Student tenants protest against local landlords at senior center

City Councilmember Kriss Worthington (center) speaks at a demonstration Wednesday. Students protested against the withholding of security deposits by local landlords.
Derek Remsburg/Staff
City Councilmember Kriss Worthington (center) speaks at a demonstration Wednesday. Students protested against the withholding of security deposits by local landlords.

Frustrated by Berkeley landlords refusing to return security deposits, student tenants and their Berkeley City Council representatives protested Wednesday night at a landlord lobby meeting.

The protest — which took place just before the Berkeley Property Owners Association’s monthly meeting at the North Berkeley Senior Center at 5:30 p.m. — was orchestrated by Councilmember Kriss Worthington and Housing Advisory Commissioner Alejandro Soto-Vigil, who is also a legislative aide for Worthington.

City Rent Board Commissioners and Councilmembers Jesse Arreguin and Max Anderson also spoke at the event.

Alyson Sato, a former Berkeley tenant and UC Berkeley graduate, sued her landlord, Eula Lekas of Lekas & Associates, in small claims court after Lekas failed to return her security deposit check. Though Sato won her “security deposit back with damages by judicial decree” earlier this year, Lekas has still refused to send Sato a check for approximately $4,600, according to Worthington.

“It was a little bit difficult for us … the problem was trying to serve (Lekas) with the lawsuit, as we had someone try and serve her five times,” said Melissa Sato, Alyson’s sister. “We finally got her on a Sunday coming home from church.”

Sato also saved text messages exchanged with Lekas throughout the day of Jan. 28, 2011, which show Lekas promising to mail Sato’s security deposit, which she never followed up on.

“As far as the protest goes, hopefully it was able to generate publicity and let people know what is happening, especially since it’s been difficult for us to take the next legal steps,” Melissa Sato said. “What is frustrating for us is that we know she is getting rent, so it’s hard for us to understand why she won’t pay what is due.”

Lekas could not be reached for comment as of press time.

“We had some good conversations with landlords,” Soto-Vigil said in an email. “Her actions have brought great refute to their profession — we are following up with some of them to see if they want to be public about supporting our efforts.”

Soto-Vigil also said Worthington’s office will continue to suggest ways to protect tenants from security deposit fraud and landlords like Lekas.

Another demonstration will be held sometime in the next few months at 1717 Euclid Ave., one of the Lekas & Associates properties.

Anjuli Sastry covers housing.

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  • guest

    We know one of Lekas’s student victims.  We suggest that picketing in front of her church to let her fellow church members know what an “upstanding citizen” she is would be more effective than picketing a property where she is never seen.

  • Former Tenant

    I moved out of Cleo and Eula Lekas’ 1717 Euclid Ave. building in May, and am still waiting to receive my security deposit. I’ve also been unable to serve her the small claims court papers, and don’t know what to do about the situation. I just finished undergraduate and graduate school at Berkeley, and am unemployed, so her refusal to give me back my money is proving a financial hardship. I hope she is brought to justice, and am disgusted by the way she abuses her current and former tenants.

  • Tenant

    What might be the utility of a protest in front of 1717 Euclid where only tenants live? Tenants know the evils of Lekas. Wouldn’t a protest in front of Lekas’ personal residence be more effective?

  • sherman

    Add Grace Chizar to the list of deadbeat landlords who refuse to pay deposits back.

  • mysterious guest

    what the heck does it mean to “bring great refute” to a profession?  Is he trying to say “ill repute?” Jeez dude, read a book or two.

  • Guest

    Confused by the headline.  Was this a protest against “landlords” as a class, or a protest specifically against Lekas?

    • NthDegreeMonkey

      “We had some good conversations with landlords,” Soto-Vigil said in an email”
      This suggests a more wide spread underlying issue, not just the one student’s case that was mentioned in the article.
      Why would Worthington organize a protest outside the BPOA meeting over one dirt-bag?
      Sorry that you’re so easily confused.  Probably you’re a Cal undergrad…

      Or maybe just a TROLL. Landlords as a “class”, what a joke. A landlord is someone who has a particular job, it is but one example of being in business for oneself.

      Transparent and ridiculous implications do not make for lulz. DERP.

      • geeze

        why are you such an a-hole

  • Berkeley Guy

    I’m very familiar with Lekas’ 1717 Euclid Avenue building, and have been disgusted and disappointed by some of the decisions of Lekas and Associates. Generally, I think they try to be fair and considerate, but I know they owe the City of Berkeley lots of money for unpaid fines and fees, have wrongly withheld security deposits, don’t pay interest on security deposits as required by law and won’t pay the phone bill for the front door intercom/call box – a simple maintenance issue that would provide a very basic function that is common at all multi-unit buildings with a locked front door or gate. Personally, I think Lekas is a good person who is very disorganized and scatterbrained, and often she does nice things for tenants and makes unnecessary improvements without even being asked or required to do so. Sadly, she’s made some very bad decisions and hurt and angered a lot of people.

    • Shb

      No, she is not a good person.  Look at what you wrote about her. What about her is good?

  • the devil

    Put a mechanic’s lein against her property. She will either pay or have her propetty sold to recover what is owed.

    • Berkeley Guy

      I can’t figure out why that hasn’t already been done. I think Lekas owes the city tens of thousands of dollars.