Feb 9, 2011 9:47 PM by Ariel Wesler

Safe Family: Renters' Rights during foreclosure

In our Safe Family segment tonight, thousands of people across the Central Coast can tell you about the painful effects of foreclosure, but for those who rent their home, the foreclosure is often out of their hands.

According to the group "Tenant's Together," statewide foreclosures jumped 30 percent from 2009 to 2010 for apartments with five or more units. Last year, more than 1100 renters in Santa Barbara County and 900 in San Luis Obispo County had landlords who couldn't make their payments, but that doesn't necessarily mean the tenants were kicked to the curb.

Imagine suddenly finding out one day your landlord is in foreclosure and the bank wants you out through no fault of your own.

"When I realized that, ok, I did everything i possibly could to pay my rent and she didn't, I was mad," said Sandra Pearson, who rents a townhome in Orcutt. "What she looked at as a house was my home."

Pearson says the lawyers for the bank were intimidating and told her she needed to leave.

"I'm not a scumbag and I did pay rent. I kept feeling like I should carry around copies of my cancel checks, saying see I'm not a loser. I pay my rent," Pearson said.

She did some research and discovered under the Tenants and Protection Act of 2009, she could stay until her lease was up.

"It's hard because this is your family and you get scared that you're gonna end up living out of your car, but you just have to be fair, firm, and friendly," Pearson said.

Sandra Pearson is just one of many renters who have struggled with landlords who can't pay their bills, last year of all the foreclosures in Santa Maria, a third of them were rentals.

Of 1100 renters in Santa Barbara County affected by foreclosure last year, about half of them were in Santa Maria. Pearson says there is help available. She recommends a group called tenants together.

"Not only did they give me great resources and where to go to find information, but they listened to me and I needed a friend," Pearson said.

She's been living in her new townhouse since May, but hopes others will learn from her experience.

"Things happen for a reason. I can say that now," Pearson said.

She says she will never again rent a place from a private individual, only a property management company. She feels they are more aware and in tune with renters' rights.

If you are a renter affected by foreclosure and need help, click here.


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