Jianxiang Huang and Li Weihong returned from China in August to find signs suggesting that someone had been staying in their home.
Although they hadn't been to the $2.5 million Calabasas estate in about a year, they immediately noticed things weren't as they'd left them.
Weird signals, such as extra bedding in one place, strange buttons in the washing machine, oil splashed in the kitchen and Pittsburgh Steelers slippers sitting in a closet. But it wasn't until a friend told them their multistory home in the picturesque foothills had been featured on an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians — according to a lawsuit filed in November — that things got real.
The couple is suing property manager Angela Wong and her employer, Ewing & Associates Sotheby's International Realty, for numerous damages including breach of contract and misrepresentation. And for letting their home get dissed by the Kardashian girls to millions of TV viewers for having bad feng shui.
That was more than enough exposure for the couple, who declined to comment to L.A. Weekly. Wong, their property manager, also declined to comment, as did Roger Ewing, owner of Ewing & Associates.
"Being a traditional Chinese family, they were overwhelmed by this whole series of events and did not feel that being interviewed about the situation would move their family toward re-establishing positive feelings toward their home," said Michael Louis Kelly, the couple's attorney.
The couple bought the home in late 2012 and hoped to move from China to Calabasas once their two kids were fluent enough in English to attend school, according to the suit.
Meanwhile, they arranged for Angela Wong to manage the property. Wong had sold them the house, including its furnishings, which tacked on another $300,000, according to the suit.
Huang and Weihong agreed to send to Wong other Chinese nationals seeking L.A. real estate. For her part, Wong would oversee such tasks as paying the couple's utility bills and making sure plants got enough water during their long absences.
During the couple's first visit back to Calabasas, about six months later, they found by their estimate about eight expensive paintings missing from the walls, according to the lawsuit. Allegedly, only nails sticking out of the wall remained.
Wong told them the paintings were not there when she got their keys, according to the suit. It had been long enough that the couple didn't trust their memories about the artwork, so they took Wong at her word.
The couple then thoroughly cleaned the home and headed back to China last year.
But upon their return just over a year later, in August, they found obvious signs that someone had been living there.
According to the suit, the couple noticed oil splattered on the kitchen backsplash and a bottle filled with oil that had been empty when they left. The sugar was gone. The salt was gone. The sponges and rubber gloves? Gone. Almost all of the dish detergent was gone. There was a cup ring on a table and a bathroom trash can was MIA.
There was chaos in the cupboards. The couple stacked their bowls by size — smaller inside bigger. But now the metal bowls were mixed with the plastic bowls.
A top sheet was missing from a set of matching sheets and another sheet set they'd never seen before was neatly folded on the bed. A comforter now had black marks all over it and one of the mattresses looked as if someone had slept on it.
The mystery deepened when they found two buttons in the washing machine that clearly weren't theirs, as well as a pair of Pittsburgh Steelers slippers tucked in the closet. Kelly, the attorney, confirmed to the Weekly that his clients are not Steelers fans.
To top it off, someone had seriously run up the utility bills, with a gas bill of more than $300 one month and a water bill higher than $300 another.
For all they knew, it could have been Goldilocks trying out their porridge, sleeping in their beds. But they assumed Wong was involved. According to the suit, she was the only person with access to the home inside the pricey, guarded community.
"My clients did not find their real-life Goldilocks experience amusing," said Kelly, their attorney. "They were shocked that someone had been allowed to apparently set up camp in their new family home."
Then came the tipping point.
A friend told the baffled couple that, while they were in China, she had spotted their house on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. The Weekly was able to catch that episode, called "All That Jazzzzzzz," on a rerun:
It starts off kinda gross when Kim's right breast starts leaking breast milk and Khloé's, like, "Your boob is, like, leaking out of control!" and Rob's grossed out by it and literally says so.
Then Kris, who saw Chicago on Broadway, totally decides that she's going to star in a Broadway show and everyone's, like, can she even sing or dance? But she just hires some über-famous voice and dance coaches and practices really hard — for at least the rest of the episode.
Then Khloé needs a place to stay, so Kourtney brings over Tomer Fridman — who's, like, another agent with Ewing & Associates Sotheby's International Realty — to show Khloé the interior of the house that the plaintiffs are saying is theirs or something.
Apparently, the Huang and Weihong residence is next door to Kourtney's, who after stepping inside declares that the house is cute and has "nice feng shui." Khloé responds, "I don't get good feng shui here." Ultimately, Khloé finds the house to be a "cute little number" that was just not her "steez."
Having your home visited by the Kardashians and their reality TV crew sounds as if it could be fun, but it has infuriated the plaintiffs.
As Kelly notes, the couple was "horrified that the Kardashians had been let into their house to film and make fun of it in front of millions." According to Kelly, the couple identified an inflatable blue shark seen on the episode as their son's toy.
In mid-November, Huang and Weihong sued Wong, Sotheby's and Ewing Realty Group, alleging breach of contract, not acting fairly or in good faith, breach of fiduciary duty, trespassing, removing the missing paintings, negligent misrepresentation, negligence and intentional conflict and emotional distress.
The Kardashians are not named in the suit. Neither is Fridman, the other agent, who did not respond to requests for comment.
The suit also alleges invasion of privacy, including public disclosure of private facts. The interior of the home is a private fact, according to the suit, disclosed to nearly 2 million people worldwide — plus everyone who watches it on a rerun.
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"Defendants' acts caused severe humiliation, embarrassment, mental anguish and severe emotional distress," the suit alleges.
The other side has not commented on whether the house shown on the "All that Jazzzzzzz" episode is the one owned by the couple. However, the Kardashians said in the episode that the house was next door to theirs, and other reports— including a Redfin real estate blog post and Perez Hilton — note that Kourtney Kardashian did live in a neighboring home.
Huang and Wiehong are asking that a jury determine what's fair regarding damages.
"We have asked for a jury trial, to determine money damages owed to plaintiffs, and to expose this type of conduct and deter it from happening to others," Kelly said.