Roman Contreras has lived in his single-story house at Casual Court in North Merced for the past six years. He's paid his $1,000 rent on time each month to his landlord.
Six months ago, his family began receiving foreclosure letters from various banks about the house.
Thanks to the Merced City Council's passing of a 2011 ordinance that says foreclosure isn't a valid reason to evict a tenant, Contreras hasn't been forced to leave the home.
But now the council wants to take another crack at the law, which has been criticized by area real estate agents as an affront to private property rights. The council will review the ordinance during its meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 678 W. 18th St.
In February, Contreras' rental home was supposed to go to auction, but that was postponed. "I kind of found out it was going in foreclosure," he said, adding that his old landlord kept telling him not to worry.
Last month, the house was bought by a Sacramento company, AMA Construct, at a second auction. He was offered $1,000 to turn over his keys to the house, but he declined the offer, Contreras recalled. "We'll wait and see and hopefully be able to stay here," the 34-year-old said.
The new landlord gave him a notice to get out, saying he had 90 days from the day the house had been sold to vacate, which would be sometime in July.
But in March, representatives from Tenants Together, the San Francisco nonprofit that introduced the Just Cause for Eviction ordinance to city officials last year, came to Contreras' home and explained the ordinance to him.
"I read through the Just Cause for Eviction ordinance. It says I have rights as long as I pay my rent on time," he said.
So he said he will continue to pay his rent on time and hope the new landlord will rescind the notice to get out.
The ordinance will be up for repeal at Monday's council meeting. A majority of the council wanted to bring the ordinance back for repeal, according to Councilwoman Mary-Michal Rawling, who continues to support it.
Contreras' household is one of more than 75 in Merced that have received assistance from the nonprofit since the law took effect in December, according to Dean Preston, Tenants Together executive director.
The law states that foreclosure isn't recognized as a reason to evict renters. Tenants Together has said the law spells out specific circumstances in which eviction is permitted, such as when a tenant fails to pay rent or if the owner wants to move into the property, but foreclosure is not a permitted circumstance.
Preston said the effort for repeal is "special interest politics at its worst."
"There's absolutely no reason for the repeal of this law to be considered by this council," he said.
Merced is the 16th city to approve the law.
"It's been very successful in situations where tenants learn of their rights and assert them into law," Preston said. "It's important to know the rights under the law. The longer it's in effect, the more households it will protect."
However, local real estate agents have come out against the ordinance in the past. They've said it could more easily lead to fraud and that existing laws provide adequate protection for tenants in foreclosed homes and offer displaced tenants fair compensation for their relocation.
Terri Miller, president of the Merced County Association of Realtors, said the association hasn't changed its opinion on the ordinance. She said she would like to see the ordinance repealed or replaced with something similar to the federal law already in place.
The federal protection, under the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act in 2009, is sufficient, Miller said.
"Why do we need to rewrite what's already written?" she asked. With the federal law, she said, "If there is a renter in the property, they have to be given 90 days to vacate."
Contreras said he's just trying to stay in his home. And he's trying to get his $1,500 deposit back in the meantime. He said he may have to file a lawsuit against the company.
The stay-at-home dad, who does some concrete and fencing jobs, said his family has been under a lot of stress. His wife works full time, and they have a 10-year-old and a 5-year-old.
The stress comes from the possibility of moving out of their home as well as trying to find time to pack. He said his family hasn't started looking for a new place to live.
Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or email@example.com.