San Jose Renters Learn About Their Rights and Commit to Join Renter’s Rights Campaign

Sacred Heart's Renter's Rights Conference gathered neighbors to share their common experiences as renters, learn about their rights and how to get involved in the current renter's rights campaign in San José.

About 50 people gathered at Sacred Heart Thursday night to learn about renter’s rights at its First Renters Rights Conference. Sacred Heart provides a range of services to low income families and individuals in need, and advocates for social justice to end poverty. Sacred Heart’s Housing Action Committee is part of the Silicon Valley Renter’s Rights Coalition organizing to improve San Jose’s rent ordinance to include rent stabilization and just cause evictions amongst other items.

Nuemi Guzman with the Fair Housing Law Project of the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley gave a short overview covering general tenant rights in a fair housing environment. Guzman helped to dispel some fears that renters shared around concerns like evictions and rent increases, but many times a specific case requires a closer look and these are general rights and protections, that may have exceptions.

Both renters and property owners have rights and rules they have to follow. Renters have a right to security, a safe, habitable place, privacy, no discrimination and no retaliation and receive proper legal process if there is an eviction or rent increase. A tenant should pay rent on time, maintain the property and follow all rules of the property.

Notices of eviction are not valid if they are verbal, and there are different amounts of time on notices depending on what type they are. If you have lived in the home for less than a year on a month-to-month lease it is lawful to be served with a 30-day eviction notice without cause. If you have lived in the home for more than a year, the written notice with no cause must be for 60 or 90 days.

When one is served with a 3, 30, 60, or even 90 day notice of eviction at the end of that time period you will not be locked out of the home by authorities. If the time period on the notice has expired and you have not found a place to move to you will receive an unlawful detainer document from the court. You have 5 days to respond to the notice (5 days here includes Sat. & Sun., and only excludes national holidays). It is advised to seek legal counsel to fill out the form and file it in court

The no cause eviction notice can often be confused for discrimination said Guzman.

Under California law, you may not receive a rent increase during a lease agreement. You have to receive a 30 day written notification when your rent will be increased less than 10%. A 60 day written notice is required if the increase will be more than 10%.

Under the current San Jose rent ordinance, you may not receive more than 1 rent increase per year, which is set at a maximum of 8%. If rent has not been increased in 2 years it may jump up by as much as 21%. If the amount is over these percentages, you can dispute the increase with the City of San Jose through mediation to reach an agreement with the property manager.

Every house, apartment, residence has to provide habitability – a safe, healthy environment with heat and ventilation, hot water, etc.  – a place that allows you the feeling of being safe there. Often times tenants fear reporting repairs that create unsafe conditions because they fear retaliation in the form of rent increases, eviction, or getting immigration called on them. However, there are protections against retaliation.

It is important to request repairs to landlords in writing and to keep a copy for your records. This is your proof that you have attempted to fix the issues. Many times, said Guzman, tenants won’t get their deposit back because the landlord claims that things are in disrepair. With the documentation, you can prove that you had made the landlord aware of the conditions in need of repair.

If repairs are not made you are advised to make a complaint with the city’s code enforcement, doing so gives you a 6-month protection from eviction. After that time period there may be some more negotiation to see how much more protection could exist.

Discrimination protection is covered under state and national law and also applies to hotels, shelters, and senior living facilities. Only place where you are not currently covered is if you live in a home where the landlord lives and you rent one room in the home.

Attendees formed small groups to share their experiences and many folks expressed the feeling that the power was in the hands of the landlords. Yet together, with more numbers and organizing for improvements that power dynamic changes. The meeting came to an animated ending with the crowd shouting their commitment to get involved in increasing renters rights and forming a circle to close the conference with a unity clap.

More info:

There is a weekly eviction clinic at the Law Foundation (152 N. 3rd Street, 3rd Floor, San José, CA 95112) every Friday from 9am-12pm, you can call to leave a message at 408.280.2452. They can assist in any language.

To learn more about renters rights visit: http://www.lawfoundation.org/documents.asp

Join a Renter's Rights Rally at San Jose City Hall Tuesday September 1st at 1:30pm

 

Related Coverage:
Tenants Want San José to Strenghten Renter Protections
Renter's Rights Training in East San José

San José Renters Begin Movement to Change Laws around Renter's Rights in San José

About Liz Gonzalez

Liz Gonzalez is a San Jose based writer and holistic healing practitioner, she leads a weekly meditation circle at De-Bug on Tuesday nights at 7:30 pm.

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