Housing Policy

Feds Sue California City Over Law That Mandated Evictions for Criminal Activity—Even When No One Was Arrested or Charged

A Department of Justice lawsuit argues Hesperia’s rental ordinance amounts to illegal racial discrimination.

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) is suing the California city of Hesperia and the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department over a local rental ordinance, passed in 2016, that the DOJ says amounted to illegal racial discrimination.

The Hesperia law required landlords to register their rental properties with the city, submit the names of all adult tenant applicants to the sheriff's department for criminal background checks, and to include in their leases "crime free" addendums that mandate tenants be evicted for engaging in any criminal activity on or near their property, or in the case of drug crimes, anywhere at all.

In addition, the city's ordinance required every rental property to undergo an annual police inspection.

The DOJ is arguing that this heavy-handed ordinance was all an effort to keep black and Hispanic renters from moving to Hesperia in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

"Individuals and families have a right to live where they choose, regardless of their race or national origin," said Anna María Farías, the head of the Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity division of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in a press release. "HUD applauds today's action and will continue to work with the Justice Department to address policies and practices that violate this nation's fair housing laws."

Rachel Molina, a spokesperson for Hesperia, told the Los Angeles Times that information on the DOJ's website was inaccurate and that the city intended to fight the lawsuit.

"We love and embrace diversity in Hesperia," said Molina to the Times.

In its lawsuit, the DOJ cites statements from Hesperia politicians during debates about the city's rental ordinance that allegedly reveal the discriminatory intent of the law.

One city council member said the ordinance would help "improve our demographic," according to the lawsuit. Hesperia Mayor Eric Schmidt is quoted in the lawsuit saying "the people that aggravate us aren't from here" and "[they] come from somewhere else with their tainted history."

The DOJ lawsuit argues the sheriff's department was given a huge amount of discretion in enforcing the city's rent ordinance, which it used "intentionally to evict and deny housing to African American and Latino renters."

The complaint lists data uncovered during a HUD investigation which found that black and Hispanic tenants were much more likely to be evicted than white renters, and that a disproportionate number of evictions occurred in majority-minority census blocks.

The lawsuit also details how law enforcement would issue "crime notifications" to landlords that required them to evict their tenants—even in the absence of any arrest or criminal conviction.

In one case cited in the DOJ lawsuit, sheriff's deputies insisted on the eviction of an elderly Hispanic couple after their adult son—who didn't live with them—was arrested. In another case, a woman and her three children were evicted after her husband beat her with a television cable. Law enforcement also allegedly told the landlord of a black domestic abuse victim he would have to evict his tenant if she let her abusive husband back in the house.

Hesperia's rental law has been controversial ever since it was first proposed, managing to unite landlords and tenant advocates in opposition.

The California Apartment Association argued the law was unconstitutional and subjected landlords to huge legal risks for fair housing violations and wrongful evictions, according to the DOJ lawsuit.

In 2016, HUD opened an administrative investigation into Hesperia's rental ordinance. That same year, a nonprofit housing provider and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the city over its law.

In response to that lawsuit, the city in 2017 begrudgingly amended its rental regulations to make tenant screenings and evictions for criminal activity voluntary.

"The government believes criminals are a protected class and law-abiding citizens are now the bad guys," then-Mayor Paul Russ told the Daily Press at the time.

The DOJ complaint argues that those changes still leave many of the law's offending provisions in place. The lawsuit demands an injunction to stop future discrimination, and that monetary damages be paid to tenants affected by the law.

Tenant advocates often argue for anti-discrimination laws on the grounds that some private landlords, left to their own devices, will refuse to rent to people because of their race.

Provided all the allegations in the DOJ lawsuit are true, the Hesperia law is an example of the opposite phenomena: city officials decided that landlords were not discriminating enough on racial grounds, and passed a law to make them do more of it.

The city's law could well turn out to be a violation of federal fair housing law. It is certainly a violation of property rights.

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  1. Interesting that the complaint is of indirect hard-to-prove racism rather than letting police demand evictions for no particular reason.

    1. Well, this is HUD that got up in their face about it and decided to slap them with the federal government’s dick. HUD definitely does not care about the restriction of government power, but they do care a lot about nonsensical claims of racism as it relates to housing.

      I agree that the case would make vastly more sense and be a lot stronger as a civil rights claim against the Hesperia city government, but that would require tracking down some of the evicted folks to serve as good test cases and the funding to get it to the appellate court.

  2. What is this thing called property rights that was mentioned in the article?

    1. You don’t own that Rental Property! [WE] do!! And [WE] will decide who, when, what, where and even how that property is rented…. Welcome to the [WE] foundation party where you don’t even own yourself; [WE] do.

  3. Dear everyone everywhere ever,

    Baseless, vague, gratuitous accusations of racism will always piss off the accused and will inevitably turn potential allies into opponents. Sure, doing it will buy you a few allies, but those are probably people that you would have had anyway.

    Instead, just point out how entirely fucked it is to give police a free pass to search any home they want and demand evictions with no due process.

    Thanks

  4. Without reading into it more:
    Clearly this is a terrible law. However to have the primary objection be that it’s racist is…shocking. Is that implying that the law would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that minorities are more likely to be criminals thus the law is racist??

    1. I’m not sure that’s the primary objection to the law. It is, however, the primary objection that is within HUD’s mandate to bring. Objections on other bases would have to come from other parties. And in fairness, the article already points out that the ACLU and the CAA have objected to the law on some of those alternative bases.

  5. I’m gonna go with “requiring annual police inspections of rental property” as a fairly facile and direct violation of the 4th amendment. I can’t imagine how you’d reconcile that with being “secure in your person, house, papers and effects”.

    1. Easy, redefine private residences as public spaces ‘because rental’.

      I mean, a slightly different version of that is how you get police patting everyone down that goes into a sporting stadium or aircraft which are both privately owned generally speaking. Or the fact your private vehicle is also considered a public space.

      Absurd, but not unheard of.

      1. That is EXACTLY how they’ve all but destroyed the concept of personal property… Well Stated.. +100

  6. How is ‘apartment forfeiture’ different from ‘asset forfeiture’?
    Same thing to me; the government takes your stuff/apartment without so much as an arrest.
    If one is OK, they both must be OK. Why the furor?


  7. The DOJ is arguing that this heavy-handed ordinance was all an effort to keep black and Hispanic renters from moving to Hesperia in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

    If that’s true, it must also be true that black and hispanic people are just more prone to crime than everyone else and noticing that must be racist.

    I don’t know how you could contort that to be less obviously racist than the people they’re claiming are racist…

  8. In addition, the city’s ordinance required every rental property to undergo an annual police inspection.”

    Police inspections without a warrant how is that alone legal and why is it legal to require criminal background check on every renter why not homeowners as well. that city is a NAZI state.
    Where are your papers please? These aren’t the renters you seek.

    1. NAZI = National Socialism. It’s very definition is the acronym.

      If you replace the term ‘jew’ with ‘millionaire’ its really quite easy to see the exact same original attitudes being presented and massively supported by lefties as seen during the rise of Hitler.

      Are you successful? Off to the labor camps with you.. Well, unless of course you’re not one of those ‘whities’ then there’s a waiver.

  9. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    When blacks and hispanics commit so much fucking crime that an ordinance that restricts renting to criminals is considered racial discrimination. LMAO!

    So much for the dindu theory of criminal justice

    Hey, here’s a riddle for you. What’s 13% and 50% at the same time?

  10. I wonder why this isn’t a takings clause violation. Renters have a property interest in their lease, don’t they?

  11. In addition, the city’s ordinance required every rental property to undergo an annual police inspection.

    The DOJ is arguing that this heavy-handed ordinance was all an effort to keep black and Hispanic renters from moving to Hesperia in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

    Fuck the 4th amendment. It’s the Fair Housing Act that matters.

    1. “Fuck the 4th amendment. It’s the Fair Housing Act that matters.”

      – Democracy doesn’t have a Constitution and it seems almost like everyone purposely forgot the USA is really a Republic.

  12. Here is some more info on the story.

    https://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-hesperia-halfway-homes-20160914-snap-story.html

    Basically, it looks like this halfway house opened up in town, that had 13 recently released low-level offenders. Rumors spread that these 13 individuals were actually violent felons, pedophiles, etc., and the city ordinance was the culmination of a hysteria-fueled backlash.

    Holland, the mayor, said at a council meeting last September that the rental ordinance would help the city rid itself of an unwanted element the same way “you would call an exterminator to kill roaches. Same difference.”

    “The people that aggravate us aren’t from here,” said Councilman Eric Schmidt at the same meeting. “They’re from somewhere else, and they come here to hide, they come here for our affordable housing. … We all know there is a significant number of them that come here with their tainted histories.”

    “Cockroaches”. “Tainted histories”. Just charming.

    1. Man, just imagine if 13 wrongfully accused African American gentlemen could move into your house and let you watch while they fuck your mom, cytotoxic. Wouldn’t that make your Canadian pee pee just ever so hard?

      1. Do you have anything intelligent to add, or are you just going to troll with your alt-right bullshit all day?

        1. Do you have anything intelligent to add

          You’re right, here, let me make an equal contribution to yours:

          OOGA BOOGA RACISM!

      2. By the way, the article didn’t say anything about the ethnicity of the 13 individuals involved. Interesting that you immediately assumed that they were black.

        1. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

          The complaint lists data uncovered during a HUD investigation which found that black and Hispanic tenants were much more likely to be evicted than white renters, and that a disproportionate number of evictions occurred in majority-minority census blocks.

          If they weren’t minorities, the challenge on Fair Housing disparate impact grounds wouldn’t be going forward. Holy fuck you’re stupid.

  13. The biggest mindfuck in the article:

    a woman and her three children were evicted after her husband beat her with a television cable.

    Perp, victim…what’s the difference, right?

    1. The cable was smaller than his thumb so under Sharia it was ok.

  14. The sad thing about this is that its being fought on the grounds of disparate impact – racism – not the absolutely ridiculous idea that the state would be allowed to mandate any of that shit.

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