The Isla Vista Tenants Union launched a campaign this week to highlight the plight of six Latino households that were served 60-day eviction notices at their apartments on the 6700 block of Abrego Road last August. The notices came shortly after the apartments changed ownership and a new management company took over. The eviction notices were legal, but at issue is whether or not the former tenants are entitled to compensation for their forced move.
County Ordinance 4444 requires landlords to pay relocation benefits when a tenant must vacate under certain circumstances: for instance, when a landlord wants to renovate the premises so substantially that a county permit is needed. Some renovations at the Abrego apartments took place late last summer, said former tenant Maria Hernandez, who now rents a small room in a house in Goleta. But according to county records, Van Nuys–based Majestic Asset Management Inc. did not apply for permits until October. No major work has taken place since, and it’s unclear if Majestic plans on proceeding with the project, which could trigger the relocation payments.
According to attorney Robin Unander — who works through her own practice with the Isla Vista Tenants Union and as an advising attorney at UCSB’s Associated Students Legal Resource Center — Majestic switched tactics to negate application of the ordinance. For instance, Unander said, Majestic attempted to cancel evictions or offered to return tenants’ full security deposits plus an additional $1,000 — a lot less than the $10,500 they could receive in relocation payments (including late-payment penalties) if the ordinance were applied. After some back and forth with the management company, five of the six households filed small-claims lawsuits against Majestic Asset Management Inc. They have a court date scheduled for February 11.
The new owners are reportedly out-of-area investors who created Abrego Villas LLC to purchase the property. Brian Lezak of Majestic Asset Management Inc. said in a statement he “intends to discuss [the] facts openly” in court and that the owners “did not violate any laws.” Lazek added the goal of Abrego Villas is to provide apartments that are clean, aesthetically pleasing, and affordable. The tenants union plans to picket in front of the apartments on Friday.