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Judge Favors Ebenstein in Case Against Tenants

A judge ruled in favor of Lanny Ebenstein over the tenants of his mansion. But the case isn't over.                                                  








In a case rife with accusations, a judge on Monday sided with Lanny Ebenstein — a landlord and quasi-public figure — over his tenants, a family of nine who he says refuses to leave his historic mansion.

The heads of the family — author T.S. Wiley and her husband,technology consultant Neil Raden — argue that they are being illegally evicted outof retaliation.

The case isn’t over. First, the technical question of whether the lease expired or the family is being evicted from the 27-room home at 2620 Glendessary Lane remains to be answered.

Also, the family is appealing the judge’s ruling.

The family charges that Ebenstein, a former Santa Barbara school board member and recent mayoral candidate, is trying to get back at them for complaining about the house’s maintenance problems. They also believe Ebenstein, who co-owns the property with his developmentally disabled brother, is retaliating against them for accusing him of pocketing too large a share of the rent money at the expense of his brother. Ebenstein denies both charges. The house is leased for $9,000 a month.

On Monday, Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge William McLafferty threw the family’s two arguments out of court, calling them irrelevant, essentially ruling in favor of Ebenstein.

The family’s lawyers said they will file an appeal Tuesday challenging the ruling on those arguments, said attorney Robert Forouzandeh of Hatch and Parent.

On the technical issue of whether Ebenstein is evicting the family, his attorney argues that he is not. Rather, he said, the family is refusing to leave, even though the lease expired on Sept. 30. The family, on the other hand, claims that after Sept. 30 they had a month-to-month agreement.

The distinction is important because tenants need to have been evicted in order to claim their eviction was retaliatory. The next hearing on that matter is scheduled for next week. 

Meanwhile, the family’s attorneys are hoping to essentially start over. They would like for the entire matter to be tried in front of a jury, and will make a case to this effect in their appeal, Forouzandeh said.

On Monday, when Ebenstein took the stand, he said he decided months ago that he wanted the family gone, because their rent payments were habitually late, sometimes by as much as a month. He added that through his own research, he discovered that they or their relatives had been sued 45 to 50 times for nonpayment of debt — a charge they deny.

He said he tried to be courteous, giving the family a 90-day extension that expired on Sept. 30, in an effort to grant them some time to find a new place, but they still haven’t left.

Wiley and Raden said the 108-year-old house is also inhabited by three of their children, three grandchildren and a son-in-law. Wiley, who refers to herself as a women’s health advocate, is the author of “Sex, Lies and Menopause.”

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