Housemate From Hell Forces Aged SF Artist To Transfer Throughout the Nation

Bonita Cohn moved into her three-bedroom Nob Hill flat in 1982, and it remained her residence for the subsequent 40 years, by means of marriage, divorce and her lengthy profession as an area artist specializing in clay pots and stoneware.

Over her time residing within the house at 1538 Jones St., 76-year-old Cohn estimates that she had greater than 70 boarders and housemates who lived within the house over time. 

However final October, she stated she was compelled to depart her longtime house due to an issue tenant named Loyd Hernandez, who drove her and different roommates out by means of what they described as a sustained sample of intimidation and harassment, all whereas refusing to pay hire for greater than a 12 months. 

“I by no means had an issue earlier than assembly Loyd,” she stated from her sister’s house in Lengthy Island, the place she lives at the moment. “He was imagined to be non permanent, however simply he by no means left.”

In costly San Francisco, there isn’t a scarcity of shared residing conditions and roommate disputes. However Cohn and others say the state of affairs at 1538 Jones St. was past the pale. 

Bonita Cohn moved into the constructing with rounded home windows at 1538 Jones St. in San Francisco (heart) in 1982, and after 40 years within the house, she stated she was compelled to flee after being bullied and harassed by a boarder. | Benjamin Fanjoy for The Commonplace

Though an excessive case, the continuing saga highlights the challenges that tenants and landlords generally face in eradicating problematic tenants by means of town’s slow-moving authorized proceedings. 

Poisonous Scenario

Hernandez continues to reside within the house alone with out paying hire: All different roommates have moved out amid a string of authorized disputes, derogatory feedback and common calls to the police for minor points. In a single occasion, after Cohn awoke within the early morning screaming from a nightmare, Hernandez referred to as the police on her for disturbing the peace. 

The harassment led to the departure of Cohn’s house well being aide, adopted by her personal resolution to depart the house and town that she referred to as house for 4 a long time. 

Cohn stated Hernandez supplied to pay her $225 weekly beginning in February 2021 to remain within the house on a brief foundation and sublet a room beforehand occupied by her caregiver and housemate Everic Dupuy, who was touring overseas. 

Hernandez was supposed to depart on the finish of April when Dupuy returned to the house, however he refused. Left with no different choice, Dupuy stayed in the lounge the place he stated he and Hernandez frequently received in altercations and arguments. 

“After I got here again from my travels, I used to be working for [Cohn] as her caregiver, I used to be serving to her and I noticed that he was taking monetary benefit of her,” Dupuy stated.

Dupuy stated he nonetheless experiences “some PTSD” from the residing state of affairs, which included a mixture of threats, arguments and harassment from Hernandez. Dupuy, who lived within the house between 2016 and 2021, stated Hernandez would usually make it tough for him to assist Cohn, following the 2 round the home, getting in between them and interrupting their work collectively. 

“He would maintain his digital camera up in our faces and report the whole lot. A variety of what he was doing was projection: He would make up all these accusations of issues he did, however say they had been about us,” Dupuy stated. “His aim was to in the end drive us out, and it labored.”

Dupuy moved out however continued to work with Cohn. The state of affairs with Hernandez, nevertheless, turned so poisonous that he ultimately not served as her caregiver. 

Dupuy stated he heard Hernandez make derogatory remarks about girls and antisemitic remarks about Cohn, who’s Jewish.

Restraining Orders

Hernandez largely stopped paying hire after two and a half months. Cohn stated he started citing San Francisco’s tenant protections and points across the house’s habitability as a rationale, placing the impetus on Cohn to attempt to take away him from the premises. 

Then there have been the repeated cases of harassment. Cohn, who has mobility points and walks with the assistance of a walker, stated Hernandez began placing her bathe chair out of attain, throwing her gadgets on the ground, and mocking and imitating her incapacity.

On the time when Cohn moved out in October, Hernandez’s whole unpaid hire had reached $15,925. 

Cohn turned to the authorized system to attempt to rid herself of Hernandez. She acquired a brief restraining order in opposition to Hernandez that compelled him to maneuver out for round three months, however he was ultimately allowed to return again after a decide’s ruling. 

Bonita Cohn is pictured in 2012. She moved into her three-bedroom flat at 1538 Jones St. in 1982, and it remained her residence for the subsequent 40 years, by means of marriage, divorce and her lengthy profession as an area artist specializing in clay pots and stoneware. | Courtesy Bonita Cohn

A second restraining order that was filed on the grounds of elder abuse, in addition to a small claims swimsuit to get again fee of hire was dismissed when Cohn didn’t pursue the circumstances additional. She had already departed to reside along with her sister in Lengthy Island. 

In an interview, Hernandez largely refused to interact with questions on his habits, saying that he didn’t need to “dox” the people or be topic to “defamation claims.” As an alternative of the perpetrator, he stated he was the sufferer of harassing habits from his former housemates.

“There’s sure issues I don’t need to communicate out about now as a result of I don’t need to revisit them,” he stated. “I can sit right here and let you know precisely what they did however that might be doxxing them. I don’t know why they’re sitting there and simply mendacity to you.”

Hernandez claimed to have photographic and video proof of this unhealthy habits, however stated that he misplaced a USB drive containing digital copies. He claims he was topic to discount of housing companies due to harassment.

When requested a number of instances about whether or not he had stopped paying hire, Hernandez dodged the query, as an alternative saying that he had a profitable seasonal job gathering signatures that he was unable to do due to the authorized points surrounding his residing state of affairs.

“It’s been harassment, harassment and courtroom case and courtroom case, and I haven’t actually sat there and gathered signatures and made cash,” Hernandez stated. “I’ve a pal that smokes fentanyl and made about $40,000 petitioning. I don’t smoke fentanyl—I’ll put it that method.” 

Rental Protections

Nelson Hyde Chick, a neighbor who has lived in a close-by unit owned by the identical landlord since 1986, stated he believes Hernandez is making the most of renter safety legal guidelines. 

“I perceive if there’s somebody who lives someplace for a decade and loses their job and may’t work, however this isn’t that. That is somebody making the most of why the rental legal guidelines exist,” Chick stated. “I’ve lived right here a very long time, and the owner is a superb man. He’s not the kind of one that’s making an attempt to take advantage of each freaking penny from you.”

Hernandez not too long ago referred to as the police on Chick after he let in an individual who was making an attempt to serve him with a authorized discover from the owner Leonard Lew.

Hernandez, who continues to reside within the flat by himself, has refused to depart, and the owner has began eviction proceedings in opposition to him. Lew is making an attempt to make renovations on the house now that Cohn, his longtime tenant, has departed. Hernandez claimed it was a bid to evict him.

“They’re mad as a result of the owner thinks I’m freeloading. They need to do capital enhancements within the constructing and alter the fair-market hire,” Hernandez stated. He stated he believed that Cohn moved out as a result of she was getting outdated and have issue shifting round.

Clare Cohn Brown, Bonita Cohn’s sister, stated he was certain that her sister would have lived within the house for longer if she hadn’t confronted the state of affairs with Hernandez.

“He was tormenting her and the opposite people who lived there,” Brown stated. 

Brown stated when she stayed on the house to assist her sister transfer out, she additionally skilled what she described as menacing habits from Hernandez, together with observing her whereas she was consuming and recording her. Brown additionally stated she heard racial feedback he made in opposition to one other roommate who was an Asian lady. 

A video offered by Brown exhibits the 2 arguing when Hernandez threatened to sue Cohn for theft of companies.

Bonita Cohn moved into the constructing with rounded home windows at 1538 Jones St. in San Francisco (second from proper) in 1982, and after 40 years within the house, she stated she was compelled to flee after being bullied and harassed by a boarder. | Benjamin Fanjoy for The Commonplace

“I stated, ‘What are you making an attempt to get from her? She has no revenue to talk of.’” Brown stated. “Why are you doing this? You’re getting off on making an attempt to harm an aged particular person.”

Lew, the constructing’s landlord, is now shouldering the brunt of the burden.  

Hernandez, who initially agreed to maneuver out in November to permit for renovation work earlier than being allowed to maneuver again because the grasp tenant, reneged on the settlement. Hernandez tried to file his personal restraining order in opposition to Lew, however the motion was dismissed by a decide this month. 

Lew, who grew up within the house complicated and took over possession from his dad and mom, has been managing the property for some 60 years. Not too long ago, when he was visiting the property with a contractor to repair a damaged storage door, he stated Hernandez got here out and aggressively began filming him and the employee. 

Hernandez requested for $38,000 in trade for shifting out. Lew countered with $25,000, a suggestion that Hernandez rejected. 

The 2 events negotiated to phrases had been favorable to Hernandez, together with a interval of constant to reside within the house rent-free previous to renovations and the chance to maneuver again as a grasp tenant for $5,000 in hire and a safety deposit as soon as the enhancements had been made. After the settlement was struck, nevertheless, Hernandez refused to signal it. 

“I’m 88. Let’s see if I make it to my birthday in April,” Lew stated. “I’ve been doing this for 60 years, and I’ve by no means met anybody as unhealthy as him.”

Throughout a telephone interview, Hernandez vacillated between accusations of harassment and defamation and obscure threats. 

“What if I used to be a malignant sociopath like they stated about me?” Hernandez stated. “Does it not fear you that I may very well be that particular person?”

He initially supplied to offer documentation and movies that might corroborate his facet of the story, however later declined to indicate them. In a textual content message, he stated he would refuse to settle the case regardless of a number of witnesses to his habits, calling it a “shakedown lawsuit.”

Kevin Truong may be reached at [email protected]