By Edwin Folven, 12/20/2012
The Los Angeles City council extended the city’s Foreclosure Eviction Ordinance on Dec. 14, prohibiting banks from evicting tenants at rental properties when the property owner is in foreclosure.
The ordinance, which was first approved in 2009 but had been scheduled to end in 2012, is one step the city is taking to protect residents against the foreclosure crisis. City Councilman Eric Garcetti, 13th District, said he supports the ordinance.
“Good, rent-paying people shouldn’t be evicted by banks through no fault of their own,” he said. “The foreclosure crisis is far from over. This is about keeping people in their homes and keeping rental buildings from being vacant and blighted.”
Yusef Robb, a deputy to Garcetti, said according to U.S. Census data, approximately 25 percent of the city’s single family residences are occupied by renters. Additionally, lenders foreclosed upon approximately 4,700 rental properties in the city of Los Angeles during the first nine months of 2012. The foreclosures more commonly occur in low-income neighborhoods, where residents are less likely to be able to afford another apartment if they are evicted. Without protections, thousands of people could find themselves without a home, he said.
“We want to make sure people keep their homes,” Robb said. “Rent-paying tenants shouldn’t be thrown out on the streets because the owner is being foreclosed upon.”
For homeowners facing foreclosure, the city has established a hotline where people can obtain information about remediation programs. More than 40,000 people have sought assistance since 2007 through the program, known as the Operation HOPE Crisis Hotline at (888)388-HOPE. The hotline averages approximately 3,000 calls each month.
“You don’t have to go at it alone. You don’t have to pay for help,” Garcetti said. “We need a system focused on keeping families in their homes. We need the banks to step up to the plate.”
Although city officials are trying to help people avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes, some residents believe the responsibility lies directly with lenders. Dozens of demonstrators from a group called Occupy Fights Foreclosures protested on Dec. 6 outside the Wells Fargo bank branch at 1600 N. Vine St., claiming that banks are unwilling to work with homeowners facing foreclosure.
Protestor Carlos Marroquin said the group is affiliated with Occupy L.A., and they chose the site in Hollywood because it is a high-profile location to call attention to the foreclosure issue. He said the demonstration was intended to persuade banks to work more closely with borrowers.
“If they work with people, they are less likely to lose their homes,” Marroquin said. “We want them to help people stay in their homes by helping them avoid foreclosure.”
Demonstrator Marla Schulman, a Sherman Oaks resident, is currently fighting to avoid a bank foreclosure on her home. Schulman said she purchased her home in 2006, but later lost her job in 2009 and was unable to make payments. While going through the foreclosure remediation process, she said the original bank that loaned her money sold the loan to another financial institution, and she has since been given an eviction notice.
“I’m still in my home, and I’m fighting,” she said. “The bottom line is the banks are making enough money, and they need to help people.”