Evicted for organizing?

New state legislation would prevent retaliatory evictions against tenants rights organizers

This is an extended version of a story that appears in the March 28, 2019 issue.

Eliza Deed is known for showcasing her singing voice at improv events and on social media. Now she’s worried that using that voice to speak up for fellow tenants in Carmichael has led to a retaliatory eviction.

In December, Deed held a know-your-rights meeting for neighbors at the Trees at Madison apartments, following the first eviction notice she received after misspelling the name of the complex’s new ownership group on a money order. Deed began arguing her case via Facebook videos and then contacted the Sacramento Tenants Union (Read “Beyond the borders,” News, December 6, 2018)

The complex’s owner, Pearl Investment Company LLC, eventually backed off the eviction. However, Deed says she heard from so many other renters who were having problems with Pearl Investment that she continued organizing tenants at the Trees at Madison and two other properties Pearl owns.

On March 19, just weeks after the year lease on Deed’s apartment expired, Pearl Investment served her with another eviction notice. This time there was no cause listed. Deed believes it’s direct retaliation for her advocacy.

“It’s because I’ve been organizing and more tenants are coming to me to share their issues,” Deed said. “And because I’m trying to be a voice for the community.”

In December, Pearl Investment co-owner Darryn Begun told SN&R that his company tries to avoid evicting tenants, and resorts to it as a last resort if renters behave badly or are financially delinquent. Asked this week why Deed was served with a no-cause eviction, Begun denied it was retaliation. He declined to offer further explanation by press time.

Deed’s eviction notice came just six days after Tenants Together, the state’s largest renters’ rights group, announced it was sponsoring new legislation to protect renters from landlord retaliation. Authored by Sen. María Elena Durazo of Los Angeles, Senate Bill 529 would make it illegal to evict a renter for participating in a tenants association or rent strike.

“Every Californian has a right to a union at work and a union at home,” Tenants Together executive director Lupe Arreola said in a statement. “Tenant organizations are often the only thing standing between marginalized communities and displacement.”