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Is This Pandemic Eviction L.A. Horror Story a Sign of What’s to Come? A Mother of Seven From Michoacán Fights For Her Home in Inglewood

11:23 AM PST on January 25, 2021

    lease help us keep our American Dream!”

    Before Inglewood resident Ynes Torres came to the United States from Uruapan, Michoacán, Mexico, she already had an idea of what she wanted her American Dream to look like, part of that dream included buying a home someday.

    A goal that Torres would eventually accomplish.

    In 2006 after adopting four children she set her eyes on the city of Inglewood and purchased her first home. 

    “Para mi (for me), having my house means that I was able to provide my family with a better and more comfortable life,” Torres said. “And now with the pandemic the house really has become a place where we find seguridad y protección (safety and protection.)” 

    This is why the 60-year-old mother of seven was devastated when three days after Thanksgiving in the middle of a pandemic she found herself being evicted. Torres said she spent “14 years in this house.” 

    With tears in her eyes, she expressed to L.A. Taco how that day traumatized her entire family, describing it as a day they wish they could forget.  

    Ynes torres and her daughter Janeth Ayala stand in front of their Inglewood home. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. Taco.

    According to Torres' daughter Janeth Ayala, she described how on Monday, Nov.30, 2020, while everyone else was out of the house, Ayala's sister Andrea was woken up by loud knocks at the door. It was approximately 10 a.m. when Andrea checked to see who was at the door and quickly realized it was the sheriff's department. 

    “They were very aggressive. She told them that she had just woken up and told them if she could have a few minutes because she wanted to get dressed,” Ayala said. “And I guess they ignored her or couldn't wait.”

    As Andrea changed she began to look for receipts in order to prove that the family had been paying their mortgage. But it was too late, the sheriffs were already removing the door, locks, and doorknobs. At the time Ayala was on her way to the house when her sister called her and while on the phone Andrea suffered a panic attack caused by the abrupt wake-up call. 

     “I had to jump a fence and call 911 to tell them what was going on,” Ayala said. “I told them we were getting evicted and that the sheriffs were here and they were not letting me in to help my sister.”

    The 19-year-old who was still inside the house began to have difficulty breathing and did not get help until the ambulance arrived. Ayala recalls hearing her mom pleading with the sheriffs to just look at her paperwork but she was ignored.  

    “The worst thing is that there was a stay at home order in place and there was supposed to be some type of protection,” Ayala said. “Which didn't happen, obviously they kicked us out.” 

    The same day the Torres family was evicted over 5,000 new Covid-19 cases were reported in Los Angeles. Shortly after their eviction, Torres’ son would also test positive for COVID-19. 

    Nathaly Medina, an organizer with Eviction Defense Network said that there is a misconception on the so-called Los Angeles County Temporary Eviction Moratorium. A moratorium was said to protect residents from evictions.

    If someone says there's an eviction moratorium it would mean that you can’t file an eviction at all but that's not what we have,” Medina said. “On the local and even the state level, none of those things (moratoriums) put a stop on eviction filings.”

    According to Medina, the emergency orders which are said to protect residents from being evicted have loopholes. For example, the orders in place are said to protect residents from being evicted due to backed up rent or payment caused by COVID-19. But according to the CDC it does not protect them from any past due balances that may have occurred before the pandemic. Meaning if a tenant had past due rent or payments before COVID-19, a landlord could still file for eviction if they wanted to. California Assembly Bill 3088, which is known as the Tenant, Homeowner, and Landlord Act also states that tenants and homeowners have limited protections. According to the bill the only way a family who is being foreclosed could stop an eviction would be if:

    (1) the borrower was current on payments as of Feb. 1, 2020, and (2) the borrower is experiencing a COVID-19-related financial hardship that prevents the borrower from making timely payments on the mortgage obligation due.

    Unfortunately, that was the case for Torres who’s foreclosure notices began to arrive well before the pandemic. Medina said that according to their records as of September 2020 there were over 900 court filings for evictions in Los Angeles. 

    This was the case for the Torres' family, Ayala said that it all really started in 2012 when her mom sought help from Lina Norena of Legal Marketing Solutions. At the time Torres was looking to combine both of her mortgage loans into one payment. After Torres met with Norena, she was under the impression that both her loans were successfully combined. From 2012 to 2016 Torres continued to pay Norena $1,500 a month on top of paying her larger loans to SPS, Select Portfolio Servicing.

    Janeth Ayala goes over piles of paperwork that she and her mother accumulated since they bought their home in 2006. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. Taco.

    It turns out that the lady didn't do anything, she took my mom's money and ran,” said Ayala. “So for six years we thought we were paying both loans but towards the end of 2016 we started getting letters informing us that we were getting foreclosed.”

    After receiving the foreclosure letters, the Torres family would eventually seek help one more time from a man named Santiago from Liderazgo Financiero. Santiago charged the family for legal representation and reassured Torres that she would not be evicted from her home. But after Ayala began to look into her mother's paperwork she noticed several discrepancies. 

    Some of those discrepancies included Santiago taking her mom to a notary where unbeknownst to her he had her sign a paper where he added a man named Luis J Altamirano as a joint tenant. However, Ayala and her mother never met Altamirano and till this day have no idea who the man is. Santiago had also told the family that their presence in court was not needed because he would be the one representing them. But when Torres and her daughter decided to randomly attend one of the court dates they were shocked to find that no one was there to represent them. 

    Santiago was nowhere to be found. Confused, Torres confronted the man over the phone and asked him for an explanation. According to Ayala, Santiago responded by saying, “It's too late anyway your house was sold at auction already” soon after Santiago disappeared. 

    By 2018, the family received a letter saying that Trojan Capital Investments, LLC had purchased Torres’ second mortgage, and the whole family would be evicted that year. 

    “...although our parents may be scared to fight, we aren't and if we have to lead the fight as proud children of immigrants, we will.” 

    Scared, the family left the home for a short period of time, but would eventually return after they noticed nothing was being done with the house. Two years later and after several failed attempts to contact the owner of Trojan Capital investments, Don Allen Madden III, the Torres family was evicted. 

    On Dec. 18, 2020, the Torres family decided to reclaim their house and have been back home ever since. Ayala reassures me that she understands that some may say they are trespassing, but to them, it doesn't feel like it because that has been their home for years.  

    Alexis Aceves from Lennox Inglewood Tenants Union said that more often than not these families are blamed and told that it’s their fault for being in the situation they are in. But she said it's not a mistake to trust.

    “It’s not their fault that they trusted that the people they were working with would do their job,” said Aceves. “It’s not that Torres shouldn't be trusting, she didn't do anything wrong, these companies are at fault for taking advantage of someone who was seeking help.”

    In the midst of trying to get Torres's story out to the public, organizers found a second family in Inglewood that was going through the same exact situation with the same company. 

    Sonia Alvares, a former street vendor who sold tamales in the city of Santa Monica found herself in the same situation as Torres. Days before New Year’s Eve, the Alvares family scrambled to find legal representation before their eviction date which was scheduled for December 30. To both families' surprise, Alvares and Torres were in the same fight and they both actually knew each other. In both of their cases, their daughters are the main organizers and the ones leading the fight to keep their homes. 

    “Both daughters' are heavily involved, Ynes’s daughter is involved in this campaign, when Ynes was not there it was Janeth who was doing all the work in representing her mom and family. And it's kind of this whole thing like when you're a daughter of immigrants you kind of take on this parental role as well,” said Aceves from LITU.

    Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. Taco.

    Meanwhile, as both families wait to see what fate their home will have, they continue to use the Torres house as a place where they can mobilize their community by supplying them with information on housing advocacy. And despite knowing that the sheriff's department could show up any day,  the Torres family said they feel safe. Outside their home, they have a group of community members and organizers that serve as security that rotates every three hours throughout the day and night. 

    The family has been overwhelmed by the amount of support they have received from their community and express their gratitude towards everyone standing with them. 

    And as they continue to seek legal representation they do have a message for any other family that may be going through a similar situation. 

    “Remember that this isn't something new, it's been going on for years, so stand up for your rights even if you're scared, don't give up, it's your land, your property,” said Ayala. “And to be honest people need to know that although our parents may be scared to fight, we aren't and if we have to lead the fight as proud children of immigrants, we will.” 

    L.A. Taco reached out to Santiago, Norena, and owner of Trojan Capital Investments, LLC, Don Allen Madden III for a comment on this case but all three parties have yet to reply. 

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