Relying on California’s comparatively liberal tenants’ rights, Pacific Heights provides an almost-failproof guide to claiming your landlord’s Pac Heights Victorian home as your own. Sure, that was 1990, and the con artist was a creepy Michael Keaton, but with the current slackened real estate market, you’ll squeeze out your landlord in no time. Just follow Carter Hayes’ (Keaton) steps:

1. Procure a residence, preferably from a couple (even better if they’re married). Pretend to have talked to the other partner about the apartment. Give false references, and if they ask about a credit report, claim you rely on a trust fund and have never really dealt with credit before anyway.

2. Sneak/move in without even signing an agreement. Tell your landlord couple that you’ve wired the rent money. When they finally say they’ve never received your initial rent, tell them it was their bank’s fault, not yours. Change your locks.

3. Hammer late at night. Call the cops when your landlord turns off your water, power, and gas in retaliation.

4. Release cockroaches so that they will infest the other units. Just to be poopy diapers, take the only spot in the landlord’s garage and remove your car’s tires. Street parking, bitches!

5. Call the cops and tell them there is a physical altercation at your address. Hang up, then bait your landlord into punching you. Smile as the cops pull your landlord off you and take him downtown. The house is almost yours.

6. Wait. Your landlord couple will try to terminate your lease, and then he’ll try to evict you. Take them to civil court and sue for everything they’ve got (i.e. the house).

7. Lucky No. 7! You win your case; the landlord couple loses all their money and the house. Congratulations, you get the Victorian.

To the yuppies making the crossover from the ’80s to the ’90s, a tenant like Hayes is a nightmare. In fact, it’s a horror. To the peons online, it’s preposterous. But hey, it’s California law.

Luckily for a city that boasts a majority of renters, California affords many rights to its tenants. Hayes manipulates these laws to his (unfair) advantage, but in reality, the laws are there to protect you from sketchy landlords and companies like, say, CitiApartments.

In Pacific Heights, Patty (Melanie Griffith) and Drake (Matthew Modine) make the mistake of assuming the other agreed to Hayes as a tenant. They don’t immediately cry trespassing; instead, they wait for his rent payment. And once without an agreement, they’re SOL until some face time in court. To wit:

The landlord must use this court process to evict the tenant; the
landlord cannot use self-help measures to force the tenant to move. For
example, the landlord cannot physically remove or lock out the tenant,
cut off utilities such as water or electricity, remove outside windows
or doors, or seize (take) the tenant’s belongings in order to carry out
the eviction. The landlord must use the court procedures.

That means notice of termination of contract. Then termination of contract. Then three-day notice of eviction. Then eviction. That is, of course, if the tenant doesn’t take up the fight in court first.

The fact that the film is a horror story makes it even richer. Ooh, beware the boogeyman who doesn’t pay his rent and won’t ever leave his apartment! Desperate times call for desperate measures–it might behoove landlords today to guard themselves against the Hayes tenant. In the meantime, this young, underemployed writer will be looking out for new digs in the city.

Pacific Heights is available on Netflix and Amazon.

Starring San Francisco is Appeal events editor, Christine
Borden’s, take on the city’s cinematic past to illuminate today. Have a
locally-set film you’d like to see featured? Tell her at

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