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WWII Vet Faces Eviction, Puts Spotlight On San Jose Tenant Protections

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- A World War II veteran in San Jose is fighting to keep his home.

And now there's a plan that could make it harder for landlords to evict tenants in San Jose.

Tenant Paul Mayer didn't get the bad news from a visit or even a phone call. It came in a letter. After living in his apartment for 44 years, he got a 90-day notice to terminate tenancy, to get out.

Mayer said, "It was just shoved down my throat."

His story is making front page headlines, with the owner telling The Mercury News they are evicting, or not renewing leases, of all 16 tenants, in order to renovate the aging building.

They say it's much faster and cheaper to do it all at once while the building is vacant. The building's owner, Peggy Ramirez DeMaio told The Mercury News, "Of course I feel bad about it, but there's nothing I can do. Does anyone feel bad for me that my mortgage is so high and I'm only getting ($525) from him?"

Mayer is a World War II pilot who has survived a heart attack and is now battling skin cancer.

Back in the day, he got a break on the rent to be the on-site manager, paying just $525 a month.

He's no longer the manager, but the old owner kept the rent the same all these years. He's making it work with a Social Security check of $1,100 a month.

Mayer said, "I don't know how many people are in the same position that I am. Like I said, I got lucky."

His story has renewed the debate over whether or not San Jose needs a Just Cause ordinance, where a landlord has to prove someone is being a bad tenant before evicting them.

San Jose's housing director says it's a balancing act, between vulnerable tenants, and property owners. But she says a rent registry could help.

San Jose Housing Director Jacky Morales-Ferrand said, "So once we're able to implement this rent registry, we're going to be able to track what's happening to each individual apartment and how often they turn over and try to get new tenants. This will really provide us the evidence we need to show if it's a problem or not."

San Jose Councilmember Raul Peralez says it's a tricky issue, but he supports tenants' rights.

Peralez said, "I want to try to provide more protections for those residents and those individuals to the extent that we're not overwhelmingly putting burdens on property owners."

As for Mayer, he says he does not want you to feel sorry for him.

"They got their job to do, and if they're qualifying legally and everything, then that's the way life is," Mayer said

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