"Three-Day Notice"

On Thursday evening our friend found a piece of paper taped to our front door.

A few weeks ago, I wrote that our landlord is probably going to try to evict us from our apartment in Los Angeles — despite us paying rent on time, despite us being clearly protected by existing tenant law, despite the pandemic, and despite all the various eviction moratoriums that are supposed to be in place on the federal, state, and local levels.

Well, looks like we’re now one step closer to that happening. 

On Thursday night our friend Rowan found a piece of paper taped to our front door. It was a “three-day notice” from our landlord. It told us we have, yep, three days to get the fuck out of the apartment. Three days. Well, it’s actually three workdays, which means Wednesday — the day after tomorrow.

We’re in a pandemic and in the middle of a national economic collapse. We’re ringed by fires, breathing toxic smoke, and dealing with record-breaking 115º heat in September — heat so brutal that three A/Cs going full-blast at 10pm barely move the needle. What a great time to learn that you landlord really is dead serious about kicking you to the curb for no other reason than he feels like it. 

He’s claiming that we are “unauthorized” tenants, which isn’t true and we can prove it. But there’s no downside for him to try to push through a lie. Even with tenant-friendly laws on the books, everything is skewed in the landlord’s favor.

So we’re talking to an attorney about what our next steps are. It’s almost certain that we’ll have to go through the courts: He’s gonna officially file for eviction at some point very soon and we’ll have to fight for our rights. The good thing is that the city’s strong rent control law is on our side, but who knows how it’ll actually play out. Eviction courts have just opened up in Los Angeles and California. Fighting a case during a pandemic with millions of people out of work and behind on rent? One thing’s for sure: it’s gonna cost us money — money that we don’t have. It’ll be a bleak and nerve-wracking process, and in the end there is no guarantee that justice prevail. And what will justice look like for us? The best-case scenario is that we win the right to keep paying him money for rent. That’s it. That’s tenant justice.

I’ll write more as our situation develops, but we’re obviously not the only ones facing an eviction in the middle of a pandemic — and we’re better off than most.

The thing that most don’t realize is that the various eviction moratoriums that have been thrown up around the country are full of giant loopholes — and that includes Donald Trump’s federal eviction moratorium that just went into effect. 

Landlords might not be able to evict people for not paying rent because of COVID-related reasons, but nothing stops them from evicting people for reasons that aren’t protected by the various eviction moratoriums. As new reporting is starting to show, these “loopholes” can involve just about any alleged lease violation — stuff like too many noise complains, unauthorized repairs, or whatever a landlord thinks they can make stick. And it doesn’t matter if the reason is real or not. A tenant still has to defend themselves in court, no matter how bogus the landlord’s claims may be. And the sad fact is that most never get that far. People get scared and self-evict, don’t know their rights, can’t afford legal help or don’t know where to get it, or simply never show up to court and get booted automatically by a judge in absentia. If they do fight, well, the judge might side with them and let them stay in their apartment. But that’ll be the extent of their victory. They’ll be back to square one, having spent money and energy and nerves. So it’s in the landlord’s interest to work the loopholes. The odds are on their side, and they get no real penalty for trying.

It’s all very depressing. 

Want to see America’s Landlord First bleakness in all its glory? Then check out this recent news segment where a CNN reporter embeds with a local cop as he makes the rounds to do evictions in Houston. The cop says he feels bad about forcing families out on the street, But hey, “he’s just following orders.” Meanwhile, a mover hired to throw an old lady out of her apartment weeps all the way through his job. He doesn’t want to do it, but has no choice. He has to feed his family and pay the rent. “We never know. Today it’s her. Tomorrow it’s me,” he says, fighting back tears. 

Forced to do morally repugnant work while your family is held hostage at gunpoint. A nice clear example of violent coerced labor right here in America. So the next time some liberal complains about the totalitarianism or whatever in China or Venezuela and says “we need to do something”...show them Francisco Munoz’s tears.

—Yasha Levine

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