A landlord in Alameda has been trying for a year to evict an elderly Holocaust survivor — and previously his terminally ill son, who has now died — reportedly over a $700/month rent hike.
As the Guardian reports, out-of-state landlord Margaret Tam sent a letter to 87-year-old Musiy Rishin in August 2018 announcing a rent hike from $2,520 to $3,200, and then a second letter two weeks later saying he would be evicted in 90 days. Tam has made no bones about her reasoning — she tells the paper, "I’m not a monster. I’m not a greedy landlord, but I do want to make money when I’m legally able to." She also says that she's looking to get rid of all her Section 8 tenants — and Section 8 units are indeed hard to find on the mostly affluent island of Alameda.
Under Section 8, Rishin's rent is subsidized by the federal government, but legally he has little recourse to fight the eviction. An eviction-restricting ordinance in Alameda does not protect Section 8 tenants, however Rishin and his family have continued to fight the eviction over the past year — even as they dealt with the decline and death of Rishin's son, who died from colon cancer in April. Adding insult to injury, Rishin says that his son was named in an eviction lawsuit brought by Tam after he was already dead. "It’s like evicting somebody to his grave," said Svetlana Rishina, who added that her brother was deeply distraught by the situation through his dying days.
Tam tells the Guardian that she's under no obligation to house the sick or elderly, and that Rishin ought to simply go live with his daughter.
Rishin's backstory, however, lends plenty of sympathy to his side of this fight — the family has now filed a discrimination lawsuit against Tam. Rishin escaped Nazi-occupied Ukraine at the last possible second with his immediate family, boarding a train and resettling in Uzbekistan, where he later met his wife and lived most of his life, until 1998. Civil wars and political tensions led the family to emigrate to the U.S. at that point, and he said he and his wife were greeted by "beautiful people" in Alameda, ultimately finding the two-bedroom Section 8 unit.
Surely $700 or $900 extra per month is not worth kicking an elderly man to the curb? Apparently it is, and Tam tells the Guardian, "It’s a sad story. I cannot help him."
Photo: Jaqueline M./Yelp