On August 15, amid a pandemic, Victor McClain’s landlords told him to vacate his room because they found someone who could pay $300 more than him.
“It was a text on my phone saying that was my 30-days [notice],” said McClain, a 59-year-old lifelong Altadena resident living off disability checks. “Nothing legal, no legal paperwork or anything… They’re bullies.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law an eviction moratorium. Under this legislation, no tenant can be evicted because of rent owed during the pandemic.
Los Angeles County had a similar eviction moratorium, which expired September 30, prohibiting evictions for nonpayment, no-fault reasons and COVID-19-related violations.
“The landlord just wanted him out and that is what we call a no-fault reason,” said Inner City Law Center legal fellow Barbara Horne-Petersdorf. “It’s not due to any fault or error by the tenant, but just the landlord’s desire to lease the property to someone else. This kind of eviction, had it been filed in court, would have been unsuccessful… The landlords here didn’t even try to go through the legal processes and drove him out outside of the law.”
According to McClain, after receiving the text message from his landlord telling him to vacate the premise, they refused to take his rent, removed his door, locked him out of the home and also threw his possessions into a dumpster and on the curb.
He later replaced the door with his own money only for it to be removed after he left.
“They don’t just take it off, they take it with him,” McClain said about the door. “They cut my hats up, they took my bed and took the TV off the wall.”
McClain’s landlords could not be reached for comment.
During this whole ordeal, McClain has been sleeping in his car or staying with family in Victorville or Palmdale.
“I’m going anywhere, where they’re going to let me sleep, shower, change my clothes, regroup and try to get a grasp of things,” said McClain.
In between the trips from his former home and others’ homes he would come back to collect his personal belongings or what was left of it.
On a recent day where he returned to the home, McClain found more of his items in trash cans. One of the items was a baby picture of his daughter Dmorea, who he calls “big biscuit.” She earned her master’s degree the day before.
“She’s a straight-A student. She’s amazing,” McClain said. “That’s why I got so upset because those were her baby pictures they threw out. Those things mean a lot to me.”
In addition to the items, McClain found in the trash his collectors’ train set and all of his hats cut down the middle.
“[The hats] meant just as much as my daughter’s pictures,” McClain said. “They’re not baseball hats. They’re Derbys. I get them from different places… I used to be with the 4 Horsemen of Pasadena and every time we would go somewhere, I would get a derby.”
McClain has filed complaints against his landlords. The case is still pending.