California Attorney General Jerry Brown has opened an investigation to protect tenants of properties that have been foreclosed on – a group he calls “the forgotten victims” of the housing market collapse.

Brown said that it is estimated more than one-third of all California foreclosures are rental units and that over 200,000 tenants have been displaced.

In a letter to banks, loan servicers, investors and law firms across the state, AG Brown said that his office has been petitioned to take action by more than 20 housing rights and public interest groups that cite illegal conduct and tenant harassment by banks, real estate agents and attorneys trying to fast-track evictions so properties can be sold.

Brown has asked the letter recipients to provide information on their foreclosure policies and procedures by July 19; he specifically requested details on how they “promote and preserve tenancies after foreclosure.”

Tenant advocacy groups say that tenant harassment and illegal evictions continue across California, even though the 2009 Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act specifically prohibits such actions.

Under the PTFA, tenants with a lease have the right to remain in their homes for the duration of the lease; those tenants without a lease have up to 90 days to vacate.

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