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‘Unconscionable’: As dozens face eviction, emergency ban fails in Sacramento County

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors failed to pass a temporary ban on “no fault” evictions during its Tuesday meeting, as county residents face the possibility of being homeless or impoverished by the year’s end.

After “no fault” eviction notices were sent to 40 tenants in the 54-unit Bell Oaks Apartments in Arden Arcade last month, Supervisor Phil Serna asked the board to consider an emergency temporary moratorium on no-fault evictions through the end of the year for properties built before 2005.

Starting Jan. 1, a new state law will cap rent increases at 5 percent plus inflation and create new restrictions for when landlords can evict renters, with exemptions for newer properties and small property owners renting out single-family homes.

Advocates have argued that in the last few weeks, landlords across California have been scrambling to push out tenants using no-cause evictions and hike rents before the new law takes effect. Olivia Fisher-Smith with the San Francisco-based nonprofit Tenants Together said “calls have been pouring in” from cities reporting a flood of evictions.

Several municipalities, including Los Angeles and Milpitas, have approved similar temporary no-fault eviction moratoriums.

The emergency ordinance required a super majority for approval. Supervisors Susan Peters and Sue Frost voted against the motion.

“I’ve never been so ashamed of this board. That some couldn’t muster the spine to protect renters in the middle of an acute housing and homeless crisis — just for a short amount of time — is unconscionable,” Serna said in a text message.

Frost told that audience “my heart is breaking over this,” but the “unintended consequences” for some landlords prevented her from voting yes on the temporary ban.

“The problem with rent control and with trying to regulate this is that now landlords don’t have the same flexibility (as before),“ Frost said. “They’re doing the best they can to make ends meet.”

Peters said in the case of Bell Oaks, county officials have already begun to work with the property owners to find a solution for most tenants facing eviction, such as covering relocation costs and finding temporary placement.

Residents at other Sacramento County apartment complexes have also reported similar threats of no-cause evictions, however.

Niko Comtois, 25, lives in a two-bedroom unit with their disabled mother and girlfriend at Crestview North Apartments near Carmichael for about $1,300 per month.

Last month, Comtois and roughly 120 tenants at the complex were given “cash-for-keys” deals — leave by the end of November and they’d receive between $2,000 and $3,000. Tenants who decline the offer would be served with a 60-day eviction notice, Comtois said. A representative with Crestview North could not be immediately reached for comment.

“This is like a lifeline,” Comtois said of the moratorium. “I don’t know where my mom’s going to go. She’s got stage 3 COPD. She can’t even walk halfway across the room without stopping. ... She can’t be homeless.”

Comtois said their family wouldn’t be able to move in time for the cash-for-keys deal and will likely have to take out a loan to find new housing.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article included the incorrect number of tenants issued eviction notices at Bell Oaks Apartments.

Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks covers Sacramento County and the cities and suburbs beyond the capital. She’s previously worked at The New York Times and NPR, and is a former Bee intern. She graduated from UC Berkeley, where she was the managing editor of The Daily Californian.
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