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Majority of Oakland landlords constantly ignore eviction law

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“More than two years after Oakland enacted tough housing regulations to combat wrongful evictions, roughly three out of four landlords appear to be violating those very laws,” says report

Apartment buildings near Lake Merritt in Oakland. Photo by cdrin

According to an NBC Bay Area investigation, the majority of landlords in Oakland who evicted tenants under the guise of moving into the unit have not bothered to prove to the city that they actually moved in.

And Oakland’s city government hasn’t gone after these scofflaw landlords.

According to the Oakland municipal code, there are only 11 legal ways for Oakland landlords to evict, including infractions like not paying the rent, illegal use of the property, or plans to renovate or retrofit the building that cannot be completed with tenants occupying.

Included among the “just causes” for eviction is the possibility that “the owner wants to move back into the unit, if allowed by a written agreement with the tenant or it is allowed by the lease”—i.e., owner move-in eviction.

The catch is that in order to count as a just cause, the landlord must literally move into the unit and reside there for at least three years.

Landlords who move in are also supposed to routinely submit materials to the city proving their residency in the home.

But according to NBC Bay Area, of the 71 owner move-in evictions in 2018, only 16 bothered to document their residency. Despite the skirting of the law, the city has neither cited nor fined the 55 landlords who didn't.

When asked why Oakland is not enforcing its renter protection laws, Director of Housing and Communing Development Michele Byrd said in interview, “We don’t want to be punitive. [...] First and foremost is to do education and outreach and make sure we have made well aware what the requirements are.”

Byrd said Oakland notifies landlords when they fail to properly document tenancy in buildings they own after eviction, but the report claims that this is not happening, either.

According to the Oakland-based advocacy group Policy Link, approximately 58 percent of Oakland residents were renters in 2016.

Oakland has passed several new laws in recent years making it harder to evict tenants, including a 2018 measure that closed a longstanding loophole sometimes allowing for evictions in duplexes and triplexes without just cause.

However, after enacting those strict laws, NBC Bay Area notes that “roughly three out of four landlords appear to be violating those very laws.”