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California Bill Would Bar Landlords From Using Immigration Status Against Tenants

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A California proposed law seeks to protect undocumented immigrants from harassment, at home.

Across the state, tenants claim their landlords are threatening them with a call to immigration authorities if they don't agree to be evicted quietly.

Now the Immigrant Tenant Protection Act, making its way to the senate floor, would make it illegal for landlords to use their tenants' immigration status against them. If they do, landlords will be the ones paying up.

First, she was priced out. Then Sylvia Simmons was thrown out for, she says, being Hispanic.

"Just threatening to kick me out for any little reason," she said.

A landlord has the right to evict someone proven to be a bad tenant. But AB291 law seeks to prevent a landlord from abusing that right, by protecting tenants' right to complain about habitability issues from rat infestations to broken water heaters, without the threat of deportation.

"Immigrants are under attack in California," said Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco).

He chairs the housing committee and in recent months has heard cries for help from immigrant tenants up and down the state.

"Their landlord says, 'If you don't do what I need you to do, I'll call ICE," said Chiu.

Chiu's bill bars landlords from using sensitive information against them. Landlords who do intimidate or follow through on a call to immigration authorities, can be sued. The California Association of Realtors initially opposed the bill but changed its position after a revision to the amount one can sue for. A tenant claiming retaliation, would be able to sue a landlord for six months to a year of rent.

"Just 'cause they ain't got no papers doesn't mean that they can't have a roof to live," said Tony Orozco.

Tony Orozco has 20 years of experience as a maintenance man for apartment complexes housing undocumented immigrants. He's seen foul homes in need of attention, and the fear.

"They don't complain because have no papers but they do pay rent. These are residents you want to keep," said Orozco.


A handful of Southern California property management companies oppose this bill. The Apartment Association, California Cities says, it's bad news for business. They believe it would place additional burdens for landlords leasing property, and people would be afraid to apply for an apartment.

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