by Sam Levin
Last night, the Richmond City Council voted unanimously to pass Just Cause eviction legislation for foreclosed properties making it the second city in California to pass an ordinance involving tenant evictions in bank-owned properties. While several cities, like Oakland, have Just Cause ordinances, Los Angeles and now Richmond are the only two cities in the state with specific legislation designed to protect tenants in foreclosed properties. Several Richmond groups including Contra Costa Faith Works and Richmond ACORN have been lobbying for this measure for three years and only recently in March got the attention of Councilman Jeff Ritterman who brought the legislation to the table.
This protective measure could be particularly useful in Richmond where renters make up about 50 percent of the population. When property owners are foreclosed upon, what often happens is that renters even if they have been paying their bills on time are forced to vacate as well. This new legislation would make those kinds of evictions illegal.
"I think it will have an immediate impact," said Maria Alegria, executive director of Contra Costa Faith Works. "It sends the message to banks that renters are not going to put up with this. It is an important political statement."
One drawback, however, is that the ordinance doesn't stipulate any major consequences for banks should they continue these evictions that are now illegal. Because of this, Alegria said, educational outreach is the next essential step so that tenants are aware that they have this protection.
While Richmond's measure will in no way slow the foreclosure crisis, supporters said it's a useful legal tool for the tenants fighting foreclosure.