Antioch councilors say tenants harassed, risk eviction, want new protection orders

Antioch District 1 City Councilor Tamisha Torres-Walker speaks as Pro Mayor Tem Monica Wilson (far right) and others, including representatives from the Contra Costa County section of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, listen to the press conference on Tuesday, October 12, 2021. Photo from his official Facebook page.

Hold a press conference to ask Mayor Thorpe to place tenant anti-harassment and justify eviction policies on neagenda of the xt meeting; do not invite local media; advice mthe embers and the mayor refuse to answer questions about the proposals

By Allen Payton

On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, Antioch Pro Tem Mayor Monica Wilson and District 1 City Councilor Tamisha Torres-Walker held a press conference to highlight allegations that tenants in Antioch are being harassed by their landlords and threatened. eviction, and called on Mayor Lamar Thorpe to place both anti-harassment and just cause for eviction orders on the agenda for the next council meeting. The councilors did not invite local media to attend.

A KTVU FOX2 news article from the press conference reports that “they were joined by members of the Contra Costa County Chapter of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, who campaigned for similar orders against harassment of tenants in other cities “. A similar anti-harassment ordinance was passed by Los Angeles City Council in June. According to the ordinance, “the violation of the ordinance may be either a criminal offense (up to 6 months in prison or a fine of $ 1,000 for each offense), or a civil offense (damages, reimbursement of rent). for reduction of housing services, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, fine of up to $ 10,000 per violation or tenant move) ”.

Tenant protections against eviction, rent increases and late fees ended in Contra Costa County on September 30. The supervisory board decided by a vote of 2 to 3 not to extend the protections. (See related article)

State protections also ended on September 30.

KTVU also reported that Thorpe said, “I am personally concerned about the harassment of tenants in Antioch, especially during the pandemic, so conceptually I agree with these protections.”

On his official Facebook page on October 12, Torres-Walker posted the following statement on the effort with photos from the press conference, including three people who spoke, in addition to the two advisers.

“Antioch had the highest eviction rate of any Bay Area city during the pandemic, and researchers predict it will likely be a hotspot for evictions after the moratorium on evictions is lifted. statewide. Unfortunately, the highest concentration of evictions in Antioch was in District 1.

In September, I called for an anti-displacement policy to be presented to council for immediate action as state and county-wide moratoria came to an end and tenants threatened with eviction. called, as city leaders, to do something. I was honored to have the support of Pro-Mayor Monica Wilson who seconded this request last month stating that she also wanted to see policies regarding anti-landlord harassment and just cause evictions in front of council.

In July, I met over 20 residents of River Town [sic] who were threatened with deportation and devastated by the future of their families. I met even more residents of the community of Sycamore who had the same concerns that their families would end up on the streets.

The government assistance that has been promised to reconcile tenants and landlords has been slow to get to the ground, slow to meet needs, and the moratoria have only been a band-aid for a larger problem regarding access to property. housing and affordability in the area.

Proposed policies:

Harassment Ordinance

An anti-harassment ordinance defines certain bad faith behavior by owners as unlawful harassment. Tenants can then assert their rights against landlords who engage in these behaviors. Harassment can include lack of repairs, a landlord not taking care during construction or other repairs, discriminatory behavior such as sexual harassment, racial discrimination or discrimination based on disability, a landlord threatening to report the tenants to immigration authorities, a landlord threatening violence and other behaviors designed to make tenants’ lives more difficult or cause them to leave their accommodation. If a tenant wins in court, their landlord will pay damages and attorney fees.

Harassment of tenants is a way for some landlords to circumvent other legal protections for tenants. When some landlords can’t legally evict a tenant to raise the rent, they instead harass the tenant until they have no choice but to move out. This makes the existing protections for tenants less effective.

An anti-harassment ordinance removes the financial incentive for harassment by adding penalties for wrongdoing owners. Landlords who don’t harass tenants don’t have to worry about the anti-harassment order because they won’t need to change their behavior to comply with it. Instead, an anti-harassment ordinance promotes neighborhood stability and safe, healthy housing.

Just Cause Supplements

Tenants also need effective eviction protections to stay in their homes. The statewide Fair Grounds for Eviction Act, AB 1482, contains several eviction loopholes that allow landlords to evict tenants for “no-fault” reasons and then re-let the property. unit at a higher rent after tenants have been evicted. To prevent unscrupulous actors from using these “building clearance” loopholes, a city can adopt a supplement for “just cause”.

“No-fault” evictions can happen to tenants who pay their rent and honor their lease. “Substantial renovation” and “removal from the rental market” are examples of two types of “no-fault” evictions which, unless regulated, can result in tenant displacement.

Under the substantial renovations loophole, a landlord can evict a tenant under state law to renovate their unit, and the tenant has no right of return. On the other hand, as part of a local just cause supplement, a tenant may not be forced to move temporarily, once the owner has obtained all the necessary building permits, and may return to the same amount of rent once. repairs made.

Likewise, under the “takedown” loophole, state law allows a landlord to evict a tenant to remove a property from the rental market for an indefinite period. But under a local just cause order designed to prevent unfair evictions, the move must be long-term (ten years), give the tenant extra notice, and allow the tenant to return to the same rent if the property is re-let. .

These “building clearance” loopholes, when used by unscrupulous actors, can endanger entire neighborhoods. However, loopholes can be easily closed under an order to stop evictions under pretext and prevent displacement. “

QuEstions for councilors, mayor

Questions were sent to councilors and the mayor early Friday morning to find out which landlords are harassing tenants? In apartments or single-family residences? How many and which tenants have been or are being harassed? What do we mean by harassment? Demand that they pay their rent or risk eviction? Or was their rent increased or late fees assessed illegally until September 30, when the county’s protections for tenants ended? Did any of you, including Mayor Thorpe, speak with any of the owners to get their side of the story? Was the fact that tenants couldn’t pay their rent or some other reason tenants were threatened with eviction related to COVID?

In response to Torres-Walker’s Facebook post, other questions were asked, including: What can the city of Antioch actually do to enforce such an ordinance? Can a common law city like Antioch pass and enforce a just cause eviction ordinance (like Los Angeles, which is a charter city)? Do you have a sample that you can provide? Will the city sue the landlord or help the tenant sue their landlord? Can the city fine the owner?

Additionally, on Saturday night, questions were posted under the photos on Torres-Walker’s Facebook post, asking who the others spoke at the press conference and appear in the photos and what have they said.

Thorpe responded on Friday morning, but only with “Please remove me from this discussion.” This press conference was organized by these two members of the Council, not by me. They have requested that these items go to council, so let’s be aware of Brown’s Law.

The same questions were then immediately returned to just the two councilors, and a separate email was sent to the mayor.

The questions were returned, again early Sunday morning, October 17, to councilors and the mayor, in two separate emails. By Sunday night, none of the three had answered questions from the Herald.

Please check back for any updates to this report later.

the attachments to this post:

Torres-Walker speaks at a press conference. 10-12-21

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