California Tenants Experience Suspicious Evictions Before New Law Goes Into Effect

California Tenants Experience Suspicious Evictions Before New Law Goes Into Effect
A "For Rent" sign is seen on a building Hollywood, Calif., on May 11, 2016. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
Chris Karr

A number of evictions across the state have raised concerns for tenants who might be adversely affected by a new law that goes into effect on January 1.

While the Tenant Protection Act of 2019 is intended to stay true to its title, the evictions of renters in areas like Salinas, Capitola, and Watsonville have prompted questions about whether some landlords are attempting to skirt the new regulations on rent increases by getting ahead of it.

“This is unfair and it’s very suspicious,” Sabino Lopez, the deputy director for the Center for Community Advocacy in Salinas, told The Epoch Times. “They want to evict them because they want to increase the rent.”

Watsonville, Los Angeles, Menlo Park, Daly City, and Capitola are a few cities that have recently adopted a temporary hold on evictions in order to try to protect renters.

“We were approached by a couple of local families that had been renting properties here in Watsonville that were being evicted from their units,” Matt Huffaker, the city manager for Watsonville, told The Epoch Times. “And we suspected that it was done in anticipation of the upcoming changes around eviction rights.”

Huffaker confirmed that the city council moved forward with putting new policies in place as a means of protecting citizens in that position. This action was taken after a number of reports emerged of residents being evicted or experiencing rate hikes in other cities.

“We just wanted to ensure that there was a level playing field for both our tenants and our landlords—in particular, those that are really wanting to move forward with making major improvements to their facilities,” said Huffaker.

A Salinas tenant named Eufemia Aguilar is trying to come to terms with this exact scenario, reported CalMatters.

Aguilar, a garlic peeler who has resided in the same two-bedroom apartment on North Sanborn Road for nearly a decade, received a 60-day notice informing her that she and her family must vacate the premises no later than the first of the year.

According to Cal Property Management, which manages Aguilar’s apartment building, the eviction is unfortunate but necessary.

“The building that Eufemia [Aguilar] is in is 44 years old,” Carrie Appling, the Owner/Broker of Cal Property Management, told The Epoch Times. “And the reason [she and a neighbor] were evicted—pursuant to the proper noticing and within the state of California guidelines and before any emergency ordinance had been placed—[is] we have to completely redo the piping inside that whole entire unit.”

Appling indicated that their attempt to make repairs in phases—including changing the stove, floor, and bathtubs, among other thing—proved to be an insufficient approach.

“We have to get in between the two units, unfortunately,” she said. “And I can’t do this work when she’s in it.”

Appling clarified that the eviction was not “a response to SB 1482, as a lot of people think they were.”

“We get painted in the press as the big bad landlord who has all the money and that’s sometimes very far from the truth,” she added. “Landlords are not all big corporations with huge deep pockets. They’re individual people.”

Advocates for tenants in Aguilar’s position questioned if the landlord or management company could provide some kind of assistance for tenants who are evicted without having committed any violations.

“Why don’t they pay a month’s relocation or send them to the hotel—at least for a few weeks or days?” Sabino asked.

“We put in a letter to [the tenants] that they can look at any of the listings we have to help them find other housing,” Appling said. “We represent many different owners and we advertise places for rent ... that they can apply for. I haven’t got one application from any of those tenants.”

Huffaker said that the best practice is to make improvements in such a way that doesn’t displace tenants, but that can’t always be avoided.

“That’s not always possible, depending upon what type of improvements need to be made,” he said. “But whenever feasible, we always encourage landlords and property owners to try to coordinate their projects in a way that tenants can stay in place.”

According to Appling, the need for major improvements in the Salinas property has downsides for both parties.

“As property managers, our business is to fill units, to rent them,” she said. “That’s how we get paid. So we are not in the business of kicking tenants out. That’s not what we want to do.”

Chris Karr is a California-based reporter for the The Epoch Times. He has been writing for 20 years. His articles, features, reviews, interviews, and essays have been published in a variety of online periodicals.
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