Despite a local measure enacted last month to deter “renovictions,” another wave of Burbank residents from the Maui Apartments on Olive Avenue have received eviction notices, including one tenant who has lived in the building for more than 37 years.
Residents spoke before the Burbank City Council on Tuesday, decrying the evictions as unlawful after building owners did not abide by new eviction mandates laid out in a measure passed by Council last month.
The Maui Apartments building already has tallied at least 15 vacant units following a wave of evictions in April that led to a historic push by housing advocates for greater tenant protections.
Those advocates have argued that landlords across Burbank have taken advantage of “renovictions,” or renovation evictions, which allow owners to oust tenants, flip their units, and greatly increase the asking rent price for the same unit.
A studio unit at the Maui Apartments — which had rented for about $1,000 just last year — was recently listed for $1,995 online.
“The more tenants move in and move out, the more LLCs have total control of the rents they can charge, disregarding yearly [rent] raises,” said one Maui tenant, Richard Cathcart, at Tuesday’s meeting.
In recent months, residents from the Maui Apartments and tenants across Burbank were able to secure some protections from such evictions. An ordinance passed last month by the Burbank City Council closed a loophole in state rent control law which made it possible for landlords to merely cite an “intent to renovate” on eviction notices without following through on any renovations.
Landlords must now provide tenants with copies of the permits secured for renovations. The ordinance also requires that Burbank landlords pay tenants a relocation compensation of three month’s rent as opposed to the one month currently required by state law.
But the Burbank Tenants Union says that just closing the loophole isn’t enough to stop the bleeding. Advocates warned the City Council last month that if they failed to ban renovation evictions altogether, mass evictions would persist in the city.
Martha Yurel is an 11-year-resident at the Maui Apartments and has been active in aiding her fellow tenants through the eviction process since April, often by collecting records, checking with the city for permits at the building, and documenting correspondence with the building’s property management company: Drake Realty.
According to Yurel, the building was sold to Drake by the previous owners following the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first wave of notices came shortly after the sale was finalized.
“Everybody was scared. Nobody knew what to do. So I volunteered as the one to be the contact, because I was upset too, and because I knew we were going to be next,” Yurel told the Leader.
Last Friday, Yurel’s fears became a reality.
“Every day I would go home and wait to see that notice on my door. Months go by with no notice. Then on Friday I go outside to feed my squirrels. I turn around and there’s a note on my door. And that was the notice. I looked down the way and there is the guy that was giving more notices to the neighbors. He just looked at me. And I told him I’m fighting this,” Yurel said.
Yurel addressed the City Council on Tuesday, alongside many Maui tenants, and pointed out that the notices do not comply with the newly passed city ordinance.
Yurel’s notice reads that she will receive one month’s rent in relocation compensation for her troubles, but the city ordinance passed last month requires that her landlord give her three. Additionally, the ordinance requires that the landlord provide tenants with permits to renovate and an explanation of why the tenants will need to vacate, which Yurel said Drake Realty did not do.
“If they’re doing business in Burbank. They need to know what the laws are in Burbank,” she told the Leader.
City Attorney Joe McDougall pointed out that, by failing to comply with the new ordinance, the 60-day eviction notices could be void.
“If the landlord did not comply with the requirements — providing the permits with the notice [and] providing the explanation — under our code, that 60-day notice to vacate is void, and that is a defense to the eviction,” McDougall said Tuesday.
For now, the Maui tenants have lawyered up. While Yurel doesn’t believe she can avoid eventually vacating her unit, she intends to secure damages for herself and her fellow tenants in the courtroom.
“I mean, right now, I’m just packing away little things, you know, getting rid of big stuff,” Yurel told the Leader. “Maybe we have extra time because they didn’t follow the ordinance, but still, it’s coming. It’s coming. So I’m preparing myself for the battle that is to come and I feel better knowing I am prepared.”
First published in the October 7 print issue of the Burbank Leader.