreciation. So as long as the rents cover the costs, you will make out in the end.

If not, as you say, there's always Mister Ellis paying a housecall.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 5:03 pm

Damn democrats. The tenant needs to get the f*** out. If they don't like it there, then don't live there. Pay market price for rent because the landlord has to cover the mortgage.

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Posted by totoro onesie on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

The incident happened at San Francisco is an interesting one. A resident living there had filed a case against her apartment owner because he failed to eliminate the rats living in her apartment and continuously ignored her complaints on this matter.

Posted by Windows XP help now on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 3:09 am

I bet the landlord actually increased services, provided a better place... it was just the tenant and Liveshitz couldn't find anything else to suit over so the biyatch was breeding speedy Gonzales to sell.

Liveshitz....common really?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2014 @ 5:41 pm

I bet you would vote milk to stay at 5 cents regardless of market value too?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2014 @ 5:45 pm