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August 21, 2012

Bill to Prohibit Landlords From Demanding that Tenants
Pay Rent Only Online Passes California Legislature

Tenants in California are on the verge of a tremendous victory in securing important rights.

Earlier this year, after reading the Coalition for Economic Survival's E-Newsletters regarding CES' efforts to organize tenants in 34 apartment complexes owned by Jones and Jones Management Company throughout Los Angeles to oppose their landlords demands for their rent to only be paid online, California State Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) responded by taking decisive action against this abuse.

State Sen. Ted Lieu

Senator Lieu introduced Senate Bill (SB) 1055 that would require landlords to continue to accept rent by check or money order.

Today, SB 1055 passed the California State Senate by a 37 to 0 vote.

On August 9th, the bill passed the State Assembly by a 77 to 0 vote.

"A growing number of landlords are no longer accepting checks or money orders from tenants," Lieu, D-Torrance, said about the bipartisan 38-0 vote in support of Senate Bill 1055. "Instead, they have begun to change rental agreements to require tenants - including the elderly, disabled and poor - to pay their rent online."

SB 1055 has now been sent to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature to allow the bill to be put into law starting in 2013. The Governor has not taken a position on the bill but he has roughly two weeks to sign the measure, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.

We ask that you contact Gov. Brown and urge that he sign SB 1055:

Gov. Jerry Brown

Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916)445-2841
Fax: (916)558-3160

The Coalition for Economic Survival, along with the Western Center on Law & Poverty, are sponsors of the bill.

Last September tenants in the buildings owned by Jones and Jones Property Management were served with notices informing them that a new rent online only policy would begin on December 1, 2011.

The notice stated that the new rent policy was for the purposes of 'going green' to help the planet and save trees by eliminating paper checks and envelopes.

But, CES Executive Director Larry Gross stated, "We believe the only "going green" they're interested in is the going for more green dollar bills, which they believe will increase in the form of higher rents after evicting people for non-payment of rent who are unable to deal with the new online technology. This is more about greed than green."

After receiving the notice tenants sought and received assistance from the Coalition for Economic Survival (CES). CES helped to organize residents to oppose the new policy and contacted Bet Tzedek Legal Services who agreed to represent the tenants in a legal action against Jones and Jones.

Many of these tenants are over the age of 62 and have lived in their homes for a decade or more, and, thus, are paying the lowest rent.

In addition, many of these tenants do not own computers, are not computer literate, and are living on fixed incomes.

Tenant & CES Member Margaret Beavers

"I am 86 years old and I am computer illiterate," said Margaret Beavers, a resident a Crenshaw area Jones and Jones apartment since 1963, and a CES member. "I'd have to buy a computer and learn how to use it; at 86 I want to travel and do other things."

Gross added, "This policy was nothing more than a scheme to target the long-term, low-rent tenants for eviction to obtain higher rents."

Soon after AIMCO, the largest corporate landlord in the country, came up with it's own variation to this scheme. AIMCO started demanding that their tenants provide the corporate real estate giant personal bank information so as to be able to debit their bank accounts each month for their rent.

SB 1055 will prohibit these actions and provide tenants with a choice on how they prefer to pay their rent.

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