By Alison Brennan
Sacramento is one of the many places in the country where tenants are nonpersons. Coming from the Bay Area where the majority of the population rents and where tenant participation in civic affairs is expected, it was a bit of a shock to find out that, in Sacramento, tenants cannot expect to get many of the services from government and elected officials that homeowners receive as a matter of course.
My first experience of this was when I sought to obtain legal counsel for one of my neighbors who was threatened with eviction by the property manager. Unfortunately for the property manager, she sought to evict my neighbor for complaining about conditions at the property--one of the few instances in which tenants are protected from eviction by law. All I wanted was to find a lawyer who could write a stern letter to the property manager explaining that and, of course, detailing the consequences if she pursued the eviction. So I did what people do in San Francisco and Oakland and Berkeley all the time. I called my City Councilmember's office. And was stunned when his staff person informed me that she couldn't help me, but could have helped me had I been a landlord seeking the same assistance. Gulp.
My next encounter with government officials was when I sought to get a copy of a county publication, "River-Friendly Landscape Guidelines," which I'd read about on one of the local gardening websites. I got online and requested it, leaving the space to indicate whether I was a homeowner or landscaper blank. The county did send it to me, but first telephoned to grill me as to my intentions. Gulp. Again.
It's unfortunately no surprise that our government officials and the local press have largely ignored the effect of the foreclosure crisis on tenants. So today, Tenants Together is taking us to the City Council meeting, where will attempt to interest them in the plight of the thousands (yes, thousands!) of tenants who were displaced when their landlords allowed their buildings to go into foreclosure. Maybe they will "see the light", but I suspect that this will only be the beginning of a long process.
Alison Brennan is a member of Tenants Together who lives in Sacramento. She runs a blog entitled Tenants and Foreclosure: Information for California Renters in Foreclosed Properties, which is a valuable resource for tenants in foreclosure situations.