Accused of illegally evicting tenants across California, Redondo Beach real estate company Wedgewood has agreed to a $3.5 million settlement with California’s Department of Justice.
In a Wednesday press conference announcing the resolution, state Attorney General Rob Bonta alleged the company broke state and local housing laws by repeatedly harassing tenants into leaving their homes.
“Unfortunately, even amid this crisis there are some who pursue profits over the interest of families — and worse, profits over the law,” he said.
Wedgewood Allegedly Forced Out Tenants To Flip Homes Faster
Wedgewood’s business model involves buying foreclosed homes and flipping them for a profit. Bonta said shortly after buying those homes, the company would often try to quickly force tenants out, even when they had the legal right to stay.
Bonta alleged that in seeking to vacate the homes for fast sales, Wedgewood broke local rent control laws, filed false declarations and failed to provide its tenants with utilities.
In an email, Wedgewood representatives said the attorney general’s investigation focused on actions that took place before 2016, and the settlement includes no admission of guilt.
“Ultimately, Wedgewood made the business decision to reach a settlement and move forward with our ongoing commitment to revitalize and recirculate residential properties back into California’s housing supply,” the company said.
Company Agrees To Change Its Business Practices
As part of the $3.5 million judgement, Wedgewood will pay $2.75 million to a fund that the attorney general's office will use to compensate evicted tenants. The rest of the settlement money will go toward civil penalties and state programs to fight homelessness.
Wedgewood also agreed to change its business practices moving forward.
The company “must comply with all local, state and federal laws governing the eviction process,” according to a statement from Bonta’s office.
Wedgewood will provide its employees with training on tenants’ rights and document buyout agreements. And it will provide regular reports to the attorney general’s office showing compliance with the terms of the settlement.
This isn’t the first time Wedgewood’s business practices have come under scrutiny.
The company found itself at the center of national attention when a group of unhoused families in Oakland occupied vacant homes linked to Wedgewood. The group — known as Moms 4 Housing — was protesting increased corporate ownership of housing, which it said had pushed too many California families into homelessness.
The $3.5 million judgement still needs final court approval to take effect.
Source : https://laist.com/news/housing-homelessness/wedgewood-los-angeles-redondo-beach-rob-bonta-attorney-general-california-eviction-settlement-judgement-housing567