San Pablo

Entire San Pablo Apartment Building Faces Eviction After State Moratorium Ends

The landlord told tenants he needs to empty the building to make major renovations. Now, the tenants are imploring the San Pablo City Council to pass a local eviction moratorium like other nearby cities.

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As the pandemic rages on, eviction protections have dried up for millions of Californians, including the longtime residents of a San Pablo apartment complex now being kicked out by their new landlord who says he needs to renovate the building.

In December, tenants received eviction notices stating they had to be gone by January 15 because their units needed major repairs.

But the tenants and their attorney say the landlord is using a legal loophole to get them out, so he can bring in new tenants willing to pay market rate rent.

“I think the reason is that we all leave so they can raise the rent to the new people that move here,” said Anita Mendoza, who’s called the building home for 28 years and raised her daughter there.

Mendoza’s rent is cheap since she’s lived there for so long, and a recent state law caps annual increases at her building.

Tenants say the landlord offered them a deal: Move back in when the renovations are complete and pay $1,500 for a one-bedroom apartment or $2,000 for a two bedroom.

That’s more than three times what Mendoza and her neighbor, Maria Diaz, currently pay.

“I could pay a little bit more, but not that much,” Diaz said. “I think he’s asking too much at once.”

California’s Tenant Protection Act of 2019 allows landlords to issue no-fault eviction notices if units need major repairs. But tenant advocates say landlords have been exploiting the "substantial rehabilitation" provision to empty units of rent-controlled tenants, remodel, and reset the rent to market rates.  

“What he wants to do is terminate their tenancy so he can jack up the rent,” said Leah Simon-Weisberg, Legal Director for the ACCE Institute, who’s representing the tenants in the eviction.

Weisberg said substantial rehabilitation evictions are meant to cover situations where a unit is unsafe or uninhabitable, not standard renovations.

“What we are seeing is these kinds of evictions all over the state,” Weisberg said.

The building’s landlord has not responded to a message left at his business on Monday.

The tenants say it’s not the first time he’s tried evicting them.

They say he tried once before just after buying the building in 2019. Some tenants left after getting the notices, but the ones who stayed managed to fight the evictions.

Then the pandemic hit, buying them more time thanks to state and county eviction moratoriums. But those protections expired in October. Unlike cities such as San Francisco, Oakland, and Richmond, where tenants are still shielded from most evictions, San Pablo never passed its own ordinance.

“We need protections, so we don’t end up in the streets,” Diaz said.

The San Pablo City Council is expected to discuss new potential tenant protections at Tuesday night’s meeting.

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