Saturday, May 2, 2009

Tenants and the Legislature

There are not one, but two pieces of tenant legislation worthy of your attention. The first, AB 603, would extend the moratorium on tenant evictions passed in Los Angeles to all tenant-occupied properties in the state. This would mean that tenants whose landlords were foreclosed would be able to stay in the property for up to a year after foreclosure. This makes sense, as many lenders just empty the building after a foreclosure and then leave it to deteriorate until they--some day--get around to selling it. Tenants would be protected from eviction so long as they paid the rent, didn't breach the lease and didn't trash the place. The only other "just cause" for eviction would be eviction so that a new owner could occupy the premises. The Consumer Federation of California has an excellent piece on the legislation, which you can read here.

The second bill is SB 120, which would do two things: it would make clear to lenders that they cannot "encourage" tenants to move by changing the locks or cutting off the landlord-provided utilities to the property, and it would make clear that lenders are responsible for returning security deposits to tenants who move or are evicted as a result of foreclosure. You can read more on this legislation here.

And having read about the legislation, you should now let your State Senator and Assembly Member know that these bills are important to you and that you want to see them passed. (SB 120 has already passed the Senate.) Amazingly, the mortgage brokers have huge influence with the State Legislature, even though all but the dumbest of our representatives must know that mortgage brokers bear major responsibility for our current crisis. But the mortgage brokers have lots of money and they spread it around liberally.

It is particularly important for those of us who live in communities without rent control and just cause eviction to let our legislators know of the importance of protecting tenants. Tenants in the regions where tenants are treated as second-class citizens have largely been ignored by local legislators and many of our representatives may have conveniently forgotten that we exist. If you need to find out who your State Legislators are, go here.

I guess, though, that we should be happy that we're not in Missouri. There legislation gives tenants a whole 10 days notice.

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