April 19, 2019
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San Jose Tenants File Lawsuit for Fraudulent Owner Move-In
On the two-year anniversary of the Tenant Protection Ordinance, residents sue over illegal evictions
San Jose, CA — Four families that used to live in a rent-controlled four-plex in San Jose filed a lawsuit against their former landlord for harassment and illegal eviction.
The four tenant households, all of whom are Latino, called the building home for several years, some for as long as 15 years. The building owner issued 60-day notices to the tenants in May 2018, asserting that she planned to move family members into the apartment, which is permissible under the Tenant Protection Ordinance. The landlord then repeatedly visited the tenants’ apartments unannounced, demanding they let her in and demanding to know when they would move out.
“The Tenant Protection Ordinance has been one of the most important tools to stop low-income families from being displaced from San Jose,” said Nadia Aziz, Interim Directing Attorney at the Law Foundation. “Landlords must be held accountable when they fraudulently and unlawfully violate this law by making up reasons to evict tenants just to raise rents.”
The lawsuit outlines the allegations of the landlord’s dishonest behavior and ulterior motives in order to kick the tenants out of their rent-controlled homes. An investigation by the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley found that, in clear contrast to the eviction notices, no relatives had moved into the building nearly eight months later, in violation of the Tenant Protection Ordinance. Now, the landlord is charging new tenants upward of $1,000 more in rent than previous tenants were charged.
“It wasn’t fair because she isn’t respecting the law,” said Rene Castro, one of the tenants whose family was evicted. “That’s why the City of San Jose made the law—to be respected. As landlords have rules, tenants have rules too and both have to follow it. Until now, if something isn’t done to stop this, just like she is doing this to us, it will be done to others.”
The San Jose Tenant Protection Ordinance was approved on April 18, 2017, and enacted on May 9, 2017, with the purpose of creating a fair and stable residential rental market in San Jose. This law helps protect tenants from unlawful evictions and allows tenants to bring lawsuits when landlords fraudulently abuse the law.
“We lived there for 15 years and the new owner just showed up with an eviction notice–I had never met her before. We didn’t have time to realize what was happening,” said Alejandra Ruiz, one of the tenants. “The eviction destabilized us. It’s my house, it was my community and the place where my daughters grew up. It was not fair. It was my home. Even if I rented, it was my home.”
About Law Foundation of Silicon Valley: The Law Foundation of Silicon Valley advances the rights of under-represented individuals and families in our diverse community through legal services, strategic advocacy, and educational outreach.