Over 200,000 California Tenants Directly Affected By Foreclosure

by Gabe Treves on May 18, 2010

Tenants Together, California’s statewide organization for renters’ rights, released its new 2010 Report: California Tenants in the Foreclosure Crisis today. The report, a follow-up to Tenants Together’s 2009 tenant foreclosure report, highlights recent foreclosure-related developments affecting tenants, quantifies the impact of home foreclosures on tenants in 2009 at the state and county level, and makes recommendations to strengthen protections for tenants in foreclosure situations.

Tenants Together conservatively estimates that at least 37% of residential units in foreclosure in California were rentals, directly affecting over 200,000 tenants- most of whom were displaced. The report quantifies the impact of the foreclosure crisis on a county-by-county level. The report’s research is based on California property records for every foreclosure in 2009.

The report concludes that while the largest percentage of renter-occupied foreclosed properties were single-family homes, the percentage of renter-occupied, multi-unit buildings is growing at a faster pace. This trend is likely to increase as more loan modification programs target owner-occupied properties (which are primarily single-family homes and condominiums), while multi-unit rental properties continue to fall by the wayside and into foreclosure.

Since Tenants Together’s 2009 report was issued, the most significant develop for tenants in foreclosure situations has been the enactment of the federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act. The new federal law increased the eviction notice period for tenants to 90 days, assured that existing leases survive foreclosure, and clarified that banks and other post-foreclosure owners of property step into the shoes of the pre-foreclosure owner and have the obligations of landlords. The report concludes that while the new federal law is a step in the right direction, it comes short of providing long-term security for tenants and has been mired by implementation problems arising from banks’ non-compliance with the Act.

According to Gabe Treves, Program Coordinator at Tenants Together and author of the 2010 report, “tenants are innocent and hidden victims of a foreclosure crisis they did nothing to create. As this report shows, the unfair and unnecessary displacement at tenants at the hands of banks is affecting communities across the state at a devastating scale.”

Tenants Together is in a unique position to report on the human impact of the foreclosure crisis on renters. The organization operates California’s only hotline exclusively for tenants in foreclosure situations. California tenants can reach the Tenant Foreclosure Hotline toll free at 1-888-495-8020 or submit an online intake form at www.tenantstogether.org/hotlineintake to get a call back from a counselor.

Once again, Tenants Together concludes its annual report with checklist of recommended action to mitigate the impact of the foreclosure crisis on tenants. Among the various proposals, the report notes that ‘just cause for eviction’ laws are a particularly effective and cost-free way to stop the unjust displacement of innocent renters after foreclosure and provide stability to the community at large.

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