Action Guide for California Tenants in Foreclosure Situations

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Each year, banks and private investors acquiring foreclosed
properties displace hundreds of thousands of California tenants. As a
tenant, you have done nothing to create the foreclosure crisis.  Yet a
growing number of tenants in foreclosure situations are struggling to
keep their utilities on, protect their security deposits, and stay in
their homes.

This guide will help California tenants learn how to assert their rights and fight for what is fair.  It is not comprehensive and should
be used only as a supplement to the information you will receive by
calling our ‘Tenant Foreclosure Hotline,’ studying our website’s ‘Laws
and Resources’ section, or contacting tenant organizations in your
community.  If you need legal advice, you should contact a legal
services organization or hire an attorney to represent you.  This Action Guide outlines four steps California tenants in foreclosure situations can take to protect and expand their rights:

Step 1: Find out the ‘Foreclosure Status’ of Your Home
Step 2: Learn and Assert your Rights
Step 3: Pressure the Bad Actors by Shining a Public Spotlight on Them
Step 4: Work to Protect and Expand Tenant Rights in Your Community

Step 1: Find out the ‘Foreclosure Status’ of Your Home
It is crucial that you learn as soon as possible what stage in the
foreclosure process your landlord is in.  Your rights may be different
if you are in a ‘pre-foreclosure’ or a ‘post-foreclosure’ situation.

The
table below charts the fastest possible time line for a foreclosure in
California.  However, the process can be significantly longer.  In some
cases, lenders may be required to wait more than 90 days before filing a
Notice of Trustee Sale and Trustee Sales are frequently delayed.

Fastest Possible Time Line for a California Foreclosure

Redemption Period

 Publication
 Trustee Sale

 Day 1 to Day 90

 Day 91

 Day 111 or after

Notice of Default is filed by lender, giving loan holder one last chance (typically 90 days) to cure problem

Notice of Trustee Sale is served to occupant (including tenant) stating that the foreclosure sale will occur in 20 days

A Public Auction is held at which the property is either acquired by a private investor or goes back to the bank

Tenants are generally not notified of the filing of the Notice
of Default, however this is public information.  You can file a request
with your county’ Recorder’s Office to be notified when your landlord’s
lender files a Notice of Default.  For more info see CA civil code section 2924(b).

You
can also find out the status of your home by calling your county's
Recorder’s Office to learn if the Notice of Default, Notice of Trustee
Sale, or a Deed documenting a change in ownership has been filed.

Step 2: Learn and Assert Your Rights

Tenants
in foreclosure situations are protected by federal, state, and
local-level laws.  To find out what rights you are entitled to:

At a minimum, you have the following rights:

  • The right to continued maintenance, repairs, and utility services during and after foreclosure
  • The right to the return of your security deposit after you vacate your home, click here to learn more
  • The right to be free from harassment, retaliation, discrimination, and improper entries into your home
  • The right to stay in your home until the legal termination of your tenancy by written notice.  After foreclosure:
    • Tenants with long-term leases have the right to stay through the term of their lease (with some exceptions)
    • Tenants with month-to-month leases have the right to a 90-day notice to vacate (with some exceptions)
    • Some tenants in cities with ‘just-cause’ ordinances may be able to stay in their home indefinitely after foreclosure
  • The right to contest an eviction in court
  • The right to not be locked out except by a sheriff after a court proceeding

Learning your rights is just the first step.  Your rights are not
worth much unless you are willing to assert them.  If you believe your
rights are being violated, you should:

  • Demand that all communication from your landlord be in writing
  • Document in writing the harassment experienced
  • Report non-compliance of tenant protection laws to federal, state, and local agencies
  • Call the police if landlord refuses to comply with CA Civil Code section 1954 before entering your home
  • Consider suing a landlord who violates your rights
  • Consider contesting an eviction in court

Step 3: Pressure the Bad Actors by Shining a Public Spotlight on Them
Banks and private investors acquiring tenant-occupied foreclosed
properties rely on you quietly disappearing into the night. The last
thing they want is for you to publicize your situation and expose their
immoral, irrational, and often illegal eviction practices.  Here are
some ways you can do this:

  • Take action at the foreclosure sale.  Click here to learn more
  • Send a letter to the bank demanding that they let you stay on as
    a tenant.  Make the letter ‘public’ by sending a copy to your local,
    elected officials.  Click here for help drafting this letter
  • Send a letter to the editor of your local newspapers criticizing
    banks for displacing innocent tenants and destabilizing your
    community.  Click here for help drafting and sending this letter online
  • Contact your local newspaper and TV stations to have your story told
  • Picket and/or distribute literature outside the branch or corporate office of the bank evicting you
  • Let your money do the talking by closing your account with banks that are unfairly displacing tenants after foreclosure

Step 4: Work to Protect and Expand Tenant Rights in Your Community

You can help stop the abuse of tenants in foreclosure situations in your community by:

  • Changing the Law- 15 cities in California have ‘just
    cause for eviction’ laws.  These laws regulate grounds for eviction and
    make it illegal to use foreclosure as a basis for eviction.  Your city
    council can enact this kind of law and stop the evictions of tenants
    after foreclosure, but they won’t do it unless you ask them to.  You
    can:
  • Joining a Tenant Action Group-There are
    many ways you can protect and expand tenants rights in your community. 
    To get started, join a Tenant Action Group.  For more information call 1-888-495-8020 or email TAG@tenantstogether.org.

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