Lawyers continue case for deceased client in Burlingame tenancy dispute

By Emma Gallimore | Apr 14, 2016

SAN MATEO – Attorneys for a 97-year-old tenant who was evicted from her home of 66 years are continuing legal proceedings despite the death of their client.

“There’s a whole host of problems that Marie Hatch’s case brought to the forefront,” Nanci Nishimura, one of Hatch’s attorneys from Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy LLP, told the Northern California Record.

Marie Hatch had been living in a cottage in Burlingame ever since her friend Vivian Kroeze invited her to move in 66 years ago. According to Hatch’s lawyers, she was promised lifetime tenancy. That promise was honored by three generations of the Kroeze family.

In 2006, Kroeze’s granddaughter Pamela Kroeze-Kantz was murdered and her estranged husband David Kantz continued to collect rent from Hatch.

Hatch's attorney, Nancy Nishimura hopes to continue the case to draw attention to an endemic housing problem.  

“Marie Hatch was instructed to pay to him personally for more than 10 years, in fact he acted as though he owned the house, which he did not," Nishimura said. "The house continued to be held in Pamela’s name all these years,” 

No contract was ever written to ensure Hatch’s lifetime tenancy, but Nishimura said that Kantz was well-aware of the agreement.

“In fact, David acknowledged in published newspaper articles that he was aware of the lifetime agreement and he even said it was family lore,” Nishimura said.

In December, Kantz’s lawyer served Hatch and her 85-year-old roommate Georgia Rothrock with a 60-day order to vacate. Her legal team filed suit in San Mateo County Superior Court on Feb 26. Hatch died on March 3.

Since the death of a plaintiff does not extinguish a person’s claim under California law, Nishimura and her colleagues filed a motion to substitute Hatch’s son as successor in interest. If their motion is successful, Hatch’s son will be able to pursue the suit, potentially recovering damages for his mother’s emotional distress after she received notice of her eviction.

“We’re continuing because Marie Hatch’s case is symbolic or representative of the problem faced by renters who are elderly or families … who are struggling financially and are renting apartments for homes and are now facing eviction because the cost of living is going up or landlords want to charge higher rent and they want to get rid of their lower paying tenants or developers are buying buildings to build developments.”

Kantz told the San Francisco Chronicle that he has to provide for his own children. Burlingame, where the home is located, is a wealthy community about 30 minutes from downtown San Fransisco. The house was listed on Zillow, a real estate website, for $1.2 million.

“We don’t intend to attack developers or landlords,” Nishimura said. “It’s really an endemic problem being faced by landlords, particularly in California where the economy is doing better because of high-tech industry. The ones who really suffer are the elderly tenants and the children.”

Nishimura called for city councils, developers and landlords to work together to find solution that addresses the housing shortage.

Though California’s housing market had been improving over the last couple of years, a lack of affordable housing has persisted in many areas due to job growth and slow but steady economic improvement.

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