What to do about Community Funds LLC and Lela Madison?
Can a real estate company be fined for evicting an elderly woman, even though she’s just a month behind in paying the rent on her home? That’s the question that must be applied to the situation of Richmond, California’s Lela Madison and Community Funds LLC.
Lela Madison is the 92-year-old black woman who was the focus of Richmond City Councilmember Jovanka Beckles’ Facebook livestream video from last Saturday. In the tearfully sad scene, Ms. Madision openly blamed Community Funds LLC, the owner of the home, for figuratively pushing her out of her home for 54 years, and even though she said she was paying the rent of just north of $1,000. Moreover, in the video, Madison says she can’t get her legal documents or medication.
The Beckles’ Facebook livestream video has been seen well over 200,000 times now, and many people have offered help, and even called this blogger to learn how they could assist Ms. Madison. Councilmember Beckles created a Go-Fund-Me page that has generated $9,214 and is just $786 short of its $10,000 goal. But what has Community Funds LLC done? And who or what is Community Funds LLC?
As Oakland News Now reported on its first post related to the activities of Community Funds LLC:
Community Fund LLC is located at 1032 E 14th St, San Leandro, California, and its San Leandro Chamber of Commerce webpage directly says what it’s all about: “Real Estate/ Residential & Commercial , Property Management, Foreclosures, Short Sales, & Investments. 2 offices to serve you 3577 Fruitvale Ave, Oakland, CA 94602 (510) 530-1005.” In the area of “Foreclosures, Short Sales” Community Fund LLC has gained some local fame for how it treats elderly black women. And in 2015, it’s boss, Michael Marr, CEO of Community Fund, LLC, was convicted in a Federal court for bid rigging at foreclosure auctions. Mr. Marr was sentenced to 30 months in prison, March 21, 2018.
Anti-Eviction Map reports “Because most of the properties that Marr acquired are single family homes, they do not fall under rent control per Costa Hawkins (the anti-rent control law which would be removed with the passage of the California Affordable Housing Act this November 2018 election). Widespread displacement of long time residents through rent increases has been the modus operandi for Marr and other foreclosure speculators in the east bay. Unknown numbers of families have left their homes, while some resisted. Senate Bill AB1506 would address the problem, but is stalled in the State Senate under the power of the landlord lobby.”
Since the first post about Lela Madison, there has been no word of what happened to her or if Community Fund LLC has tried to help her. Meanwhile, there have been an increasing number of stories about elderly people of color being evicted. Some even come to Oakland City Council’s open forum to ask for help (to provide an example witnessed by this blogger).
Community Fund LLC is said to be Alameda County’s largest land-owner and is behind a number of media-covered attempts at evicting elderly black women from their homes.
And The Anti-Eviction Project has also identified a man named William J. Rosetti as being responsible for over 4,000 “4000 eviction notices in Alameda County in the past five years, and more than 500 Unlawful Detainers in the last ten years” according to the Anti-Eviction Project website. . Mr. Rosetti has also sat on Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s “Houaing Cabinet” and was listed on it as a “market rate developer” in 2016 (see file link at the Anti-Eviction Project web page referred to above).
Between William J. Rosetti and Community Fund LLC, we have two of the apparent contributors to the problem. But, in his defense, Mr. Rosetti pointed the finger at, in this case, the City of Oakland itself.
Attacked in the media for what would seem to be an obvious tie between his large number of eviction actions and the number of homeless people in Oakland, Mr. Rosetti said to The Guardian “We don’t evict … unless it’s somebody who is absolutely egregious,” Rosetti said, adding in a later email. “An eviction is a major tragedy in anyone’s life and when a resident loses the ability to earn or provide sufficient money for shelter it is a societal failure.” And Rosetti told KPIX Channel 5 “You have to have the city work. Oakland is a great place, it now has a very diverse group of people living here. We need to find a way to allow those people to continue living here. They make that choice.”
One Change That Can Help Oakland And East Bay Renters Stay
In many accounts of renters trying to keep their apartments, the common statement is that they need time to catch up with the rent. Meanwhile, one basic claim in Oakland’s “just cause” eviction law is that the tenant be up to date in rent payments. But, given that they need time, why can’t the law reflect that? A simple fix would allow a tenant to be ½ month behind, when all rent paid to date is considered, rather than forcing the tenant to be up to date. In this way, the compassion that’s needed when times are tough is automatically built in to the law, rather than wishing for a landlord to be helpful.
And if the landlord is found not to allow the tenant that provision, the fine should be for the landlord to pay 50 percent of the tenants future rent for six months. So, the tenant gets six months of half-price rent in the event the landlord fails to comply with the new law.
This would effectively curb the pratices of organizations like Community Fund LLC, and give Bill Rosetti that “way to allow those people to continue living here.” Let’s see if Rosetti means it.