Eviction notices wrongly sent to renters

SOUTH LOS ANGELES Some renters in L.A. got the good news: They can't be evicted because of the foreclosures.

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What was once an eviction letter is now in shreds.

City officials said the tenants at one South L.A. duplex and four other homes were illegally targeted for eviction by Countrywide after their landlords lost the buildings in foreclosures.

"The brokerage house that represents Countrywide and sent that letter has agreed to rescind the letter today on this property by 2 o'clock," said L.A. City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo.

The problem is the building is rent-stabilized, which means the tenants, under city law, would be entitled to $6,800, all the way up to $17,000, if they were to be evicted. But the city says Countrywide is trying to skirt those payments.

The letter sent to the renters offered just $1,000 if they cleaned up their apartments and left by August 1, 2008.

"This letter was in violation of city laws which forbid eviction just because a property changes ownership due to foreclosure," said L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti.

Countrywide issued a statement Thursday saying the eviction letters were the result of a mix-up by a real estate agent working with the Calabasas-based mortgage lender:

"Countrywide is not proceeding with any eviction actions against the tenants ... and (we) apologize to the tenants for any concern and inconvenience this may have caused."

The City Attorney's office, though, has opened an investigation into Countrywide's dealings with renters and wants to hear from others who may have faced the same kind of illegal eviction that Cynthia Spears narrowly escaped.

"Citizens who are renting are falling though the cracks," said renter Cynthia Spears. "We are caught in the middle."

L.A. Housing Department officials say if your landlord is losing the building, continue to pay rent. It's the best way to ensure you'll still be going into your apartment -- and not forced out.

If you're a Los Angeles resident and you think you've been a victim of a bad landlord, you can call the L.A. Department of Housing at (866) 557-RENT (7368).


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