HomeCity NewsEvicted Tenants Struggle With Relocation Woes

Evicted Tenants Struggle With Relocation Woes

Burbank tenants have begun to move out of the city after landlords initiated a recent surge of no-fault evictions in Burbank, leaving many displaced residents with just 60 days to find new accommodations. Others say they are unsure they will be able to leave given the strict time constraint, risking unlawful detainer lawsuits.

“My family and I were very scared,” said Oswaldo Martinez, a former 14-year Burbank tenant who recently relocated after receiving a 60-day notice to quit. “We did not expect an eviction notice, and it has caused us a lot of problems.”

Martinez is the first tenant to vacate the Maui apartments on West Olive Avenue after nine tenants in the building were notified that they would be forced out for renovations. At least four other Burbank apartment complexes have begun the same process.

Neighbors at the 40-unit complex fear another wave of evictions is yet to come.

A loophole in state rent control law — Assembly Bill 1482 — allows landlords to evict as long as owners have an “intent” to renovate the property. Under state law, it is legal for owners to serve 60-day notices if they have an “intent to remodel.” The method is often used to raise the rent higher than the legal cap of 8%, a trend that is chipping away at the city’s already meager supply of affordable housing. The city has no method to verify if such renovations ever take place.

A records search through April indicated that four of five building owners have yet to apply for permits with the city for building renovations, signaling that they may have no real intention of following through with the work.

Since April 1, this method of evicting tenants has spiked in Burbank as the county eviction moratorium ended at the end of March. Based on information collected at four apartment buildings and a count of tenants who spoke out at City Council meetings in the past month, at least 40 tenants have been affected by renovation evictions. Similar to Martinez, these tenants were given less than two months to come up with the resources to find a new home.

“April 19 was my child’s birthday,” Martinez told the Leader. “We had planned for a long time to take him to Disneyland. When we went, my mind was focused on looking for a solution to that bad news, so we did not enjoy my child’s birthday.”

“Every day since the eviction notice, my wife has cried. We have a 4-year-old child and were afraid of not being able to find a place to live or cover the cost of moving,” he said.

Another couple, who received a notice to vacate their apartment on West Tujunga Avenue, said they may not be able to vacate their unit within the 60-day period.

“The situation has forced us to consult with a lawyer. We’re not sure if we will be able to leave, and we want to know what that would mean for us,” said Emmanuel Perez. “It looks like we will have to downgrade to a smaller apartment with one less bathroom. We probably can’t stay in Burbank.”

The biggest obstacle, Perez said, is the cost of relocation. California law only requires that landlords provide a compensation equal to one month’s rent.

The Burbank Leader requested comment from landlords at the Maui Apartments and the East Tujunga Avenue complex but had received no reply as of its Friday publishing deadline.

Now, dozens of Burbank tenants are protesting the evictions, hoping for a chance to stay in their homes. Many attended meetings to ask the City Council to pass a local ordinance preventing this type of renovation eviction, while others called for an investigation into the landlords of the three buildings.

During a Tuesday meeting of the City Council, local leaders made their stance clear on the issue. The city is not able to stop eviction proceedings on legal grounds and can only seek to invest in longer term solutions.

Specifically, Councilman Nick Schultz proposed that the city earmark American Rescue Plan funds to be used to aid tenants in relocation costs.

“This to me sounds like something that we could do right now to help folks that are facing displacement, and frankly would be no out-of-pocket cost to landlords. I can’t see the downside to it,” Schultz said.

The program as proposed by Schultz would allow tenants facing eviction to apply to receive an additional two months of rent funding from city on top of the one month they would receive from their landlord. Home Again Los Angeles, the city’s housing nonprofit partner, is already on board to run the program should it be approved in the budget and passed by city council.

Schultz initially thought the program could be available as soon as July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year, but city staff pointed out that utilizing ARPA funds poses additional administrative barriers than do general funds, which could delay the program’s launch.

First published in the May 20 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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