Three San Francisco landlords seeking to evict a 99-year-old woman from her Lower Haight home never wanted to evict her but were forced to when she allowed the apartment to fall into a state of disrepair, violating the terms of her lifetime lease, according to the landlords’ attorney.
Iris Canada hadn’t been living in the apartment at 670 Page St. since 2012 and left it neglected for so long it became uninhabitable, according to Mark Chernev, an attorney for landlords Stephen Owens, Peter Owens and Carolyne Radishe.
“The owners have known Iris Canada for 14 years and they’ve always been concerned for her welfare,” Chernev said.
But he said Canada’s recent assertions that she’s been living there continuously is a ruse, and that she only recently returned there in an effort to fight her eviction.
Canada said at a news conference Tuesday that she has continually lived at the apartment, despite the landlords’ claims, and is demanding that she be allowed to continue her lifetime lease.
In court filings, Canada said that she has no place to go if she moves out, will be unable to afford a new home in San Francisco, and needs a wheelchair or walker to move since suffering a stroke.
“If I’ve been away from the unit for extended periods of time, it’s because I was at the hospital or visiting with family, but 670 Page St. is my home,” Canada said.
“As I’ve gotten older, it has been increasingly difficult for me to go long periods of time without support. I rely on friends and family more, but I still consider 670 Page St. my home,” Canada said. “My age has also made it difficult for me to understand the need for certain repairs, but I did not purposely fail to upkeep.”
The landlords granted Canada, who has lived in the property since the 1950s, a lifetime lease in 2005, allowing her to pay $700 a month to continue to live there for as long as she lives, provided that she be the primary occupant and that she keep the property in good repair. According to Chernev, the landlords even agreed to lower her rent by $150 during that time.
But Chernev argues that she has been unable to care for herself since 2012, when she went to live with her niece in Oakland. The apartment fell into disrepair, becoming overrun with rats and covered in feces, according to Chernev.
She had her phone service cut off, stopped getting meals delivered and neighbors in the six-unit building haven’t seen her for years, Chernev said.
The landlords first sought Canada’s eviction in 2014 and filed a lawsuit. Canada failed to appear for a scheduled trial in March and Judge James Robertson ruled against her. Canada said she thought the hearing had been postponed and did not receive notice until the afternoon before it was scheduled.
She was to be evicted today, according to court records, but found new representation with the Homeless Advocacy Project last week. She has been granted a temporary stay of her eviction and will appear in court next week.
Supervisor London Breed joined Canada in a show of support Tuesday, saying that senior citizens should never be kicked out of their home.
Asked about the landlords’ allegations against Canada today, Tommi Avicolli Mecca, director of counseling programs at the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, said, “They can say whatever they want, the reality is we have a case of a 99-year-old woman who is facing eviction and that is wrong.”
“My concern is for her welfare, my concern is a 99-year-old woman not be evicted,” Mecca said.
Scott Morris, Bay City News