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Report: Corte Madera Mall Stores Threatened With Eviction For Unpaid Rent During COVID-19 Pandemic

CORTE MADERA (CBS SF) - Store owners in the Corte Madera Town Center have received letters threatening eviction for unpaid rent, despite efforts by local lawmakers to protect tenants who cannot pay because of the coronavirus pandemic, and prohibit landlords from harassing them, according to a report.

Several stores received the letters, signed by Ken Valinoti, a principal at the Valinoti, Specter and Dito law firm in San Francisco, according to the Marin Independent Journal. Corte Madera Town Center is owned by Florida-based 770 Talmalpais Drive, Inc.

According to the report, Valinoti told the owners that despite the shelter in place mandate during the pandemic, "tenant's refusal to pay any rent is not acceptable." He said failure to pay overdue rent within 5 days of receiving the letter, "constitutes an event of default under the terms of the lease entitling landlord to all rights and remedies available to it under the lease, and in equity, subject only to any governmental rules, ordinances or mandates currently in effect as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic."

The tenants said 770 Talmalpais Drive, Inc. had sent previous letters proposing repayment plans.

Retailer Louise Harrison said she turned down the mall's proposal to pay to pay 3 months of missed rent over the next 18 months if "the shopping center reopens in July, as it tentatively plans to do." Her rent is about $7,000 per month, so her repayment would total $21,000.

"That's absurd," Harrison said in an interview with the Marin IJ. "It's not like in 18 months I'm going to have all this extra money. People are not going to be rushing to my store to go shopping. Shopping centers may be a thing of the past."

Another tenant who received a similar proposal called the letters "a bullying tactic."

The tenants are trying to determine if the mall's tactics are illegal during the pandemic.

On April 28, the Marin County Board of Supervisors amended an emergency moratorium resolution prohibiting landlords from collecting rent if a tenant has given written notice that nonpayment is due to the coronavirus pandemic. The amended resolution also bars landlords from harassing or intimidating tenants.

The resolution applies to commercial and residential tenants and is in effect at least until May 31.

Unlike an ordinance which has the same weight as a law, a resolution is a formal declaration and is usually temporary.

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