Student tenants protest against local landlords at senior center

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.