Accused of illegally evicting tenants across California, Redondo Beach Real Estate Wedgewood has agreed to a $ 3.5 million settlement with the California Department of Justice.
At a press conference on Wednesday announcing the resolution, State Attorney General Rob Bonta alleged the company violated state and local housing laws by repeatedly harassing tenants into making them leave their homes.
“Sadly, even in the midst of this crisis, some are looking for profits rather than the best interests of families – and worse yet, profits rather than the law,” he said.
Wedgewood reportedly forced tenants to vacate homes faster
Wedgewood’s business model is to buy foreclosed homes and make them profitable. Bonta said soon after purchasing these homes, the company often tried to force tenants to leave quickly, even when they had the legal right to stay.
Bonta alleged that in seeking to vacate homes for quick sales, Wedgewood violated local rent control laws, filed false statements and failed to provide utilities to its tenants.
In an email, representatives for Wedgewood said the attorney general’s investigation focused on actions that took place before 2016, and the settlement did not include any admission of guilt.
“Ultimately, Wedgewood made the business decision to reach a settlement and move forward with our continued commitment to revitalize and recirculate residential properties into the California housing supply,” said declared the company.
The company is committed to changing its business practices
As part of the $ 3.5 million judgment, Wedgewood will pay $ 2.75 million into a fund the attorney general’s office will use to compensate evicted tenants. The rest of the money from the settlement will go towards civil sanctions and state programs to fight homelessness.
Wedgewood has also agreed to change its business practices in the future.
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 training on tenant rights to its employees and document buyback agreements. And he will provide regular reports to the Attorney General’s office demonstrating compliance with the terms of the settlement.
This is not the first time that Wedgewood’s business practices have come under scrutiny.
The company found itself in the center of national attention when a group of homeless families in Oakland occupied vacant homes linked to Wedgewood. The group – known as Moms 4 Housing – was protesting against the increase in corporate ownership in housing, which she said had pushed too many California families into homelessness.
The $ 3.5 million judgment has yet to be approved by the court to take effect.
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David Wagner focuses on Southern Californians left behind in an economy plagued by soaring unemployment, business closures linked to the pandemic and high housing costs.