Santa Monica put a temporary moratorium on evictions Saturday to prevent people financially impacted by coronavirus from losing their homes during the worst public health crisis in 100 years.
One property manager didn’t get the message.
An employee in the Newport Beach office of Marshall Reddick Real Estate, a nationwide real estate firm that manages multiple properties in the Los Angeles area, sent an email to tenants Thursday informing them that they must pay rent next month or face eviction.
“Just as we are all expected to pay for food in the grocery store and gas at the pump, rent is expected to be paid to have a roof over our heads,” the email said. “We want to encourage everyone to prioritize their expenditures starting with rent, utilities and food.”
The firm admitted that “every American’s income is being affected right now” but assured renters that “as with all things in time this will pass with better times ahead” before encouraging them to check FEMA’s website for resources and aid.
Jake Greve, who has lived for seven years in a small apartment building in Santa Monica that Marshall Reddick manages, replied to the email with a reminder that Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole had five days earlier signed an emergency order prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants who can show they have lost income due to coronavirus or its impacts on the economy.
On Wednesday, Santa Monica extended the suspension on evictions to businesses affected by COVID-19 and clarified that residential and commercial tenants will have to make up any unpaid rent six months after the pandemic is over. Wednesday’s emergency order also suspended evictions pursuant to the Ellis Act, a 1985 state law that allows landlords to take units off the market if they wish to exit the rental business.
“Hope your legal team is staying up to date in these times,” Greve wrote in a response that he shared on reddit.com/r/losangeles, the subreddit for Angelenos.
Greve said in an interview that while his income hasn’t been affected, his roommate had lost both his jobs after his employers shut down under state and county orders to slow the spread of coronavirus. With millions of renters across the country in similar situations, he said he felt Marshall Reddick’s email was condescending and tone deaf.
“Two weeks prior to rent even being due, they just let everyone know they don’t care what’s going on,” he said.
After Greve’s post gained traction on Reddit, Marshall Reddick sent an apology email to tenants that he felt once again missed the point.
“Please know that while we empathize with everything that is occurring, we are contractually obligated to operate by our standard protocol unless your property falls within a jurisdiction that is under temporary governmental changes to housing laws,” the Newport Beach employee said in an email.
The firm encouraged tenants to apply for government assistance and reach out to charity organizations if they have lost income due to coronavirus.
“It is better to apply for assistance as soon as possible as the situation could possibly grow larger,” the email said. “If you wait until rent is due, the assistance programs will not have enough time to process your request to help you make your rent payment on time.”
Scott Pastel, vice president of property management and real estate at Marshall Reddick, said the firm’s CEO has personally reached out to each tenant to clarify and apologize for the emails.
“The letter … is not in line with the heart of our company and who we are,” Pastel said in an email. “We understand during these unprecedented times everyone is experiencing unique and unexpected hardship. We are committed to supporting our tenants and landlords during this time.”