This week, Merced County buses began displaying renters' rights information for the first time. The Merced County Transit agency has posted renters' rights placards in 80 buses. The placards will remain posted for six months, according to the agency.
Provided at no cost to the county by Tenants Together, California' s statewide organization for renters' rights, these Public Service Announcements (PSAs) are in English and Spanish. The placards invite Merced renters to call a free hotline (888.495.8020) for help with their housing issues.
"This is very useful information for tenants who are traveling on Merced buses," commented Guillermo D. Elenes, an organizer working with Merced tenants who designed the PSA posters. "We are looking forward to helping as many Merced tenants as possible learn about their rights and how to assert them."
Many tenants do now know their rights. Under California law, tenants have the right to 24-hour written notice before the landlord enters their home except in emergencies, the right to repairs and a habitable home, the right to be free from retaliatory eviction, and the right to get back security deposits within three weeks of vacating a rental unit. Tenants Together is committed to educating and empowering renters across the state, and the bus signs in Merced are part of that effort.
An estimated 60% of residents of the City of Merced are tenants. Last year, Merced tenants successfully advocated for a city tenant protection law to stop banks from evicting tenants after foreclosure. The law took effect in December 2011 and is popular among residents.
"We welcome this effort by the transit agency to make sure tenants know their rights," said Angela Fragulia, a leader of Merced Tenants Together, a local chapter of the statewide organization. Fragulia and other chapter members led the fight for local just cause for eviction protections last year. With the law in effect, now efforts have shifted to educating Merced renters about their new rights under the law. "We cannot allow abusive banks and vulture investors to kick more innocent renters out of their homes," stated Fragulia.
Despite the popularity of the new law, realtors are demanding that the City Council make the unprecedented move of repealing the law they just enacted. Tenants Together has vowed to fight any repeal effort. A hearing on repeal is scheduled for May 21, 2012 at Merced City Hall.