Returning to the steps of San Mateo Superior Court, Baiting Jiang arrived in a light gray blazer holding a binder full of evidence of why, she said, she is not the villain in a messy homeowner-renter dispute involving a San Mateo family.
“I am a single woman living in the United States all by myself,” she told The Investigative Unit through an interpreter.
NBC Bay Area first reported Jiang’s case with the Yang family in early October. The family accused her of taking advantage of the pandemic and the justice system to live in their home rent-free for 10 months.
“No, that is not true,” Jiang said. “I paid $1,350 per month timely from the month of July  to December ; I never owed them a penny.”
Jiang lived in the family’s home for more than a year, from July 2019 to October 2020. In January 2020, the family filed for her eviction after they said she ignored their 30-day notice to vacate.
That’s when the situation deteriorated into dozens of police calls to the home, restraining orders and allegations of property damage. Police often left the home saying it was a “civil matter.” Sheriff's officials said situations like this are becoming more common during the pandemic, and police are generally ill-equipped to handle homeowner-tenant issues.
As a result, the situation drove the family out of their own house, they said. The homeowner, a single mother, and her daughter moved to a rented room a couple miles away while Alex Yang, the owner’s son, slept in his car because the unit only fit two.
The family told NBC Bay Area they originally wanted Jiang out because they were uncomfortable with some of her guests. Jiang, who is represented by San Francisco attorney Joe Bravo, said that’s not true.
“It was after I filed a complaint about their illegal unit, which I rented from them, that they started the retaliation against me,” Jiang said.
“What she’s saying doesn’t make sense. It was the master bedroom [she rented], not an illegal unit. It was the best room in the house,” Yang told NBC Bay Area.
Reviewing the timeline of events, Jiang filed her complaint with the city two months after receiving the family’s notice to leave.
“I feel she did it to get back at us,” Yang said.
The family said they began building two unpermitted units during the summer of 2019. They were unfamiliar with the process, they said, but worked with the city to get a permit when they learned about the complaint. On October 28, the family told NBC Bay Area the city approved their permit.
“Actually, we don’t know who complained to the city,” said Yang. “[Jiang and my family] had different lifestyles.”
The lifestyles continued to clash when the COVID shutdown heavily impacted the courts halting the family’s eviction cases and others throughout California.
While most Bay Area counties with moratoriums on eviction cases allowed cases to continue if there were health and safety concerns, San Mateo County did not have that exemption in its order. The seven-month court delay of the family’s eviction case significantly worsened the situation, the family said.
What happened next, Yang said, completely caught his family off guard.
In March and May 2020, the family told police Jiang excessively ran the water in the bathroom causing tens of thousands of dollars-worth of damages.
“This is a false accusation against me,” Jiang told NBC Bay Area. “[It] created a lot of harm…My lawyer friend has been inside my unit multiple times and decided that I did not run the water.”
In one incident report, the family claimed she left the shower on overnight, and in another they said she ran her water “for 40 hours.”
When NBC Bay Area told Jiang about plumbing documents indicating the water leak appeared intentional, she denied allegations she was behind it.
“If you don’t believe me, you can go to court,” Jiang said. “And, in the event the court holds me responsible, then it’s a different story.”
During the pandemic, the family said Jiang also drove them out of their own home by filing false harassment claims and restraining orders, including against the 12-year-old daughter.
“The case was being investigated at the time, so this is not a good time for you to ask me these questions,” Jiang said.
NBC Bay Area was in court both times in October when Jiang was supposed to present evidence for the restraining orders she requested against the children and their father. On one occasion she told the judge was wasn't prepared. On another, she didn't appear in court. The judge dismissed the cases.
According to court records, Jiang has filed for at least five restraining orders against five different people in the last two years. She has lived in the United States for five years, she said
NBC Bay Area asked Jiang about concerns she is using the legal system as a weapon.
“Shouldn’t I have the right to go to court and file a restraining order to protect myself?” she said.
On October 9, four days before a judge was expected to hear the family’s eviction case, Jiang moved out of the Yang’s home. She told NBC Bay Area the timing was coincidental.
When asked if took advantage of the pandemic and the court system to live in the family’s home rent-free, she said no.
“I am the victim here who needed help,” she said.
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Candice Nguyen is an investigative reporter with NBC Bay Area. To contact her about this story or another, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.