[Hpn] This is the face of eviction?

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Tue, 05 Jun 2001 14:57:09 -0700


http://www0.mercurycenter.com:80/premium/local/docs/rodriguez05f.htm

Unlikely candidate for eviction nevertheless gets the boot

Published Tuesday, June 5, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News
BY JOE RODRIGUEZ 
Mercury News 

Landlords don't evict good tenants in San Jose. Good renters don't lose
their homes in Silicon Valley. There is no rental crisis here.

That's what the landlord lobby wants us to believe, and its strongest
argument is the oldest bureaucratic trick in the book: There is no proof of
a problem.

``We don't see any evidence of widespread abuse,'' a spokesman for the
Tri-Country Apartment Association said the other day.

Of course, he's right, but for the wrong reason. The evidence doesn't exist
because no government agency or legal authority tracks evictions and causes.

If they did, Linora Casarez might not have lost her affordable home.

``I asked my landlord, why? Did I do anything wrong?''

She had received a 30-day notice last March to vacate after five years in
her two-bedroom, rent-controlled apartment in southwest San Jose.

As usual, we note that San Jose has price controls for most apartments built
before 1980, including hers. However, even that law isn't strong enough to
stop unexplained evictions. Her landlord was free to raise the rent to
whatever price the market could bear when Casarez left.

I couldn't reach the landlord, so we'll never know if the reason was greed
in a hot rental market or if the landlord actually had a good reason for
kicking Casarez out.

``She just told me she needed the apartment back,'' Casarez said. ``Then she
turned away from me and kept walking.''

I'm sure there are destructive, malicious and rotten tenants in San Jose who
deserve to be evicted and banished to the Central Valley. I'm equally sure
that good tenants outnumber the bad ones 10 to 1, or 100 to 1, or 1,000 to
1.

I think Linora Casarez would be a safe bet as a tenant.

Her employment reference is, well, as authoritative as they get. She has
worked for the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office for about four
years. In fact, she was recently promoted to accounting clerk.

Born and raised in San Jose, Casarez has a long list of personal references.
I called one of them, Gil Villagran. He's a spokesman for the county's
social services department and member of various city commissions. I've
known him for 10 years.

``She's a good person,'' Villagran said. ``Linora works hard, really hard,
and being evicted was devastating to her.''

Casarez was paying $1,009 a month for her rent-controlled apartment, which I
think was a fair rent for a working woman supporting a son in college and a
daughter in middle school.

Casarez hasn't been totally unlucky. She eventually found a place for $1,710
a month from an affordable-housing group.

Even so, she said, ``It makes it harder to save enough to buy my own
house.''

The landlord lobby is fighting a law proposed in San Jose by a coalition for
tenants' rights. It would protect renters by setting valid reasons for
eviction, such as destruction of property, drug dealing or specific
violations of lease agreements. And it would require landlords to explain
these reasons in writing.

As expected, the landlord lobby says it would become impossible to evict bad
tenants, that legal fees would bankrupt landlords, that landlords shouldn't
bear the burden of proof.

They've got to be kidding. Landlords enjoy overwhelming legal advantages
today and the money to argue their cases. A just-cause eviction law would
only level the playing field.

Oh, here's something else we should know about Linora Casarez: While she was
facing unexplained eviction, she volunteered to wash clothes and answer
phones at a homeless shelter.

``A friend and I had already committed to doing it, and I felt I had to give
something back to my community whether I was going through a hard time or
not.''

This is the face of eviction?

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Contact Joe Rodriguez at jrodriguez@sjmercury.com or (408) 920-5767.

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