SF renters threatened by foreclosures

December 17, 2008 6:30:28 PM PST
The city of San Francisco is extending a desperately-needed hand to a growing group of people hit hard by the foreclosure crisis. We're not talking about homeowners, but renters who have no place to go for help when their landlords face foreclosure.

A new outreach effort was launched in San Francisco to help some unwitting victims of the nation's mortgage meltdown -- people who rent. In San Francisco, that's more than two-thirds of the city's population.

Genevieve Hilper is always bundled up inside her San Francisco apartment. Since her landlord lost the home to foreclosure, there's no heat.

"The landlord told me, sent me a letter telling me they would cut everything, electricity, water, and gas," said Hilper.

It's a horror story becoming all too familiar to the Housing Rights Committee that deals with tenant rights.

"The banks don't see themselves as landlords. They are completely inaccessible and negligent," said Sara Shortt from the Housing Rights Committee.

Foreclosures in San Francisco have skyrocketed 183 percent from last year. Sixty of the foreclosed buildings last quarter have tenants like Ernestina Castillos, who says she lived without water for six months.

"I was pregnant at the time, so I would go to my neighbors and ask them for water," said Castillos.

The issue of home foreclosures is well known, but the renters living in those properties have been largely invisible -- innocent victims of the mortgage crisis.

"They should not move at all -- that's number one," said City Assessor Phil Ting.

Ting is now sending letters to tenants living in properties with default notices, advising them of their rights.

"Just because someone has turned the power off, just because they've turned the water off or even padlocked your door, please call us, we can help you," said Ting.

Seventy percent of San Francisco's residents are renters -- many in rent controlled buildings.

"A tenant in a rent controlled can only be evicted for 14 just cause reasons. Foreclosure is not a just cause reason," said Darlene Wolf from the San Francisco Rent Board.

As for PG&E, the utility says it has a foreclosure hotline tenants can call.

"So we can quickly identify these customers and work to get the bills transferred into their names and get them turned back on," said Joe Molica from PG&E.

Hilper is waiting.

Related links:

  • Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco
  • Comite de vivienda San Pedro
  • Asian Law Caucus
  • PG&E
  • San Francisco Rent Board


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