Help arrives for renters on the verge of eviction

January 28, 2011 8:12:58 PM PST
Some relief is coming for embattled home owners in San Rafael's Contempo Marin Mobile Home Park. ABC7 reported last week how their landlord had prematurely threatened some of them with evictions, after a routine state inspections found minor violations. Now, some of the hardship cases are getting help from the county.

Andrew Perrins of San Rafael doesn't just play the blues. Lately, he and other residents of Contempo Marin have been living them, due to an ongoing fight with the company that owns the land beneath their mobile homes.

"We do appear to be the victim of a somewhat vindictive landlord," he said.

First, their landlord -- Equity Lifestyle Properties of Chicago -- won a ruling in federal court that will eliminate rent control for the park in 2018. It has already devastated real estate values there, but there was also a provision allowing that landlord to raise rents immediately on lots if people leave.

So earlier this month, dozens of residents were suspicious when that landlord sent premature eviction warnings for mostly minor violations of a routine state inspection.

They included trash, weeds, and for one home, improperly installed Christmas lights. But Jeanine Rossi has to move her storage shed, which inspectors say is a fire hazard. That's not easy for a woman on a fixed income.

"It seems to me a waste of money, but if you don't have it, what are you supposed to do?" she said.

Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams also chairs the Marin Housing Authority, which has an emergency relief fund for renters in distress. Now, the agency will funnel some of that money to the park. It's a case of a county protecting its own against an out-of-town landlord.

"Whether they are bullies or not bullies, they certainly believe they have a right to use the tactics they are using. Does it feel like it's the right kind of approach? No, it doesn't feel that way to me," Adams said.

The maximum grant would be $5,000 -- more than most homeowners need for their fixes. But it will make all the difference for Rossi.

"For me, it's huge. I can barely survive on disability as it is," she said.