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Council vote gives tenants more time

DJ Becker/Madera Tribune File Photo

Residents of Laguna Knolls Apartments gather to speak with Madera City Councilman Santos Garcia, center right. Most residents of the 46-apartment complex were shocked when they found 60-day notices on their doors, an action that could displace between 200 to 250 residents. A temporary emergency ordinance passed Wednesday night, prohibiting owners of multi-unit apartment complexes from evicting tenants without due cause until the new State Assembly Bill 1482 begins next year.


But renters still aren’t out of the woods

The Madera City Council unanimously passed a temporary, emergency ordinance Wednesday night which would prohibit owners of multi-unit apartment complexes evicting tenants without due cause, until the new California State Assembly Bill 1482, the Tenant Protection Act, becomes law on Jan. 1.

AB 1482 also seeks to limit rent increases and prevent the turnover of long-term tenants of multi-unit apartment buildings or complexes, and has been blamed for a rash of recent, no-cause evictions by large landlords seeking to beat the rent-control cap date and other tenant protections imposed by the new state law.

Confusion remains but residents of Laguna Knolls in Madera may have been granted a month or two of reprieve as a result of the temporary city ordinance, but they still face an uncertain future if the new owner of the complex is intent on displacing them.

Any resident at the complex with a month-to-month lease was served a 60-day notice on Oct. 25, which meant they would face eviction shortly after Christmas.

About 60 to 70 residents of Laguna Knolls again packed the council chambers, and the overflow area at City Hall to share the hardships they are facing in finding other affordable housing in Madera, some saying they have no place to go, and to plead with the city council for the ordinance to temporarily ban the no-fault evictions.

The older complex, located in the 500 block of South Madera Avenue, had originally been built as townhouses and contains 46 two- and three- bedroom units, and has long been the subject of complaints of code violations, rat infestations, mold and other serious substandard conditions by residents there.

The property had recently been purchased by an investor in the Los Angeles area, who had replaced the leaking roof and was making other repairs.

Residents said communications with the property manager had broken down and become acrimonious, with visiting news crews being thrown off the complex, and vocal residents being singled out and targeted.

Baldwin Moy, lead attorney for the Madera California Rural Legal Assistance office, said given the newly effective city ordinance passed Wednesday, he considered the 60-day notices served at Laguna Knolls to now be defective and not valid.

“Landlords now have to state a just cause to serve a 60-day notice, and in this case that was not done,” Moy said. “However, tenants are not out of the woods yet — they still have to pay rent on time or they could be served a 3-day notice to quit, which would be a valid reason for their eviction.”

Moy said the whole situation could have been handled better to minimize disruption to the tenants and characterized the new city ordinance as a stop-gap measure, potentially getting another month or two for the tenants, if the tenants choose to fight their pending removal.

Moy also said that this ordinance does not allow tenants to remain permanently. This landlord can challenge this city ordinance in court, or can still serve new 60-day notices with actual reasons for their removal, especially if the owner is making substantial renovations to the property.

However, under a new eviction notice and the application of AB 1482, Moy said tenants might be able to file for and obtain a month’s rent or other relocation assistance from the landlord.

“Tenants with questions about this (eviction process) should come and see us (at the California Rural Legal Assistance office) so they can know their rights under this new state law. But that previous October, 60-day notice is now ineffective,” Moy said.

The new AB 1482 bill is complex, Moy said, but it does not generally apply to single-family residential rental properties owned by private individuals.

The local office of California Rural Legal Assistance is located at 126 N. D Street, in Madera.

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