Old Town sees confrontations over alleged tenant lockouts, property seizures, illegal evictions
Subpar living conditions, tenant lockouts, illegal evictions, known drug offenders allegedly ripping peoples’ property out of their hands — three of Old Roseville’s most historic buildings have the same owner, Mike Rapport, who’s fighting accusations around his business practices, employees and the state of his holdings.
According to representatives from the state of California, the tenant lockouts and evictions appear to be illegal for reasons that could have broader repercussions for other businesses throughout the historic district.
112 Pacific St. is one of Roseville’s oldest buildings. When Cynthia Hodge moved in six years ago, she was excited because Rapport had done a number of media interviews about revitalizing Old Town Roseville. Rapport also owns the Barker Hotel, another historic structure, as well as the Roseville Hotel. Hodge opened Sydia Salon on Lincoln Street at another of Rapport’s properties. Hodge says that when problems began to crop up inside her apartment at 112 Pacific, Rapport was an unresponsive landlord, forcing her to hire her own contractor to fix the issues. Meanwhile, Hodge claims hardcore drug use with tenants inside 112 Pacific got increasingly worse.
In a recent interview with the Press Tribune, Barker Hotel tenant Eva Nasseta said methamphetamine use was out of control in both the Barker and Roseville hotels. Records from the Roseville Police Department show that — between drugs, domestic violence and other crimes and complaints — officers handled 1,493 calls between the properties in the last three years. On Jan. 11, 2013, a parole sweep inside the Barker netted quantities of methamphetamine and heroin. During this time, the Barker was managed by Becky Christensen, a convicted meth dealer who is now charged as an accessory after the fact following a knife assault on Washington Boulevard last summer. Separate from her current legal ordeal, on Jan. 15 Christensen allegedly stood by while Nasseta was attacked and pummeled by four females inside a hallway of the Barker Hotel. Nasseta has photographs of significant facial trauma from the encounter. Rapport confirmed an altercation took place in the Barker Hotel on Jan. 15, though disputes his manager at the time instigated it.
Christensen now figures into new accusations by Hodge and her sister, Connie Hill, about illegal lockouts and illegally seized property at 112 Pacific St.
Hill moved into 112 Pacific with her 23-year-old daughter and 15-year-old granddaughter in November 2012. Hill and her daughter are beauticians who were joining Hodge at the Sydia Salon. Unlike her sister, Hill didn’t have the money to hire a private contractor to fix the major problems she discovered in her apartment. Hill said she made a list of requested repairs for Rapport, which included a roach infestation, growing mold, no electrical covers, no smoke detector and a tilting bathroom sink that caused pools of water on the floor.
Hill also claims the apartment also had no heat, and she was forced to keep her family warm during the winter by leaving the front of the oven open. She later showed the Press Tribune photographs of what appears to be black mold on walls, disassembled smoke detectors and exposed outlet wires inside the apartment.
Rapport strongly denied the image Hill painted of her apartment.
“When we finally got in there, we didn’t find any habitability issues,” Rapport said.
According to Hill, she gave Rapport the list of problems at the end of November. She alleges Rapport had Christensen serve her with an eviction notice two weeks later. Court records confirm Christensen served the notice on Dec. 19. Hill, a former landlord herself, was waiting for an official summons from Placer County Superior Court so she could take steps to halt the eviction on the grounds she felt it was retaliatory.
From Rapport’s perspective, it was a simple matter of a tenant not paying rent.
The summons never came, according to Hill. But there was another issue with the eviction that Hill was not aware of at the time: The Placer County Assessor’s Office identifies the official owner of 112 Pacific St. as MSR Properties LLC., with Mike S. Rapport listed as the agent of service. Official records show that on Oct. 1, 2010, the California Secretary of State’s Office suspended MRS Properties LLC’s powers, rights and privileges on behalf of California Franchise Tax Board.
State law appears to be clear about what a suspended property ownership LLC can and cannot do.
“If you’re a suspended LLC or suspended corporation, you lose the right to conduct business, enforce contracts and enforce evictions,” confirmed Daniel Tahara of the California Franchise Tax Board. “If you’re suspended, you’re not recognized as a business by the state of California.”
Last week, the Secretary of State’s Office issued certificates of status to the Press Tribune showing that another LLC and two separate corporations — all owned by Rapport — are also currently suspended. The second LLC, Basic Old Town Roseville, was suspended on Jan. 2, 2013. The Barker Hotel Inc. was suspended on Jan. 2, 2009. Rapport’s other corporation, Msr Entertainment Inc., was suspended Dec. 1, 2010.
Similar to MSR Properties LLC., these entities were suspended on behalf of the Franchise Tax Board.
Documents from the city of Roseville indicate the city’s redevelopment agency has loaned MSR Properties LLC a total of $978,000 for improvements to 112 Pacific St., though all of the loans were made prior to the suspension.
Hill did not yet know that the property ownership group listed on her eviction notice was suspended by the state. Nevertheless, on March 5 she filed an official stay of proceedings against the eviction on the grounds that she had automatic bankruptcy protection.
The next day, according to Hill, “The world went crazy.”
On March 6, while Hill was driving her daughter to college, Rapport showed up to her apartment and changed the locks. Hill returned home that evening to find she and her family were unable to access their apartments and belongings. When Hill tried to remove the lock to get back inside, Rapport arrived and barred her from going into her apartment. Rapport called Roseville police to the scene. The responding officer wrote in his incident log, “The landlord has a writ of eviction in hand, the tenant has a stay of eviction from bankruptcy court — advised both parties to get a clear understanding of which court has precedence and notify the police department.”
But even with a police officer present, both Hill and Rapport acknowledge that the argument between them got heated: Hill began to suffer a medical emergency. The Roseville Fire Department rushed her to Sutter Roseville Hospital with a highly elevated heart rate. Hospital records indicate that Hill was kept for treatment for three full days.
Hill, her daughter and granddaughter moved in temporarily with Hodge in her unit at 112 Pacific. Meanwhile, Hill said she could hear someone with a key allowing other tenants and strangers to come in and out of her locked apartment. Worried for her property, Hill called Rapport, asking that he open the apartment up so they could take their belongings out. Hill alleges Rapport never cooperated.
Rapport told the Press Tribune that, early in the eviction process, it was Hill who didn’t make the proper efforts to recover her belongings.
“I made every attempt to meet her so she could get her stuff,” Rapport said. “I tried. She wouldn’t make an appointment.”
On March 26, Hill filed a new stay of eviction with the county based on the suspended status of MSR Properties LLC. Three days later, on March 29, Hill says she walked into the hallway to see Christensen, another woman and two men pulling all of her belongings out of the locked apartment. When Hill demanded the group hand over her property, Christensen allegedly refused and physically prevented her from taking any of the boxes back.
“I said, ‘You don’t own these things, these are mine,” Hill said. “(Christensen) just kept saying, ‘We’re taking them down to the basement of the Barker Hotel.’”
Hodge remembers watching helplessly as her sister struggled to reclaim one of the boxes — only to have it allegedly literally ripped out of her hands by Christensen.
Fearing another medical emergency, Hill ran to her car and left Roseville with both of her daughters in tow.
She hasn’t been back since.
But the confrontation was not over. Hodge admits she was afraid and angry about what happened to her sister, and then suddenly blurted out something along the lines of, “I’m going to get my gun.” This prompted one of the men to call Rapport, who in turn had Roseville police called to the scene.
Christensen could not be reached for comment. However, in her statement to the Roseville Police Department, she said Rapport had asked her to clean out Hill’s apartment.
The week before, Rapport had said in an interview with the Press Tribune that Christensen no longer worked for him.
On Tuesday, Rapport confirmed Hill’s belongings had been “locked in storage” in the aftermath of confrontation on March 29. However, when asked about the legality of such a property seizure, given that his LLC was suspended, he declined further comment and referred the question to his business attorney, Sam Stamas.
“It’s not a question of whether (Rapport) has legal standing, it’s a question of (his) capacity,” Stamas told the Press Tribune, regarding MSR Properties LLC’s landlord status at 112 Pacific St. “It’s not black and white, or we wouldn’t have court proceedings coming up … It was represented to me by (Rapport) that he was just made aware of the suspension,” he added. “He is currently taking steps to resolve this through his accountant. It should be resolved soon, hopefully within a week or two.”
Asked how Rapport could only now be aware of the suspension — which was triggered by the California Secretary of State’s Office in 2010 — Stamas repeated, “That how it’s been represented to me.”
Both Hodge and Hill are currently seeking restraining orders against Rapport in Placer County court, though neither has been granted yet.
Rapport claims Hill is still free to come get her belongings. “All she has to do is set up a time to pick her things up,” he said.
For Hodge, who still owns and runs Sydia Salon, it remains unclear how Rapport’s LLCs and corporations being suspended will affect her own business. She also doesn’t know the full import of what the suspensions mean for at least seven other Old Town Roseville businesses currently renting properties from Rapport’s suspended LLCs or corporations.
“That’s a matter of legal opinion,” Stamas said. “I wouldn’t want to comment or speculate on that, with litigation pending.”