Banks accused of violating renters' rights

March 12, 2009 11:54:27 AM PDT
Oakland City Attorney John Russo said today that his office has recently filed five lawsuits against major banks and local agents he alleges are illegally evicting tenants.

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At a news conference at City Hall, Russo alleged that despite repeated warnings, banks and their agents have continued to violate Oakland's "just cause" law by sending illegal eviction notices to good tenants in foreclosed buildings.

Russo said eviction notices are often accompanied by "cash-for-keys" offers that don't come close to covering normal moving costs.

"We've tried to fight this the nice way but now we're not going to be nice anymore," Russo said.

Many tenants who have received eviction notices are families who have never been late on their rent payments and are protected from eviction by Oakland's "just cause" ordinance, Russo said.

Russo said he's filing the lawsuits now because there has been "an uptick in the problem" of unjust eviction notices.

Russo said the lawsuits name as defendants banking giants JPMorgan Chase and Fidelity National Financial, along with their subsidiary companies and local agents, whom he alleges are paid to remove tenants from properties the banks have acquired through foreclosure.

The city also has filed complaints against several local real estate companies and brokers who have sent wrongful eviction notices to tenants following foreclosure, Russo said.

He said the lawsuits seek injunctions against the banks, agents and brokers as well as financial compensation for tenants who have had to move.

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