BARSTOW Wanda Bailey Johnson has been renting 228 Woodham Avenue since March. She attended church, worked as a sales representative at the Flying J and provided shelter for her 12-year-old son and two daughters, ages 15 and 20. Her children were to attend school this fall.

But at 6 a.m. Friday, Johnson and her children were busy loading tables, chairs, groceries and their other belongings onto a Budget Rent-a-Truck that sat in her driveway. At about 9 a.m. a sheriff's deputy, looking for Johnson's landlord, presented her with a notice to vacate the premises.

"My son says I can stay with him," Johnson said, adding that she's moving back down to South Los Angeles to live with her older son Elijah. "I got to quit my job. How can I not?"

According to Fair Housing Investigator Debbie Brand, who works out of the Barstow office of the Inland Fair Housing and Mediation Board, the house Johnson lived in was foreclosed upon in April. Once foreclosure proceedings are started, Brand said the landlord must notify his tenants and give them either a 30 or a 60 day notice to vacate. If the tenant wants to they can leave, if not they can stay in the home and continue to pay rent, she said.

Johnson said she had paid $1,200 in rent each month up until August to the owner of the property, Dynnaro You, who is based out of Long Beach. You, however, said other than a $500 deposit, Johnson hasn't paid her rent since she moved in. He also says the house wasn't foreclosed upon. Johnson, however, furnished bank slips for rent deposits made to a Bank of America Account under the name of Apple Tree. Edward A. Treder, a real-estate attorney with the law-firm Barrett, Daffin, Frappier, Turner and Engel, who is representing U.S. Bank National Association, the plaintiff against You, verified the home's foreclosure.

Attempts to follow-up with You have been unsuccessful.

"(You) did not have legal possession of the unit and was still collecting rent from the tenant," Brand said. "I saw a receipt for a $1,200 security deposit and (Johnson) has receipts for bank deposits made into that account."

Brand said the bank skipped procedures as well. She said a representative of the bank should have notified Johnson of the cash for keys option, in which landlords will pay tenants a negotiated amount of money in order for them to leave before their 60-day notice is up.

Ron Olsen, a representative of Premier Asset Service, a subsidiary of Wells Fargo, which now seeks to sell the house, said he tried to do that, but Johnson told him to contact You, whom she thought was still the landlord.

"When I first got there, I told her that what I was there for was to discuss helping her get some assistance with moving," he said. "She wasn't interested. She was really between a rock and a hard spot."

Olsen said he knows of other properties You owns in Barstow, even a house on Navajo Street that was foreclosed upon.

"A lot of people that had a bunch of property (are) milking people for their money," Olsen said.

With all the properties being foreclosed upon, Brand said tenants should make sure they deal with the proper manager, or if they're dealing with the owner, they should verify that he or she is the owner. Education resources, including biannual workshops, for tenants and landlords are available at their local Fair Housing Agency branch, she said. The next Inland Fair Housing and Mediation Board workshop is in October, Brand said.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com