PALO ALTO, Calif. (KTVU) - Shielding her face from the camera, 50-year old Reenu Saini made her first appearance in a Palo Alto court today.
The landlord, and co-defendant Steven Carling, are accused of trying to scare non-paying tenants from their rental home by staging a home invasion.
Mountain View Police arrested a total of five people in the scheme. Authorities say the landlord and these four San Jose residents shut off the power to the apartment, then used a knife to break in the front door.
The tenants, who didn't want to speak on camera, say there had actually been two prior incidents. In one, the power had also been shut off. In the other, they say a stranger came in through the back gate and began to harass them.
They say they called the police and were directed to a housing dispute mediator. They were working with that person, when the staged break in occurred.
Mountain View Police spokesperson Katie Nelson says, "There were all these methods that were being done essentially to force those individuals by out purely by fear... and then with the knife incident through physical force."
From jail, Saini phoned into the KTVU newsroom calling the tenants squatters and saying they had failed to pay rent.
The tenants freely admit they didn't pay, but say it was because Saini changed the terms of their agreement: going off of AirBnb to a private arrangement, then raising the rent from $3,900 to $10,000 a month.
Today the judge set bail at $75,500 for Saini and $110,000 for Carling. He also issued protective orders, saying both must stay away from the tenants.
The defendants next court date is set for September 27th.
Meanwhile, the tenants say they are trying desperately to find new housing.