Centro Legal de la Raza’s Two Huge Tenant Litigation Victories! Over 2 Million Dollars for 26 Tenant Families in the Fruitvale; and After Litigation to the California Supreme Court, a Decision Ensuring Rent and Eviction Protections for Countless Hayward Tenants and a $70,000 Attorney Fee Award
To prevent devastating tenant displacement throughout the Bay Area, Centro Legal vigorously pursues all avenues for relief, including litigation up to the state Supreme Court. In doing so, Centro Legal recently had two huge victories for low-income and immigrant tenants in Oakland and Hayward.
First, together with incredible co-counsel Jason Friedman and Christofer Chapman of Stark, Friedman & Chapman LLP, Centro Legal recently settled a case on behalf of 26 tenant families for $2,050,000.00!
The tenants live just down the block from Centro Legal in Oakland’s Fruitvale district, and had lived for years with terrible conditions at their 55-unit building. The landlords — who own multi-million dollar properties throughout the Bay Area — were happy to collects hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent each year, but did little to maintain the property. As a result, the tenants and their children lived with mold, lead paint, rodents, bedbugs, leaks, and other egregious conditions.
The case required almost three years of litigation, led at Centro Legal by litigation director Jesse Newmark and then-litigation senior staff attorney Shira Levine, with help from Berkeley Law Fellow Ana Henderson-Arjona and Equal Justice Works Fellow (sponsored by Intel & WilmerHale) Micaela Alvarez. Exemplifying Centro Legal’s holistic services, our immigration and workers’ rights programs successfully represented tenant families on their immigration and employment cases that arose during the litigation.
Second, after three years of litigation — including legislative advocacy, a successful and rare writ grant by the appellate courts, and defending that decision up to the state Supreme Court — Centro Legal has finally confirmed an interpretation of Hayward’s rent ordinance that ensures rent and eviction protections for countless Hayward tenants.
Throughout the Bay Area, unscrupulous landlords are pushing out poor families of color to make space for wealthier tenants. Here, the owner of a 61-unit building demanded huge rent increases from its low-income tenants, claiming that the property was not protected by Hayward’s rent ordinance because it used to be government-subsidized. The owner then filed eviction cases against two immigrant families who couldn’t afford to pay the rent increases, including one family spanning three generations who had lived in their apartment for over 30 years.
Led by litigation director Jesse Newmark, Centro Legal jumped to the tenants’ defense and successfully litigated the case through to the California Supreme Court. The final appellate decision confirmed that Hayward’s tenant protections apply not only to the 61 families at this property, but to the hundreds of tenants living at similar properties. The trial court also awarded over $70,000 in attorney fees to Centro Legal; an exceptional amount for unlawful detainer cases.
Centro Legal and its clients especially thank our incredible pro bono counsel on this case — expert trial attorneys Chris Beatty and the Law Offices of Andrew Wolff, and expert appellate counsel Jocelyn Sperling — as well as amici and other support from: Hayward City Attorney Michael Lawson; Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker and deputy attorneys Richard F. Illgen and Kent Qian; Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin and Rent Stabilization Board counsel Matt Brown and Brendan Darrow; East Palo Alto City Attorney Rafael E. Alvarado Jr.; Anne Tamiko Omura and the Eviction Defense Center; Marc S. Janowitz, Laura Lane and the East Bay Community Law Center; Lisa Greif and Bay Area Legal Aid; James Grow and the National Housing Law Project; Leah Simon-Weisberg and Tenants Together; Richard M. Pearl; and Steven J. McDonald of Greenstein & McDonald.
The fight is not over, however, as unscrupulous property owners continue to violate state and local laws, displacing low-income and immigrant tenants throughout the Bay Area. By taking all roads to justice, including legal and political advocacy, Centro Legal will continue to help these deserving families stay in their homes. Please support Centro’s efforts to do so!