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Housing Attorneys Say California Landlords Threatening To Call Immigration Officials On Tenants

Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Los Angeles arrest foreign nationals on Feb. 7, 2017.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Los Angeles arrest foreign nationals on Feb. 7, 2017.
Housing Attorneys Say California Landlords Threatening To Call Immigration Officials On Tenants
Housing Attorneys Say California Landlords Threatening To Call Immigration Officials On Tenants GUEST: Kriston Capps, staff writer, CityLab

The Trump administration crackdown on people living in the U.S. illegally could be shaking up the rental market and California. Housing attorneys claim some landlords have seized on the election of President Trump as new leverage against tenants who want improvements to their apartments or who the landlords simply walked out. Reports of owners threatening to turn in immigrant tenant to immigration officials are on the rise. Joining me is Kriston Capps staff writer of the them -- Atlantic magazine website city lab. Welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. Landlords have threatened to call ice on tenants is a to avoid fixing things before so what is the difference in what is happening now. You see not only and increase to get out of basic repairs but also to try to clear out billions or units in order to bring in a different kind of clientele to gentrify neighborhoods. Where are the reports coming from California. All over. That advocates said they were coming from large cities like Los Angeles San Diego San Francisco across the Bay Area but also central coastal area and in lands. Do we know for a fact that these incidences have increased or is this anecdotal information. We do not have quantitative data to attached to it. The advocates I spoke to from various areas were all emphatic that landlords feel emboldened by the Trump administration to explicitly threaten immigrants or suspected immigrants with deportations. In your article you write about how some landlords are using these threats. One tenant was threatened after she got a restraining order against her husband. Tell us about that. This is in San Mateo County and her attorney told us this harrowing story if you imagine with three children filing a restraining order against her and her partner so she said this position where she's a single mother and the landlord decides to show up and say that you need to sign this lease or your rents going up. And to really drive the point home rain and make America great again hat. Did he say he would contact immigration if and each did not sign a new lease. That was the explicit threat. If you do not sign this document now this woman wanted to take it to her attorney so she could find out whether it was legal she suspected it was not. She said you are going to sign this or I will call ice and they will take you away to Mexico and he will never see her children again. There were reports that some owners were actually using his name to threaten their tenants is that right? Yes I heard that from several attorneys that I spoke with but these landlords feel emboldened by President Trump and by their rhetoric on Muslims and they are a top team that. Are the landlords that use this tactic actually breaking the law. It is illegal for landlords to ask immigration status of rental applicants. There is a wide member of tenants that address immigration status. What state lawmakers want to do is make it illegal for them to even hint at the fact that they could call ice if they do not do it. Housing lawyers say landlords threatening to call have increased but do we know whether they have actually acted on any of these threats? Not necessarily. I did not get any information that any of the attorneys that I spoke with had clients who had been deported. This is a big fear in California. The fact California Chief Justice of the Supreme Court said that ice should not be using courthouses as a place to find immigrants. The administration cannot deport people who are trying to avail themselves of the right. You mentioned that there is a build being considered by the legislator in California to address some of these issues about landlords who may be threatening immigrant tenants. What specifically with the bill do. This would prohibit landlords from making an explicit threat. They would not build a say if you do not pay this higher rent than I will call ice on you. It would also prohibit landlords from sharing information about a tenant's immigration status with authorities. So it is in part a policy but it is also a sanctuary state policy. Would have any teeth informing ice that you people are living here illegally. It comes to a stiff penalty up to a years worth of rent if the tenant feels threatened to make it pay a hefty fine the real question in California and I think for the rest of the nation is whether tenant and immigrants and mixed status families will feel safe enough to go to the courts and availing themselves of their legal rights or if they think any interaction with the court could potentially put them at greater jeopardy. That brings me to my final question. We are living in an environment here that thinking about this new law but there is no new law in effect right now. What are attorneys advising their clients to do if they encounter their landlords. It is pretty difficult I think the advocates that I spoke to have a difficult time because they want to of course fight for the clients right but they do not want their clients into difficult circumstances and as one attorney told me you know before if the client came to her he's going to call ice and apparently. This attorney said that she would think that ice is not going to pick up the phone call from a strange landlord and take action on that. That she does not feel as confident making that assurance to her client. To a certain extent they are both asking the clients and working for them to protect their rights but they are also trying to protect them and keep them out of courts to the extent that it is possible. I have been speaking with Kriston Capps. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Housing attorneys claim some landlords have seized on the election of President Trump as new leverage against tenants who want improvements to their apartments, or who the landlords simply want to move out, according to The Atlantic Magazine's CityLab.

Staff writer Kriston Capps reported Wednesday that landlords are threatening to report tenants to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they don't comply. While legal-aid advocates didn't have specific data to quantify the increase in threats, attorneys said the spike has been notable since the election.

"While undocumented renters and members of mixed-immigration-status households have always been vulnerable to abuse and intimidation, California legal-aid experts say that reports of explicit deportation threats are pouring in from every part of the state," Capps wrote.

Navneet Grewal, a senior attorney at the Western Center on Law & Poverty, told Capps that not only are the threats becoming more prevalent, they are more intimidating as well, with some landlords citing Trump by name.

“What we used to see is, when there was a building of folks who had habitability concerns, you’d see things like a landlord threatening to report the building to ICE,” Grewal said. “What I hear from people now, there is an attitude of, ‘Why go through the eviction process when I can just call ICE to do the sheriff’s job?’”

Capps joined KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday to discuss whether these landlords are breaking the law and pending California legislation that could restrict what landlords can say to immigration officials.