Oakland owners send hundreds of eviction notices for non-payment despite city moratorium – NBC Bay Area

Oakland landlords have sent hundreds of eviction notices to tenants during the pandemic, despite the city’s current moratorium prohibiting most evictions, according to records obtained by the NBC Bay Area investigative unit.

These records show that Oakland landlords served at least 482 eviction notices for non-payment of rent with the Oakland Rent Adjustment Program in the eight months following the passage of the moratorium on evictions from city ​​on March 27, 2020. Data goes up to the end of November 2020, so it’s unclear how many notices have been served since then.

Although the city’s database does not name the owner of every eviction notice, NBC Bay Area used Alameda County assessor’s records and California Secretary of State’s business records to trace reviews to their source.

Analysis showed that nearly a third of those reviews came from a single owner: Madison Park Financial, run by prominent Oakland real estate developer John Protopappas.

Madison Park has served 150 eviction notices for non-payment of rent since the city’s moratorium on evictions was passed.

“They want to harass people and intimidate people into believing that they have to pay them all the money or sign up to a payment plan,” said Madison Park tenant Lili Thomas-Brumme. “It’s exhausting and maddening.”

Thomas-Brumme, set designer for commercial and film productions, said she fell behind on rent when much of her income dried up during the pandemic.

She lives in Vulcan Lofts in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland, which has been the subject of at least 42 eviction notices since last April, the largest number of buildings in town. All of these notices have arrived since September.

“At first they kind of showed up at my doorstep,” Thomas-Brumme said. “And then there was one, I think, stuck to the door a day later. And then maybe a week later I got one in the mail as well.

Despite the moratorium, a city spokesperson said it was not illegal for a landlord to send an eviction notice, but encouraged tenants who receive such a notice to contact the adjustment program of city rents.

“There will inevitably be property managers who will make mistakes – some in good faith and others intentionally; we want the community to know that in most situations there are options and that they don’t need to immediately leave their homes, ”city spokeswoman Autumn King said in an e- mail. “Tenants who receive an eviction notice should contact a RAP Housing Advisor at 510-238-3721. “

King added that the city sends notices informing tenants of their rights to anyone who receives an eviction notice.

While the moratorium on evictions does not specifically make it illegal for a landlord to serve an eviction notice, it could potentially be a violation of the city’s tenant protection ordinance, which states that a landlord cannot. not, in bad faith, “misrepresent a tenant that there is a requirement to leave a rental unit or to induce a tenant to leave a rental unit by making false statements or concealing material facts.

Leah Simon-Weisberg, legal director of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, said a large company like Madison Park should have known better. While the notices cannot be used to prosecute an eviction in court, she is concerned that they may influence tenants to pay money that they are not currently required to pay.

“People will do things they don’t need to do,” Weisberg said.

“We hear from many tenants taking out payday loans… families choosing between food and rent. “

Madison Park declined a request for an interview from NBC Bay Area, but said through an attorney that the company had sent out the 15-day leave or dismissal notices in accordance with the wide eviction moratorium. of the State of California which came into effect in September.

“These are opinions that have been issued in accordance with AB 3088,” said lawyer Servando Sandoval.

“Madison had no intention of pursuing an eviction for non-payment of rent. Madison was simply issuing the 15 day notices to meet the requirements of AB 3088. “

City data shows eviction notices increased across the city after AB 3088 came into effect last September.

Between April 1 and August 31 of last year, landlords served 132 eviction notices for non-payment of rent. But in the three months since this new state law was passed, landlords served 350 eviction notices for non-payment of rent.

However, the Oakland City Attorney’s Office says the statewide moratorium has little impact on Oakland’s much stricter eviction protections, and tenants’ attorneys say ‘they believe Madison Park’s opinions are inaccurate and misleading.

While the Oakland moratorium is in effect, tenants are under no obligation to sign a declaration or provide proof that they are financially affected by the pandemic to stay in their homes when they cannot pay rent.

However, that’s what Madison Park’s notices told tenants they needed to do, according to a copy of one such notice sent by Sandoval.

“Within fifteen days of the date of service of this Notice, excluding weekends and public holidays, you are required: a) to pay said rent, or in the alternative, b) to vacate and return possession of said premises, or in the alternative, c) deliver a signed declaration of financial distress related to COVID-19, and the documentation thereof, if applicable, to the owner… ”, indicate the notices.

Madison Park tenant says the patchwork of eviction protections is confusing.

“There is a lot of confusion,” said tenant Jean Cadwell. “What law do we follow?

“Madison Park tells us it is state law when we know it is not correct.”

In December, a Madison Park tenants group organized as the Madison Park Tenants Council sent a letter to the company asking it to stop serving notices – which the company agreed to do in a response letter dated December 30.

“Since these formal notices appeared to be of concern to residents, in the future and during the duration of the local emergency, management will simply send monthly reminders of the accumulated balances to each household,” the letter from Madison Park reads.

Cadwell called it a victory for the Madison Park Tenants Council and said tenants across town should consider organizing.

“They want the tenant to self-evict,” Cadwell said. “And the only way to fight this is to form a tenants union and stick together as tenants. Your landlord has a team, you need a team too.

Despite frustrations that some landlords continue to send eviction notices, tenant advocates and city officials say data shows the city’s moratorium is working. In the month before the city’s moratorium came into effect, Oakland landlords filed over 450 eviction notices with the Rent Adjustment Program, almost the same number of notices served on tenants. during the eight months following the adoption of the moratorium.

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