Pictured: Angelina Soll, with her 9-month-old baby, Jasper, stands in front of their home in Midtown Ventura, in a building where all tenants have been given 90-day notices to move out. Photo by Jesse Soll (Note: online correction notes nine month old baby and 90 day notice)

by Kimberly Rivers

krivers@timespublications.com

“On Oct. 15, my husband and I received our eviction notice that we had 60 days to vacate the property,” said Lauren Smith. She and her husband have lived in the Midtown Ventura apartment for 14 years. There are five units in the building, and a big fig tree in front. They like the spot and consider it home. “It is incredible, of course we were very surprised to get this notice. We’ve never had any problem, never been late on our rent. No problem with our neighbors.”

She then heard about eviction notices in the entire building across the street and believes it is related to AB1482, the new legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 8. While the law doesn’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2020, it may be having some unintended consequences leading landlords to issue eviction notices ahead of the law taking effect.

“It is meant to protect renters like us . . . in older buildings, older than 15 years. Basically, right now, a landlord can evict a tenant for no reason at all, no just cause . . . they just give 60 days’ notice,” said Smith. “What we think is happening, is that a lot of landlords are getting rid of their tenants, then have a vacant place, then going to jack up the rents to go into 2020 with a much brighter outlook.”  

According to Angelina Soll, all the tenants in her building at 1313 Buena Vista, across from Smith, have received 90-day notices. It is a 100-year-old building, and it does need work done on it, including fixing code violations from the City of Ventura. But Soll thinks the timing is not coincidental. (Note: online correction Nov. 14, the Soll’s received a 90 day notice, original story stated it was 60 days). 

“I don’t dispute that work needs to be done . . . they are supposed to have all the permits in place [for the required work] before asking us to leave,” Soll said, noting that the new law is likely compelling the landlord to issue the “termination of tenancy” notices they’ve received before they should, because the building will be empty and new tenants can be charged higher rent.

Neither the property owner (attempted contact through Oaktree Property Investments and Management) of 1313 Buena Vista nor Oaktree Property Management, which oversees the property, responded to requests for comment.

Soll and her husband, Jesse, have a 6-month-old baby and a 12-year-old dog. “The dog complicates things a bit . . . So many pets are being abandoned in shelters,” because people can’t find rentals where pets are allowed. She claimed one person in her building who has found a place to move had to give up their cat.

“The market is really, really rotten,” said Soll, whose husband recently resumed work after being unemployed for a year. “We both have student loans.” Their current rent is $1350 and she doesn’t think they will be able to find a one-bedroom apartment that allows a dog in that price range. “We are in a state of panic. We’ve looked at a couple of places but are avoiding property management companies because they don’t allow pets.” (Note: online correction Nov. 14, original story incorrectly stated Soll’s husband was unemployed for “a few years.” Story has been corrected to state he was unemployed for a year.)

Smith said she saw that the city of Los Angeles just approved “a moratorium on all evictions, to protect everyone ’til the end of the year. I have no idea if they would ever do anything like that here. We are really bummed and are trying to figure it out.”

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles city council voted 14-0 on an emergency moratorium on evictions through the end of the year to protect tenants until AB1482 goes into effect. (Khoury, Andrew, LA Times, Oct. 22, 2019, “New L.A. ordinance slaps moratorium on evictions ahead of Jan. 1.”)

Smith said her landlord, a local general contractor, is planning renovations. “We told him we could move out, put our stuff in storage . . . and move back in, paying more rent . . . he said he might be having a family member move in.” According to Smith, her landlord was saying things that were allowed within the law. But the timing just doesn’t fit. “I know life is unfair sometimes, but this just seems kind of wrong.”

Nancy Swanson, 64, who lives off of Ventura Avenue, has also received an eviction notice. “I’ve lived here six years, and loved this house like I’ve owned it. It’s an older house; you know the saying you can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig? Well, that’s what I did — made it cute and made it mine.” She has a couple of dogs and a big backyard, and just went on disability in August. Since the Thomas Fire there has been a rat problem, but she thinks that is common now in the neighborhood. Her rent is $1750 for the small two-bedroom bungalow built in 1920. She was handed the eviction notice at her front door, by someone she’s never met.

Another tenant on her street recently was evicted, and she says a couple of families on the next street over have also received eviction notices.

“It’s motivated by the January rent control [law], I know that it is,” she said. “It is motivated by greed, making money. They want to get me out of here . . . so they can spruce it up a little bit.” She said she expected a rent increase, and was ready for it. “I thought it would be fair. I didn’t expect to be forced out.”

Swanson, like Smith, was willing to pay more in rent, but both believe that with the pending law, it makes more sense for the landlord to have new tenants move in at a higher base rent amount.

“It would be great if our elected people here might do that,” said Swanson, referring to the Los Angeles moratorium on evictions. “There are others living paycheck to paycheck. People who don’t have money to spare,” and when you have to move, “it’s first and last [month’s rent], plus security . . . that’s thousands of dollars, even for me it’s going to take more than two months to collect up.”

The Tenant Protection Act of 2019

The Tenant Protection Act of 2019, AB1482, creates protections for tenants in buildings that are older than 15 years and owned by corporations. The big changes are that “no fault” evictions will no longer be allowed and rent increases are capped at five percent in most cases, but are never to exceed 10 percent. Examples of cause that must be shown in order to evict someone include failure to pay rent, damaging the property and using the property for illegal purposes (www.acceaction.org/ab1482knowyourrights).

Protections start Jan. 1, 2020, but the law includes a provision that applies to all rent increases received between March 25, 2019 and Jan. 1, 2020. Those increases must comply with the new law and landlords have until Jan. 1, 2020 to reduce any rent increases that exceed the cap.

The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment has a tenant hotline (888-428-7615) for assisting those who have received eviction notices and/or rent increases.