Last month, the Merced City Council passed the Central Valley's first "Just Cause for Eviction" law. The law, narrowly tailored to stop arbitrary evictions of innocent renters after foreclosure, followed nearly a year of City Council hearings at which community members overwhelmingly supported it. We are proud to have been part of the majority that enacted these protections last month and we thank the Sun-Star for supporting our decision to protect the families and neighborhoods of Merced.
California's foreclosure crisis is hurting hundreds of thousands of renters every year. Merced has one of the highest rates of foreclosure in the country, and more than a third of these units are occupied by renters.
When banks and investors acquire homes at foreclosure, they immediately take steps to evict tenants who did nothing to create the problem that ends up displacing them. These homes end up sitting vacant, attracting squatters, vandalism and blight. Thousands of Merced renters have lost their homes in recent years because of their landlord's foreclosure.
Merced's new law, which the City Council passed on Nov. 21 and which goes into effect on Wednesday, will protect innocent renters from being evicted by banks and investors after foreclosure.
Merced is the 16th city in California to provide that foreclosure alone is not grounds for eviction of a renter. We see absolutely no reason that renters in Richmond, Maywood, Oakland, San Diego and East Palo Alto should be able to stay in their homes after foreclosure, but not renters here.
We will not continue to allow banks and other post-foreclosure owners to displace Merced's families for no good reason. The "Just Cause for Eviction" law strikes the right balance: allowing eviction where a tenant does something wrong or where the landlord wants to move into the property, but prohibiting eviction where there is no good cause.
At a time when our city is facing a budget crisis, we also note that the "Just Cause for Eviction" law costs the city nothing. The law simply creates a defense that tenants can use to stop unfair, and now illegal, evictions after foreclosure.
Wild claims have been made in opposition to the law. Opponents recklessly claim that the law will allow tenants to live rent free, despite the fact that the law explicitly allows for eviction if the tenant does not pay rent or abuses the property. The law also allows for tenants to be evicted if buyers of foreclosed properties wish to live in the homes.
We are disappointed by this unprecedented move to repeal this common sense law. We urge the council to put politics aside and allow this ordinance to do what it was designed to do -- protect our most vulnerable residents.Lor is Merced's mayor pro tempore, and Blake and Rawling are City Council members.
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