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Tenant Groups Step Up Protests to Fight Evictions

As temporary eviction bans end, a few tenant groups are fighting back. An L.A. landlord says he’s “overwhelmed” and “never had anything like this happen before.”

LOS ANGELES – As moratoriums expire, evictions have started – and tenant groups are stepping up efforts to fight back.

In South Central Los Angeles, tenant organizers called in a contractor when a landlord removed a resident’s belongings. The landlord evicted and changed the locks on the renter’s apartment a week after he missed rent, reports The Real Deal, a real estate news site. More than 30 tenant organizers arrived at the rental to protest the eviction, and they blocked a moving company from loading the tenant’s belongings into a van. Meanwhile, the contractor used a power drill to remove the lock on the unit and organizers moved the renter’s belongings back in.

The building’s landlord, David Wholman, says that he was “overwhelmed” by the response. “We’ve never had anything like this happen before,” he says. The tenant is staying put for now.

Tenant groups’ efforts to keep residents in their homes after the eviction is a strategic move. “If you don’t have possession of the home going into court, you lose, because you’re already evicted,” Trinidad Ruiz, a member of the Los Angeles Tenant Union said.

About 27 states have eviction moratoriums still in place to protect renters during the COVID-19 outbreak. Several landlords are suing to remove those eviction bans.

On Aug. 3, President Donald Trump said he might consider executive action to impose a federal moratorium on evictions while a new stimulus package filled with pandemic relief is still weaving its way through Congress, but he did not include an extension in a set of Executive Actions released late last week, though he did urge the Department of Housing and Urban Development to seek ways to help renters.

The moratorium on evictions for federally backed mortgages expired on July 24. Several state moratoriums will soon expire as well.

NAR’s response to evictions

Rather than extending eviction moratoriums, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) urges policymakers to provide rental assistance to those experiencing pandemic hardships.

“While NAR appreciates and is supportive of White House efforts to ensure struggling Americans can remain in their homes, we are disappointed in the administration’s decision to not tie an eviction moratorium with rental assistance – as they must be,” NAR President Vince Malta said a statement.

On July 31, NAR was part of a coalition of housing groups that sent a joint letter to congressional leaders. “If residents are unable to pay their rent, housing providers will also be unable to meet their mortgage obligations, fund their payrolls and pay their property taxes to state and local governments that have been hardest hit by the pandemic,” the housing coalition stated in the letter. “That, in turn, is likely to catalyze a chain of events with potentially devastating financial and economic effects.”

Meanwhile, more tenant groups are stepping in to prevent evictions. Several tenant organizations barricaded the New Orleans city courthouse; as a result, it didn’t open that day and proceed with scheduled eviction hearings.

“The reason we’re seeing more militant direct action from tenants is because of weakened protections,” says Patrick Tyrell, a staff attorney at Mobilization for Justice, a nonprofit organization that provides free civil legal services. “What else can they do?”

Source: “‘We’re Seeing More Militant Direct Action:’ Tenant Groups Fight Evictions With Power Drills and Other Tools,” The Real Deal (Aug. 5, 2020)

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