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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Nice Work If You Can Get It: 'Tenant From Hell' John Getzow Stiffs Another Landlord

Posted By on Tue, Jun 30, 2009 at 6:30 AM

click to enlarge the_hustler_paul_newman_jackie_gleason.jpg
Last year, we ran a cover story on the strange and terrible life of one "Dr." John Getzow, who may or may not have some manner of medical degree, but definitely had been sued by seven of his previous landlords. Getzow made a career of sorts out of living in nice San Francisco digs while paying little or no rent and collecting eviction notices like other folks amass baseball cards. Last month we noted that Landlord No. 8 had filed suit against him.

This month Getzow and the owner of the Balmoral Hotel Residence Club reached a settlement. The landlords made a deal with the serial evictee: If he got the hell off the premises by June 1, they'd drop all charges and, in essence, let him walk off owing $4,500 in unpaid rent and fines. This came to pass -- and the landlords were thrilled to have gotten rid of Getzow so easily and cheaply; by the time they started litigating they'd read SF Weekly's cover story and knew who they were dealing with.  

"He wore a suit to the settlement conference and was very polite -- he'd obviously done this before and knew the system well," said Susan Parkinson, who represented building owner James Lee. "We didn't let him go very long. I notice a lot of the other landlords let him go a long time without paying rent."

Getzow was a quiet and otherwise ordinary tenant at the Balmoral from June of last year until February of this year. Then he stopped paying rent, was served with a three-day notice, and, eventually, was sued. Not that he made it easy: Once Getzow knew a lawsuit was imminent, he locked himself in his room and refused to come out (an old trick noted in our cover story).

"Once he got behind on his rent, he wouldn't come out. We had to actually have a stakeout to serve him" with legal papers, noted Parkinson. "We had a process server wait in the lobby right near his room. Once he knew we were coming he just holed up."

Knowing they were dealing with someone who'd made a career out of bilking landlords in this city, Parkinson pushed for an approach that would get Getzow off the premises as soon as possible -- and not even attempt to collect on the $4,500 he owed.

"Oh, I doubt we'll ever see that money," she says. "I mean, he even came up to the [building] manager and said, 'When I get a job, I'll pay you back.'" This memory sparked a round of laughter in Parkinson.

Now that Getzow is no longer her problem, the lawyer has no idea where he is. But Getzow's record shows that he'll surface again sooner or later -- likely as a defendant on the Superior Court docketts.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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